Jimi Hendrix is an icon in the hard rock music vein. To this day almost 40 years after his death, he is seen as one of the most influential rock guitarists in rock history. His showmanship as well as his technical prowess remains unmatched, and despite a mere five albums, his music is a staple in the world of rock and roll.
Hendrix died on September 18, 1970 – slightly a year following his legendary performance at the Woodstock music festival, and the circumstances surrounding his death are still speculated upon. After a couple of days missing, Hendrix was found dead at the flat of his girlfriend Monika Dannemann. The autopsy revealed large quantities of red wine in his stomach along with his lungs. The official cause of death was recorded as inhalation of vomit and barbiturate intoxication.
The recorded facts paint a vague portrait of Hendrix’s death, and the events surrounding the incident leave a lot of questions unanswered. Did Jimi Hendrix simply fall victim to the excessive lifestyle in which many other musicians have met their doom, or is there more to his death than meets the eye?
On the morning of his death, girlfriend Dannemann claims to have woken up to find Hendrix sleeping normally and proceeded to go out for cigarettes. Upon return her story states that she found that Hendrix had gotten sick and was having trouble breathing. She called Eric Burdon of the Animals who they had partied with the night before; he demanded that she call an ambulance. Dannemann claims that the ambulance arrived at about 11:30 a.m. and that she rode with Hendrix on the way to the hospital where he suffocated en route.
The recollection of the ambulance attendants are a direct contradiction of Dannemann’s story and claim that the apartment was empty except for Hendrix lying dead on the bed. After an unsuccessful attempt at revival, they pronounced him dead. The autopsy failed to conclude the time of death, but it was evident that Hendrix had been dead for some time before the paramedics arrived.
Eric Burdon initially claimed that Hendrix’s death was a suicide, but the facts also contradict this notion. Despite Hendrix’s increasingly erratic behavior and the dark circumstances present in his life, close friends claim that he was relatively happy at the time. Hendrix was found with nine Vesperax sleeping pills in his system which are said to contribute to his death. He was a chronic insomniac who was resistant to the effects of barbiturates and would not have felt such disastrous effects from nine pills. He was also found with a pack of 42 Vesperax in his pocket which would rule out suicide. If Hendrix was intent on self-termination, it is assumed that he would have taken all of the Vesperax.
Granted, mixing alcohol with downers is asking for trouble, but the amount of red wine found in Hendrix’s lungs suggests something more gruesome. It’s extremely rare that someone who intends on a night of hard drinking binges with such rapidity that the alcohol actually reaches their lungs. The low blood alcohol content in comparison with the amount of wine found in Hendrix’s body meant that the ingestion of the wine was so quick that it didn’t even have time to enter his blood stream. This inconsistency suggests that excessive drinking was not the cause of death. The physical evidence suggests that the excessive amounts of wine in his stomach as well as lungs are more consistent with being water boarded.
There were many people who were believed to benefit from Hendrix’s removal. The COINTELPRO or Counter Intelligence Program designed by the FBI was aimed at eliminating subversive behavior within the country. Hendrix appearance at “subversive” benefits resulted in the FBI opening a dossier on him, and his ability to motivate masses were seen by COINTELPRO as less than innocuous. Hendrix connection to manager Mike Jeffery only furthered his surveillance by the FBI. Jeffery had on numerous occasions alluded to being connected to underground organizations. He was in the process of building a recording studio in a part of New York which was primarily mob controlled. In addition, Cynthia McKinney, US House Representative and Green Party nominee for President of the United States in 2008, has pinned Hendrix’s murder on a government plot to eradicate such leaders. Moreover, Hendrix had publically called upon the Black Panther party to go to Washington, DC and shoot the place up.
The web of unsavory individuals and circumstances surrounding Hendrix raises even more questions about his death. It was reported that Mike Jeffery was intent on manipulating Hendrix’s life as well as siphoning his money into his own offshore bank accounts. There is also a mention of a million dollar life insurance policy covering Hendrix and listing Jeffery as the beneficiary. Although Jeffery was in Spain during Hendrix’s death, conspiracy theorists speculate that he may have had a part in it.
Jimi Hendrix was not a drug addict; he did not die of a heroin overdose as was initially printed in some publications as the cause of death. The fact stands that Hendrix did die of choking on his own vomit, but whom or what induced this? Did COINTELPRO off Hendrix in order to prevent subversion? Did mob connections between Jeffery put Hendrix in the line of mob violence? Did Jeffery orchestrate his death for the purpose of royalties and a hefty insurance policy? These questions will probably never be answered. The deaths of Jeffery in a mysterious mid-air collision over France in 1973 and the suicide of Monika Dannemann in 1996 leave very few people who were present at the time of Hendrix’s death able to offer information.
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Friends state that in Hendrix’s final days, he became increasingly more paranoid. Did Hendrix have a feeling that his end was coming soon? We may never know what actually transpired on September 18, 1970 and the question remains: who killed Jimi Hendrix?