On this day in 1970 some firends and I were on holiday with our girlfriends in a cottage in South Wales. We were having breakfast when we heard the news of Hendrix’s death on the BBC.
Since then there have been a number of theories as to what happened. Eric Burden of the Animals and a close froend thought that it was suicide, Monika Dannemann, his girlfriend, said that he died after a bout of drinks, drugs and sex. Others have claimed that his manager, Mike Jeffery stood to benefit to the tune of £1,000,000 from an insurance policy. Still others have said that as Hendrix was regarded as being subversive the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program ( COINTELPRO) had an interest in him being ‘removed’.
The truth? I doubt if we will ever know. Here are some things we do know.
Dannemann said that he was alive and sleeping when she went for some cigarrettes but in obvious trouble when she returned a few minutes later. She called Burden. He said that she should call the ambulance. When the ambulance arrived she went to the hospital with him and said that he died en route. The medics say that he was pronounced dead at the flat.
The time of death was never confirmed so we do not know if he was dead when the medics arrived or not.
Burden’s claim that it was suicide may not stack up as, although having a chaotic and professionally troubled life at the time, friends say Hendrix was happy and talking abou the future, both his and his new band’s. He was going to change the drummer of the Band of Gypsies, planning new recordings etc. Not the usual behaviour of someone about to kill themselves.
There was a lot of alcohol in his stomach and lungs there were nine Vesperax sleeping pills in his system. Hendrix was an insomniac and his use of sleeping pills was not unusual. What was unusual was that there was a lot of red wine in his lungs, and relatively little in his blood stream. Even a hard drinkling session rarely, if ever, ends up with wine in the lungs and not in the blood stream. That could be the case if he was water boarded. That points towards murder not a night long alcohol binge.
Jeffery died in a plane crash in 1973, Danneman committed suicide in 1996. So there are few people who can tell us what really happened.
However, hendrix’s roadie James “Tappy” Wright says he knows. He says that Jeffreys was in trouble and he needed the money. He says that Jeffrey’s confessed to him 2 years before his death.
He writes: “I can still hear that conversation, see the man I’d known for so much of my life, his face pale, hand clutching at his glass in sudden rage.”
He says Jeffery told him: “I had to do it, Tappy. You understand, don’t you? I had to do it. You know damn well what I’m talking about.”
He quotes Jeffery as saying: “I was in London the night of Jimi’s death and together with some old friends …we went round to Monika’s hotel room, got a handful of pills and stuffed them into his mouth …then poured a few bottles of red wine deep into his windpipe.
“I had to do it. Jimi was worth much more to me dead than alive. That son of a bitch was going to leave me. If I lost him, I’d lose everything.”
Why did Tappy not come forward earlier? Well, that could be because of the identity of the “old friends”. Friends who are prepared to kill one person are not likely to like someone exposing them………….. Perhaps they are no longer arround.