At 12.45pm on September 18, 1970, Dr John Bannister, physician at St Mary Abbot’s Hospital in London, declared Jimi Hendrix dead. Ten days later, after the autopsy was carried out, Coroner Gavin Thurston determined that the cause of death was asphyxiation: Hendrix had been choked on his own vomit during sleep induced by an overdose of barbiturates. However, given the lack of clear evidence, the verdict on the death of one of the geniuses of 20th century music remained open. James Marshall Hendrix, forever Jimi, would have turned 28 on November 27.
Like his entire life, his stupid premature death is also shrouded in myth: more than one has collected material to show that the lightness and mistakes that led to his death were anything but random. The conspiracy thesis rests on a proven fact: Hendrix financed the Black Panthers and was spied on by J. Edgar Hoover’s ubiquitous FBI.
So that cursed night he would be helped to die with the complicity, voluntary or otherwise, of Monika Danneman, the woman he spent his last night with and who later declared that her partner had taken before falling asleep for the last time. nine tablets of Vesparax, a sleeping pill no longer on the market, a dose 18 times higher than the recommended one. The incomplete story of Danneman, her uncertainties in calling the ambulance, the less than flawless rescue, added to the FBI files and the open verdict of the autopsy are the elements supporting the theory of a conspiracy that, like so many others, it seems more an attempt to explain the absurd end of a genius than a real fact.
What is certain, however, is that Jimi Hendrix is one of the most illustrious victims of an unscrupulous business, which, thanks to halter contracts, exploited him mercilessly, forcing him to a grueling concert routine, waiting to return to regain possession. of your own music. Just think that the legal issues for the management of the catalog and rights were definitively closed in 2009.
In this half-century so full of innovations and radical changes, Jimi Hendrix’s music has remained current, even today, for example, few people doubt that he was the greatest guitarist in rock history. His star career is a dazzling light that lasted only four years. It all begins in London in 1966 and it will all end here, in 1970, in the city that made him known all over the world.
He arrives in town as a complete stranger, thanks to an intuition of Chas Chandler, the former Animals bassist who will become his producer and mentor. Jimi has a tough apprenticeship behind him in the minor circuits of segregated America in the early 1960s. In those years on the London scene there are guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Pete Townshend, not to mention the Beatles and the Rolling Stones: everyone is shocked by his appearance, because simply no one had previously played the guitar in that way.
Starting from blues and black music, Hendrix, thanks to a monstrous technique, first brings the instrument and then the music into the future. He transforms into music sound effects that before him were considered noise, changes the very concept of amplification, expands in a revolutionary way, through the use of pedals, the expressive possibilities of the guitar. As a passionate science fiction lover, he imagines new worlds and gives it a sound destined to remain over time, beyond any genre label.
The first three albums are masterpieces: together with Experience, Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass, he recorded in 1967, in less than a year, “Are You Experienced”, one of the greatest debuts ever (there are “Purple Haze “,” Hey Joe “,” Foxy Lady “) and” Axis: Bold As Love “(there are” Little Wing “,” Up From The Sky “). Then in 1968 he recorded his last studio album, the double “Electric Ladyland”, the biggest commercial success of his career, with “Voodoo Chile”, the extraordinary cover of “All Along The Watchtower” by Dylan, “Crosstown Traffic” .
In 1967 America still did not know him: Paul McCartney recommended him to the organizers of the Monterey festival where he was presented to the public by Brian Jones. On that stage, on June 18 Hendrix and the Experience staged one of the most exciting sets in rock history. His activity was frenetic between concerts in Europe and in the States and recording sessions. In 1969 Noel Redding left the band replaced by Billy Cox, Hendrix’s longtime friend. On the morning of August 18 of that same year there is another appointment with the legend: Woodstock. Jimi takes the stage in the morning, after being awake for three days. His distorted version of the American anthem is one of the most important and shocking performances ever.
The truth is that, despite the success, Hendrix was tired of being at the mercy of the business, he wanted to look for new ways, he was approaching jazz, he even designed a record with Miles Davis and Gil Evans, his avowed admirers. In January 1970, to free himself from a contract, he records a live with the Band of Gypsies, namely Billy Cox and Buddy Miles on drums, which will be released posthumously and which contains “Machine Gun”, one of the peaks in the history of guitarism. In August he finally opens his recording studios, the dream of life, in the Village of New York, the Electric Lady Studios. He’ll have time to record a jam session, then leave for the last tour of his life. September 6, at the festival on the island of Fehmarn, in Germany, is the date of his final concert.
The regret remains for what Jimi Hendrix could still have given to music and creativity. What he has done in his dazzling and short career continues to challenge the future.