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This Day in Music Spotlight: Jimi Hendrix, Suicide or Murder?

September 18, 1970

Andrew Vaughan
|
09.18.2010

Special thanks to ThisDayinMusic.com.

Forty years ago today, on September 18, 1970, the most exciting and innovative rock star in the ’60s music scene died somewhat mysteriously in London, England.

James Marshall Hendrix was found dead in the London flat of his girlfriend Monika Dannemann. Hendrix had been staying in her Notting Hill apartment while in London. The pioneering guitar genius was only 27 years old and had only hinted at his creative abilities. His body was discovered on the morning of September 18 by Dannemann. Her initial telling of what happened was that she had taken Hendrix home from a party and put him to bed. When she found him alive, but not responding, the next morning, she presumed he had overdosed on her prescription sleeping pills that he was taking at the time. She called Eric Burdon of The Animals for advice and then phoned for an ambulance that got Hendrix to the hospital at 11:30 a.m.

Strangely the ambulance men who took Hendrix to hospital and the doctor who examined him remembered things differently. The paramedics said there was nobody at the apartment when they showed up except Jimi lying on a bed, dead. The doctor said that Hendrix had asphyxiated on his own vomit, which had filled his airways. This became the official cause of death in the autopsy report.

Thanks to those inconsistencies, rumors and conspiracy theories grew up around Hendrix’s death. Burdon claimed Jimi had committed suicide, but that’s contradicted by reports that he was in a good frame of mind and that he’d taken only nine of the 42 sleeping pills he had in his pocket.

Hendrix’s long-term English girlfriend, always distrustful of Dannemann’s story finally filed a lawsuit against her in 1996. Dannemann committed suicide after the court case.

In 2009, a former Animals roadie published a book claiming that Jimi’s manager had admitted to him that he arranged the murder of Hendrix, since the guitarist wanted out of his contract. In his book, Rock Roadie, James “Tappy” Wright claimed that Hendrix manager Mike Jeffery admitted as much – before he, himself died in a plane crash.

It’s a seemingly far-fetched accusation, but it is backed up by the attending surgeon, Dr. John Bannister, who told The Times that the claim “sounded plausible because of the volume of wine” found in Hendrix’s lungs and on his body.

“The amount of wine that was over him was just extraordinary,” he said. “Not only was it saturated right through his hair and shirt but his lungs and stomach were absolutely full of wine. I have never seen so much wine. We had a sucker that you put down into his trachea, the entrance to his lungs and to the whole of the back of his throat. We kept sucking him out and it kept surging and surging. He had already vomited up masses of red wine and I would have thought there was half a bottle of wine in his hair. He had really drowned in a massive amount of red wine.”

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