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Jimi Hendrix’s Death: A Tale Of The Lost Guitar Legend

Image courtesy of Wikimedia commons.

How did Jimi Hendrix die? It might seem straightforward, but there is some mystery involved.

Jimi Hendrix, who was born in Seattle, Washington on November 27, 1942, is widely considered to be the greatest guitarist of all time.

Although he only released three albums in his lifetime, Are You Experienced (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (1967), and Electric Ladyland (1968), the impact he made on music was widely felt.

Jimi Hendrix’s best songs, iconic hits like “Purple Haze,” “Machine Gun,” and “All Along the Watchtower,” have clearly stood the test of time.

Bands and songwriters from The Beatles and Bob Dylan to John Mayer and Greta van Fleet have cited him as an influence.

Unfortunately, as a member of the 27 Club, he is almost as well-known for his tragic death as he is for his spectacular life.

Many people want to know, how did Jimi Hendrix die? We will get to that, as well as many other burning questions revolving around the loss of the rock and roll legend.

When did Jimi Hendrix die?

Jimi Hendrix died on September 18, 1970.

How old was Jimi Hendrix when he died?

Really? You don’t know this one?

I’ll give you a hint: he’s a member of the 27 Club.

Okay, fine, I’ll just tell you – Jimi Hendrix’s age of death was 27.

Was Jimi Hendrix sick before he died?

By all accounts, Hendrix was in poor health in the weeks leading up to his death. This was largely caused by stress.

The legendary guitarist and songwriter were dealing with two pending lawsuits, a recording contract dispute, and a paternity case. He was also unhappy with his manager, Michael Jeffrey, and wanted to move on from him.

Additionally, his new musical direction – he was becoming more interested in funk and jazz – wasn’t commercially viable, and he knew it, which caused anxiety about his future and his place in the music industry.

Finally, Hendrix was exhausted, didn’t sleep enough, and was dealing with a chronic illness that was presumed to be influenza.

Because of all of this, he was often in poor health. It didn’t help that he had a crazy work ethic, often working into the night or all night, as his song “Burning the Midnight Lamp” illustrates.

Jimi Hendrix’s last interview

Jimi Hendrix gave his last interview exactly a week before his death, on September 11. It was a typically cringy 60s interview, but Hendrix took it in stride.

He was asked, strangely, if he felt “any kind of compulsion” to “prove” himself as “King Guitar.” Yes…King Guitar.

His answer is a favorite Jimi Hendrix quote of mine: “No, I don’t even let that bother me…King Guitar now? Wow, that’s a bit heavy.” He was too nice to say, “that’s a bit stupid.”

When the interviewer suggested that Hendrix invented psychedelic music, he laughed and said that he had “A mad scientist approach…I don’t consider [my music] the invention of psychedelic, it’s just asking a lot of questions.” A typically brilliant response.

The last days of Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix’s death on September 18, 1970, was preceded by a relatively normal week in the life of a rock star. Alcohol, drugs, and women were in steady supply.

Speaking of women, have you ever wondered if Jimi Hendrix had a girlfriend? Unsurprisingly, he had many, sometimes multiple at one time. On September 12, the day after his final interview, Hendrix spent the day juggling girlfriends.

He received a phone call from Devon Wilson, one woman he was seeing, who was jealous because of rumors that he was involved with another woman, Kirsten Nefer. Wilson’s suspicions were correct, it turns out because he spent the next day with Nefer.

Hendrix spent September 13 discussing his future with Alan Douglas, the controversial producer who would end up overseeing his posthumous albums.

At one point, he ran into old friend Sharon Lawrence in London, and their conversation was telling of his deteriorating condition.

“I can’t sleep. I can’t focus to write any songs,” he reportedly told her. She says that he was “jittery and angry” as he discussed the pressure he was under and his ‘so-called friends.’

Later that day, he met up with another girlfriend, Monika Dannemann, who will play an important role in the story of Hendrix’s death.

Jimi Hendrix’s final live performance

On September 15, Eric Burdon – who had recently left popular rock band The Animals – invited Jimi to jam with his new band, War, at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London.

Hendrix accepted the invitation, but once he arrived, it became clear that he was in no condition to play.

“Jimi came down and was well out of it. He…was wobbling too much to play, so I told him to come back the following night,” Burdon recalled.

The next night, Hendrix did indeed show up and jam with them, sitting in on blues standards “Mother Earth” and “Tobacco Road.” It would be the last time he would play guitar in public.

The night before Jimi Hendrix’s death

Jimi Hendrix spent his final 24 hours with the aforementioned girlfriend Monika Dannemann. They hung out in the garden of their hotel, where the last pictures of Hendrix were taken, and went to a couple of markets, where he bought the paper he’d write his last verses on.

The couple ended up at friend Philip Harvey’s apartment for a party in the evening, where they indulged in hashish, tea, and wine (together at last!). Eventually, Dannemann got jealous of the attention Hendrix was giving other women – imagine that – and she stormed out.

After talking it out, the couple left around 10:40 and went to Dannemann’s apartment, where they ate dinner and drank a bottle of wine. After a bath, Hendrix wrote his final poem, “The Story of My Life.”

The entire poem is pretty eerie – upon finding it, Eric Burdon thought it was a suicide note – but Hendrix’s final verse is chilling:

The story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye
The story of love is hello and goodbye
Until we meet again

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Jimi Hendrix’s final hours

After going to another party, at which Dannemann again caused a scene, the couple ended up at her apartment around 3 AM.

Hendrix tried to go to sleep an hour later, but he couldn’t, because he had taken amphetamines at the party. He asked Dannemann for one of her sleeping pills, but she didn’t give him any, as she hoped he’d fall asleep naturally.

At 6 am, Dannemann took a sleeping pill of her own and fell asleep, though Hendrix was still awake. When she woke up at 10 am, she found him breathing normally and left to grab a pack of cigarettes.

Jimi Hendrix’s death

When Dannemann returned at around 11 am, she found Hendrix breathing but unconscious and unresponsive. She phoned an ambulance at 11:18 – why she waited so long is certainly suspicious – and an ambulance arrived at 11:27.

By the time they arrived, it was already too late. Hendrix was covered in vomit and his airway was completely blocked. He didn’t have a pulse and was unresponsive.

The ambulance left the hotel around 11:35 and arrived at the hospital at 11:45. He was brought in and given CPR, but it was a lost cause.

In the words of John Bannister, the surgical registrar who tried to resuscitate him, “He was cold and he was blue. He had all the parameters of someone who had been dead a long time.”

In a later interview, he was even blunter: “On admission he was obviously dead. He had no pulse, no heartbeat, and the attempt to resuscitate him was merely a formality.”

Jimi Hendrix cause of death

How did Jimi Hendrix die? According to Professor Robart Donald Teare, the forensic pathologist who performed the post-mortem, Jimi Hendrix died from “inhalation of vomit due to barbiturate intoxication.” In common parlance, he choked on his own vomit.

Teare reported that Hendrix’s blood alcohol was 100mg per 100ml, “enough to fail a breathalyzer…the equivalent of about four pints of beer.” Barbiturates, amphetamines, and cannabis were also found in his system.

Dannemann claims that Hendrix took nine of her sleeping pills – 18 times the recommended amount.

Where is Jimi Hendrix buried?

On October 1, the guitar legend was laid to rest near his hometown of Seattle. Jimi Hendrix’s grave can be found at Greenwood Cemetery in Renton, Washington.

Written by Erik Ritland

Erik Ritland is a songwriter, musician, journalist, and podcaster based in Nashville, Tennessee. He’s released over a dozen albums since 2002, most recently Old Dog Almost Gone (2021), the first-ever multimedia album, and his latest collection of all original material, A Scientific Search (2020). During his 15+ years as a music journalist, Erik has written hundreds of articles for Music in Minnesota, Something Else Reviews, his own blog Rambling On, and more. In addition to continuing his music career, Erik currently runs The Cosmic American, a music journalism website, and is the editor of Music in Minnesota.

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