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How Did Jimi Hendrix Die? The Tragic Story

May 31, 2023
how did jimi hendrix die

Jimi Hendrix, an acclaimed guitarist, and songwriter from America, is widely recognized as one of the most legendary rock stars in history.

He was found dead at the Samarkand Hotel, Notting Hill, London, on September 18, 1970. 

Jimi’s death at the age of 27 brought forth one pertinent question – why did so many great musicians die at such a young age?

The phenomenon went so far as to inspire a club that glorified and idealized the demise of these influential cultural and music figures, commonly known as the “27 Club,” a group in which the young guitarist has also achieved eternal fame.

How Did Jimi Hendrix Die?

Although some individuals suspect that Hendrix was harmed by someone else and his death was made to look like an overdose, most of these assertions are unfounded and based on conjecture.

According to Tony Brown’s account in his book, Jimi Hendrix: The Final Days, the circumstances leading up to Hendrix’s passing are quite clear.

In September of 1970, Hendrix was experiencing exhaustion due to being overworked and stressed, and on top of that, he was struggling to sleep while battling a severe flu.

The night before his death, he spent time at his girlfriend Monika Dannemann’s apartment in the Samarkand Hotel.

After a relaxation session with tea and hashish at Dannemann’s luxurious residence in Notting Hill, the couple had dinner.

That evening, Hendrix made a phone call to discuss possibly ending his association with his manager, Mike Jeffery.

Throughout the night, he and Dannemann shared a bottle of red wine, and afterward, Hendrix took a refreshing bath.

Unfortunately, one of his business contacts, Pete Kameron, hosted a party that night, and Hendrix felt obligated to attend.

According to Brown’s account, after being driven to the party by Dannemann, the musician consumed at least one amphetamine tablet known as a “Black Bomber.”

At the party, the couple seemingly argued when Dannemann insisted on speaking with Hendrix.

Witnesses recall that Hendrix became noticeably frustrated because she “persistently bothered him.”

Nevertheless, the rockstar eventually agreed and had a private conversation with her.

The content of the discussion between the couple remains undisclosed.

However, it is certain that they abruptly departed from the party around 3 AM.

Upon returning home, the couple tried to sleep, but the effects of the amphetamine Hendrix had taken prevented him from doing so.

Dannemann claimed that she declined when he asked to use some of her sleeping pills.

Eventually, at around 6 AM, she reluctantly took one herself.

According to Dannemann’s account, when she woke up four hours later, Hendrix was asleep without apparent distress.

Dannemann mentioned that she left the apartment to purchase cigarettes, and upon her return, she discovered a drastic change in the situation.

Hendrix was now unconscious but still alive.

Despite her attempts to wake him, she was unsuccessful, prompting her to urgently call paramedics in a desperate effort to save his life.

Emergency services arrived at the residence in Notting Hill at 11:27 AM.

Unfortunately, not only was Jimi Hendrix’s cause of death predetermined, but Dannemann was nowhere to be found.

The paramedics arrived to find a wide-open door, drawn curtains, and the lifeless body of Jimi Hendrix.

The condition inside the apartment at Samarkand Hotel was repulsive.

Paramedic Reg Jones vividly remembered witnessing Hendrix covered in vomit.

The singer’s airway was completely blocked and obstructed, extending down into his lungs.

It seemed evident that he had been deceased for a considerable period.

After the police arrived, Hendrix was taken to St. Mary Abbot’s Hospital in Kensington, where efforts to revive him proved unsuccessful.

“He exhibited coldness and a bluish hue,” recalled Dr. Martin Seifert.

Upon admission, it was apparent that he had passed away as there was no pulse, no heartbeat, and the attempt to resuscitate him was merely a procedural formality.

The mystery surrounding Jimi Hendrix’s death deepened as the coroner’s investigation failed to uncover any signs of suicide.

So, what was the true cause behind his tragic demise?

In a surprising twist, Dannemann, his girlfriend, then revealed that she had noticed a staggering count of nine missing Vesparax pills from her stash.

Investigation

Gavin Thurston took charge of the quest for answers surrounding Jimi Hendrix’s untimely demise,

Determined to unveil the truth, he enlisted the expertise of Professor Robert Donald Teare, a renowned forensic pathologist, who conducted a post-mortem examination on Hendrix’s lifeless body on that sad day of September 21.

A week later, after meticulously scrutinizing the evidence, Thurston, with a mix of intrigue and frustration, reached a haunting conclusion.

Hendrix had tragically succumbed to his vomit, his airway blocked, and his breath stolen away by asphyxiation.

The circumstances surrounding his death were further complicated by the presence of barbiturates in his system, intoxicating his senses.

Yet, Thurston was confronted with a baffling dilemma as he deemed the available evidence insufficient to pinpoint the exact circumstances.

Thus, he delivered an open verdict, leaving room for lingering questions.

Amidst this enigma, Dannemann, the girlfriend who shared intimate moments with Hendrix, stepped forward and shattered the silence.

She disclosed a shocking revelation – Hendrix had ingested nine of her prescribed Vesparax sleeping tablets, an astonishing dosage that exceeded the recommended amount by an alarming 18-fold.

The revelation added another layer of complexity to the narrative, fueling speculation and intensifying the desire to uncover the truth behind the legendary musician’s tragic demise.

Music Career

Jimi’s early fascination with music emerged during his childhood.

As a young student, he would carry a broomstick, imitating a guitar.

His father recalled how Jimi would sit at the edge of his bed, strumming the broomstick as if it were a real instrument.

Eventually, he stumbled upon a battered ukulele with one string while helping his father clean someone’s house.

Based on his natural musical talent, Jimi learned to play by ear using that single string.

He successfully managed to play along with the songs he adored, such as Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog.”

Jimi finally bought his first acoustic guitar when he turned 15 years old.

However, the instrument was designed for right-handed players, despite Jimi’s preference for playing with his left hand.

Undeterred by this obstacle, Jimi made the unconventional choice to play the guitar upside-down—a quirk that persisted throughout his entire career.

Hendrix commenced his musical journey as a “hired hand” for several bands.

His initial performance took place in the basement of a Seattle synagogue, but it was short-lived due to his stage antics, resulting in his being dismissed before the show concluded.

Subsequently, he joined his first official band, The Velvetones.

However, Hendrix encountered difficulties with his acoustic guitar, struggling to be heard amidst the group’s amplified sound.

Finally, in 1959, Al Hendrix relented and purchased his son his inaugural electric guitar: a white Supro Ozark.

The Velvetones performed for a few months without compensation before transforming into The Rocking Teens.

This group later transitioned into The Rocking Kings and eventually became Thomas and the Tom Cats.

Nevertheless, Hendrix’s burgeoning musical career experienced an abrupt interruption when he was apprehended for joyriding in 1961 at the age of 18.

Given the choice between imprisonment and joining the U.S. Army, he opted for the latter and embarked on basic training.

History of Drugs, Alcohol, and Violence

Jimi Hendrix’s association with the drug counterculture in the United States has endured over time, and this connection is well-founded.

During the peak of his career, he engaged in experimentation with LSD, cannabis, hashish, and various other drugs.

Similar to his parents, he also consumed alcohol.

The indulgent lifestyle that accompanies rock ‘n’ roll stardom provided numerous opportunities for Hendrix to partake in these substances.

However, it wasn’t only Hendrix who grappled with the demons that had plagued his family— the women in his life also experienced their presence.

According to Hendrix’s friend Eric Burdon, there were moments when he would transition from being on stage singing about the marginalized individuals in America to exhibiting aggressive behavior towards women in back alleys.

Numerous accounts of domestic violence involving Hendrix and his girlfriends or lovers abound, with alcohol often being held accountable.

A friend named Herbie Worthington asserted that after consuming alcohol, Jimi Hendrix would “simply turn into a difficult person.”

The Decline of Jimi Hendrix’s Music Career

The toll of fame began to weigh heavily on Jimi Hendrix.

He encountered difficulties in New York, where he had managed to antagonize certain gangsters associated with his manager.

Seeking solace, he embarked on a tour of Europe, expressing to a journalist that “New York is currently destroying me.”

However, even across the Atlantic, he found no relief.

Fatigued and disillusioned, during a performance in Denmark on the European tour, he proclaimed, “I’ve been dead a long time.”

The breaking point eventually arrived at a festival in Germany when Jimi Hendrix refused to perform due to concerns about being electrocuted on the rain-soaked stage.

When he eventually took the stage, albeit intoxicated, he was met with a chorus of boos and jeers from the audience.

As the event unfolded, the Hells Angels, responsible for security, set the stage ablaze, assaulted his tour manager, and even fired shots at a roadie.

This ill-fated show would mark his final performance.

Jimi Hendrix’s last interview

Jimi Hendrix granted his final interview on September 11, exactly one week before his death.

Despite the interview’s typically awkward nature, reminiscent of the style prevalent in the 60s, Hendrix remained composed.

Curiously, he was asked if he felt compelled to prove himself as the “King Guitar.” Yes, “King Guitar.”

In response, Hendrix provided one of my favorite quotes from him: “No, I don’t even let that bother me… King Guitar now? Wow, that’s a bit heavy.”

He displayed his kind nature by refraining from saying, “That’s a bit foolish.”

When the interviewer suggested that Hendrix invented psychedelic music, he laughed and described his approach as that of a “mad scientist.”

He said, “I don’t consider my music the invention of psychedelic; it’s simply about posing many questions.” It was a typically brilliant retort from Hendrix.

The last days of Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix’s death happened after a week of following the usual lifestyle of a rock star, with abundant alcohol, drugs, and female companionship.

Speaking of his relationships, it is no surprise that Jimi Hendrix had multiple girlfriends, often concurrently.

On September 12, the day after his final interview, Hendrix found himself juggling his romantic interests.

A phone call from one of his girlfriends, Devon Wilson, revealed her jealousy fueled by rumors of his involvement with another woman, Kirsten Nefer.

As it turned out, Wilson’s suspicions were accurate, as Hendrix spent the following day with Nefer.

On September 13, Hendrix talked about his future with Alan Douglas, the controversial producer who would ultimately oversee his posthumous albums.

During his time in London, he unexpectedly encountered an old friend named Sharon Lawrence, and their conversation shed light on his declining state.

Reportedly, he expressed difficulty sleeping and focusing on songwriting.

Lawrence recalls him appearing “jittery and angry” as he spoke about the pressures he faced and his disillusionment with so-called friends.

Later that day, he rendezvoused with another girlfriend, Monika Dannemann, who would later play a significant role in the narrative surrounding Hendrix’s demise.

Jimi Hendrix’s final live performance

Eric Burdon, who had recently departed from the popular rock band The Animals, invited Jimi Hendrix to join his new band, War, for a jam session at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London on September 15.

Hendrix accepted the invitation, but upon his arrival, it became apparent that he was not able to perform.

Burdon recollected, “Jimi arrived heavily impaired, making it evident that he could not play.

He was unstable and unable to maintain his balance, so I advised him to return the next night.”

True to his word, Hendrix appeared the following night and participated in a jam session with the band, contributing to the performance of blues classics such as “Tobacco Road” and “Mother Earth.”

Regrettably, this would mark his final public guitar performance.

Funeral 

Desmond Henley embalmed Hendrix’s body and was later transported to Seattle, Washington, on September 29, 1970.

The funeral service occurred at Dunlap Baptist Church in Seattle’s Rainier Valley on October 1, after which he was laid to rest at Greenwood Cemetery in Renton, Washington, where his mother was buried.

Hendrix’s funeral was attended by over 200 individuals, with his family and friends arriving in 24 limousines.

Among the attendees were several notable musicians, including original Experience members Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, as well as Miles Davis, Johnny Winter, and John Hammond.

Jimi Hendrix’s Legacy Continues Today

A year before his death, Hendrix shared with a reporter his plans for his eventual demise, stating, “I can tell you that when I pass away, I intend to have a funeral that will incorporate a jam session. And, knowing my nature, I might even find myself in trouble at my funeral.”

Even after over five decades, with lingering questions about the circumstances surrounding Jimi Hendrix’s death, his influence on the music community remains profound and impactful.

Prominent musicians such as Eric Clapton, Paul McCartney, Rich Robinson of the Black Crowes, Kirk Hammett of Metallica, and Steve Winwood all acknowledge Hendrix’s tremendous influence on their music.

Despite the peculiar and haunting elements surrounding Hendrix’s untimely demise, the essence of his music continues to resonate and rock on.

Will Fenton

Will, the founder of MIDDER, is a multifaceted individual with a deep passion for music and personal finance. As a self-proclaimed music and personal finance geek, he has a keen eye for futuristic technologies, especially those that empower creators and the public.

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