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Jimi Hendrix's Death: A Classic Whodunnit

Wednesday, August 20, 2008 - 01:31 PM

The world’s most famous guitarist. The girlfriend who wanted to be his wife. The famous rock singer. The rock singer’s wife who wanted to be the guitarist’s girlfriend. The guitarist’s manager, who mysteriously “misplaced” a fair amount of money. The manager’s associates, both of them angling to take over as manager. And Colonel Mustard, with the rope, in the library. Okay, even if we ignore that last one, this has all the makings of a murder mystery (or at least, a diverting game of Clue), but it is, in fact, the tale of the death of Jimi Hendrix. We’ve always been told, since that fateful day in 1970, that he overdosed on drugs and choked to death on his own vomit. But there have always been rumors that perhaps this wasn’t the real story…

Eric Burdon sang “House of the Rising Sun,” “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place,” and “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” – all huge international hits for his band The Animals. Then he scored a big hit again with the band War and the song “Spill the Wine.” But… did he also (cue dramatic music) kill Jimi Hendrix???

Author David Henderson, in the newly-revised edition of his Hendrix biography ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky, doesn’t claim anything so preposterous. But he does point out that Burdon was on the scene, helping Hendrix’s girlfriend “clean up” (ie, get rid of the drugs) the scene before the ambulance came for the guitarist’s body. And that Burdon was one of several men (the manager would be another) who lost his woman to Hendrix. So add Eric Burdon to what quickly becomes a very long list of people pissed off at Hendrix: jealous girlfriends, jealous and now lonely husbands and boyfriends, various hangers-on and would-be managers, even the FBI and the Mafia. Henderson has a plausible explanation why each of these various groups might have had cause to want Hendrix dead (the FBI saw him as a black power icon, like Malcolm X; the Mafia controlled the territory where Hendrix built his Electric Lady Studio in NY), but of course there’s not enough evidence to name any one person or entity as the possible culprit.

On the one hand, Henderson comes off sounding like yet another conspiracy theorist; on the other, he does actually identify some of these things as conspiracy theories, so he’s aware of the fine line he’s walking. One thing seems clear from the statements, finally, of the ambulance and hospital staff who dealt with Hendrix’s body – the widespread media story of the drug overdose and resulting choking seems almost as implausible as any of the other theories out there.

So what happened? And 38 years later, does it matter? Does it matter to you? Would proof of Hendrix’s death – either as a result of accidental overdose, suicide, or foul play - change the way you think about his work?


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Comments [4]

Mike Jeffery

I'm Michael Jeffery, Jimi's mobbed-up power agent from beyond the grave. I gave Jimi bad acid at MSG in 1970 to break up the Band of Gypsies, and I also subtly threatened to have Jimi wacked if he didn't write more formulaic bullshit that the kiddies could eat acid to. Jimi was so selfish, he wanted to play all this crazy tuneless jazz crap with no hooks or even choruses! And there I was, making him millions working his ass like a horse playing shows everywhere in spite of exhaustion, fatigue, and international heroin smuggling charges (my brilliant idea to keep him in my pocket!) Well eventually I just couldnt stand by idly and let him break our contract! Surely you understand! I had to do it! I had to have stupid Jimi....well, you get the idea.

Stupid plane crash! I'd still be alive today in charge of the Hendrix millions instead of that dumb Janie, she's not even blood-related to Jimi....

Sep. 11 2008 03:35 PM
Mark Jepson

3 goons were waiting outside Monika's apt in the hallway when Monika and Jimi came home. At gun point they went inside. The mafia goons found some strong sleeping pills in the cabinet. Perfect. After making Jimi eat a bunch of them, they waited for them to take affect. After about 4 hours the goons then forced Jimi to drink from a gallon of wine, making him eventually gag and make a mess of the bed. Once they started to drown him enough they left after telling Monika to not tell the truth or else they'd kill her too, This is why Monika had several stories. Why she seemed obsessed/depressed somewhat until her own suicide in 2002.

Mark j

Aug. 23 2008 06:44 AM
Jack Barry

Eric Burdon was a friend & big fan of Jimi .It is terrible that he would,in anyway,be connected to Jimi's tragic death.

Aug. 22 2008 11:04 AM

Still the best book on the topic:

And stop saying "drugs"... the contents of Jimi's stomach were red wine, rice, and sleeping pills.

Aug. 22 2008 06:41 AM

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