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Music

When Jimi Hendrix met Eric Burdon for his final performance

@TylerGolsen

Jimi Hendrix’s final gig was on September 6, 1970, at the Open Air Love and Peace Festival on the German island of Fehmarn. However, that wouldn’t be the final time that the six-string legend would play the guitar in public.

Returning home to London from a truncated European tour after bassist Billy Cox suffered a (possibly drug-induced) illness, Hendrix spent what would turn out to be the final two weeks of his life in and around the local music scene. He made occasional trips to clubs and performance venues, usually going to various afterparties with friends like Ronnie Wood.

On September 16, 1970, Hendrix arrived at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club to see a classic British Invasion singer playing with his new band. Eric Burdon had become famous for performing blues and soul-infused rock and roll with The Animals in the mid-60s, but the original lineup splintered quickly after their initial success. Burdon carried on the name with new members until 1969, after which he retired the name and sought a more funk-centric sound. He found his ideal partnership in an American band called War.

War was gigging in San Francisco with professional football player Deacon Jones under the name Nightshift when Burdon first became aware of them. He quickly asked the collection of multi-ethnic and multi-genre juggling group to join him on his next album. The result was Eric Burdon Declares “War”, featuring the biggest hit from the two parties partnership, ‘Spill the Wine’.

Eric Burdon and War embarked on a tour of Europe shortly after the album’s release, and they were greeted warmly when they arrived in London during the fall of 1970. The band had a fairly compact setlist, often jamming on a small handful of songs and repeating numbers after set breaks. It was in between sets at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club where the musicians found themselves face to face with arguably the most famous guitarist alive. He asked to sit in with them, and they readily accepted.

Hendrix reportedly was either mentally checked out that night or simply didn’t want to engage in his trademark flourishes. Instead, he played rhythm guitar in the background of the band’s closing numbers, ‘Blues for Memphis Slim’ and ‘Tobacco Road’. Bootlegs from the performance that night are low quality, but they exemplify a band that still had high energy. Hendrix’s playing is a bit obscure, but it remains a time capsule enshrining Jimi Hendrix’s final performance. Two days later, he would be gone.

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