James Marshal Hendrix 11/27/42 - 9/18/70
Marshal Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington, on November 27, 1942; a 'black'
American of African, European, Cherokee Indian and Mexican descent. An unsettled
home environment made Jimi spend much of his early years staying with his
grandmother, a full-blooded Cherokee Indian, in Canada.
His mother died when Jimi was 15 about
the same time as Jimi began to take a serious interest in music and playing the
guitar. When he was 12 he got his first electric guitar - the instrument which
shaped the next 16 years of his life.
At the age of 16, Jimi was thrown out of
school -apparently for holding the hand of a white girl in class - and he played
rock'n'roll in teenage bands before voluntarily joining the army at 17.
After 14 months as a paratrooper,
learning a lot about falling and flying, he suffered an injury and was
discharged. He decided to enter the music field.
The following four years were hard work
touring the States playing back-up guitar for various R&B bands including
Little Richard, Ike and Tina Turner, Wilson Pickett, the Isley Brothers and the
late King Curtis among others. The conditions were not suited to his radical
temperament and eventually he was drawn to New York 's Greenwich Village where
he recorded with the Isley Brothers, Curtis Knight and various other artists.
Then in late 1965 he formed his first
band - Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. They worked the Village clubs where he
was seen by other musicians who immediately recognized his talent, and word of
this young virtuoso reached ex-Animals bassist Chas Chandler. Chas was so
impressed after hearing him play he offered to become his manager and persuaded
Jimi to accompany him back to England.
England at this stage - late 1966 - was
musically ruled by bands such as The Who, The Beatles and Cream with Eric
Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck standing alone as the three leading exponents
of the electric guitar.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed
with Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell behind the drums and suddenly there
was this black guy on the scene doing things with his guitar that were just not
possible. Respect from his peers and adoration from the crowds was
instantaneous. They toured Europe, breaking attendance records at one club after
another, and then signed a recording contract.
A series of singles that all gained top
10 rank, followed. 'Hey Joe', 'Purple Haze' and 'The Wind Cries Mary ' made Jimi
a star in England, setting the stage for his Monterey appearance.
Jimi's spectacular performance, which he
ended by holding his burning guitar above his head, at the Monterey Pop
Festival, re-introduced him to a wildly receptive American audience, and
instantly made him an American celebrity.
From then on his albums sold millions in
America and his tours were sell-outs. That year, 1967, was his big year, with 4
singles and 2 albums in the British charts and two albums on the American
However once established as an idol he
was frustrated by blind audience reaction. He would smash his guitar to pieces
because he felt he'd played so badly and find the crowd loving it all the more.
His mood and sometimes violent temperament closed in on him with the loneliness
of stardom and he became at times unapproachable to even his closest friends.
During '68 he was jailed in Sweden for completely wrecking a hotel room but the
records he produced during these years were decades ahead of his contemporary's
work - 'Are You Experienced?' and 'Axis: Bold As Love' are still practically
untouched by the passing of time.
In 1968 'Electric Ladyland', was
released producing the hit 'All Along The Watchtower' and after his death
'Voodoo Chile' The album was not well received, but consists of four sides of
simply amazing, technically brilliant guitar work and Jimi's startling,
colorful, lyrics full of mystical imagery.
The Experience split up in 1969 and Jimi
joined up with Billy Cox to play at Woodstock, where he played his politically
tinted 'Star Spangled Banner' and one other tune before walking off the stage as
it "wasn't coming together."
Jimi lay low for a while and then formed
a short-lived group with major rock artists Buddy Miles and Billy Cox. The group
recorded one album 'Band Of Gypsies' in 1970 and it became a major hit.
He returned to England in August 1970
with Mitch Mitchell back behind the drums and played at the 3rd Isle Of Wight
festival with a renewed vigour, reminiscent of his earlier days, just after he
had opened his own Electric Ladyland Studios.
What followed was a diary of events.
Hendrix left the Isle Of Wight for a tour of Europe. Something had gone wrong
during the tour and one of the band, Billy Cox - the bass player, had a nervous
breakdown and was flown home to the States. The last concert on September 14 was
blown out and Hendrix returned to London.
On Tuesday, 15 th, having booked himself
into the Cumberland Hotel, Hendrix was due to meet with lawyers representing
rival backers and managers. He didn't show. He'd stayed the night before with a
German girl, Monika Nanneman at her flat in the Notting Hill area of London.
Although he left to go to the business meeting, he next showed up at a flat in
the Fulham Road area.
It belonged to a girl who worked in the
Chelsea Drug Store, Lorraine James. How or why he chose her flat isn't known but
she described his arrival: "He was obviously high on drugs and he had a lot
of cannabis on him. He was in a terrible state,highly nervous". He spent
several hours on a pay phone in the building. He was complaining about his
backers and financial affairs. That night, Lorraine watched him spend the night
with two American chicks; they were at it until five in the morning.
Wednesday was spent looking for
drugs,visiting houses around London.Hendrix was "out of his mind".One
guy they met was so bad,he jumped a couple of flights down a stair well.He was
taken to hospital with broken legs.With all this going on,Hendrix got weird and
ran around the house screaming. Thursday,like any normal person after the excess
of the previous days,Hendrix was unconscious in a girlfriend's flat in the
Fulham area during the day.That night,it was back to the usual routine.
The following day - Thursday, he was
down to business. He called his New York attorney, spoke to Chandler about a
cover design for the new record and booked a flight to New York to collect the
tapes for it.
There was also a meeting arranged with
one of his old managers, Ed Chaplin but Hendrix didn't turn up. There was a note
in the margin: Ed Chaplin, for once having had a contract with Hendrix,was
bought-off with a deal that gave him the rights to one album in the U.S.,a
percentage of earnings and a million bucks!
There was another version of what had
gone down.It was Monika's own account of events. Jimi arrived at her flat on
Tuesday. What happened on Wednesday isn't clear but Thursday she describes as
being taken up with shopping and taking photos.
They got home about 8.30 p.m. Monika
prepared a meal.They shared a bottle of wine and talked and played music until
1.40 or 1.45 a.m. when Hendrix said he had to go out and see some people. They
weren't friends of his - Monika could not go with him but she could take him
there and bring him home.She picked him up again at the back of 3.On their
return to the flat, Monika made Jimi a tuna fish sandwich.The two of them went
to bed and talked until 7 a.m. when Monika took a sleeping pill and fell asleep.
Some time after,Hendrix took at least
eight,possibly nine of the same tablets. Monika woke around 10.20. Hendrix was
sleeping normally.She had planned to go out for cigarettes but just before
leaving, she noticed vomit on Jimi's nose and mouth.She tried to wake him but
couldn't and called a friend (possibly Chandler) to ask what to do. An ambulance
was called.It arrived about 11.20 a.m. Hendrix was seated upright in the back
with no head support.Sometime in the next twenty-five minutes before they
arrived at St. Mary Abbot's Hospital,Jimi Hendrix choked on his own vomit. He
was pronounced D.O.A.
The pathologist reported a large amount
of Seconol in Jimi's blood but no reason to assume that suicide was the cause of