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David Henderson is a poet whose work has been widely published in anthologies and magazines, including The Paris Review and Essence. Born and raised in Harlem, he continues to live in New York City.
At 12:45 P.M. on Friday, September 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix was pronounced dead at St. Mary's Abbot Hospital in the Kensington/Chelsea section of London. Immediately the London offices of the major wire services reported that Hendrix had died of a drug overdose.
Monika Dannemann, the woman in whose hotel suite he was found, spoke to reporters, associates, and friends about Hendrix's whereabouts and states of mind that Thursday night and Friday morning.
Eric Burdon, lead singer of War (and formerly of the defunct group the Animals), had discovered a poem she said Hendrix had written shortly before his death. It was in Dannemann's sketchbook. "The Story of Jesus," titled after its first line, is also known as "The Story of Life," a title Dannemann may have chosen. It was a poem conceived as a possible song lyric.
The poem could be interpreted as the last words of a man about to die. But suicide was unlikely for a wealthy man who was in the prime of life and held in open adoration by so many. Those knowing Jimi's writing were familiar with his constant referral to hearing his train coming, or in other words, having or expecting to have some premonition about his death. Perhaps it was a farewell message written under duress. Comparisons of samples of his handwriting reveal a haste not often found in his even most casual notes or song lyrics, or even in simple messages to friends or employees. The poem begins with Jesus and ends with Jimi in the first person: "The story of Jesus / so easy to explain / after they crucified him / a woman, she claimed his name."
The message is rather amazing, especially as a last word. Jesus's life story is dominated by his crucifixion, even though he is considered by many to be the savior of humanity. The last line in the first stanza refers to a mysterious woman who "claimed" his name. Jimi then goes to a Jesus roaming the desert where he found a rose. Then in the next stanza he refers to a popular premise where Jesus was "married ever / happily after / for all the Tears we cry."
Then Jimi explains that there is "no use in arguing"; there are moans "when each man falls in Battle, His / soul it has to roam."
Jimi revisits the themes recurrent in his notebooks of angels and flying saucers, but then concludes a stanza referring to Easter Sunday, the resurrection, as "the name of the rising sun."
Here Jimi brings himself directly into this story: "We will gild the light / this time with a woman / in our arms." Instead of death being symbolized by the cross, the mysterious woman prevails: "the woman's always mentioned / at the moment that we die." As he ends the poem Jimi writes that Jesus's story "is the story of you and me." He makes it clear he is referring to himself. He cautions not to feel lonely, "I am you searching to be free." Life can end "quicker than the wink of an eye." But love is the real story, in greeting or farewell, "until we meet again."
Dannemann and Burdon agreed to keep the poem from public knowledge. They felt that it might indicate a "suicidal" state. She said that she had called her brother in Germany and indicated that Hendrix had been exhausted and wanted to sleep for several days; and that was why, apparently, he took so many sleeping pills.
Several other versions of Hendrix's death were to quickly surface, some preposterous, some perhaps not. One account has Hendrix being the victim of a contract on his life, where the regular delivery of an array of drugs was sabotaged and the regular deliveryman substituted. Whether this "delivery" also included the strong-armed drowning of the subject could not be established as being a part of that version. One had to do with COINTELPRO, the counterintelligence program of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which sought to neutralize, by any means necessary, an array of black leaders and potential black leaders who were considered to be potential messiahs. Agents were to act to discredit groups and individuals within the responsible Negro community, and the Negro radicals and also the white liberals who have sympathy for militant black nationalists. It has been said that the FBI sought to encourage Martin Luther King Jr. to commit suicide up until his untimely and mysterious assassination.
Hendrix had publicly acknowledged support for the Black Panthers in high profile concerts and in national magazines. He had agreed to play a benefit for the Panthers at the Oakland Coliseum. He had been the biggest name in popular music to play an anti-Vietnam War benefit concert.
There are FBI documents that verify the agency's activity around Hendrix and his participation in benefits for white and black radical leftist causes. A clipping from an underground press paper that announced Hendrix playing in support of the infamous Chicago Seven (disrupters of the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in 1968) was annotated by the Bureau. These seven defendants included representatives of an array of radical organizations: Black Panther Bobby Seale, Yippie Jerry Rubin, and Students for a Democratic Society's Tom Hayden, among others. There is a striking juxtaposition between the date of that annotation and Hendrix's suspicious bust at the border in Toronto, Canada, a few days later. Another FBI-annotated clipping announced Hendrix's appearance for the antiwar Vietnam Moratorium Committee at Madison Square Garden at the beginning of 1970. His strange, suspicious poisoning at that event prevented him from performing and had many observers suspecting sabotage. A special feature of COINTELPRO was often called "dirty tricks," but serious prison sentences, blackmail, and death have been associated with these government-sanctioned "black-bag" activities.
Author Alex Constantine links the FBI, the CIA, and other intelligence agencies. "...As regards the presumed paucity of FBI files on Hendrix. Students in Santa Barbara [University of California] sued and laid hands on some of them. The FBI held most back....There is a common misperception concerning COINTELPRO. It was a PART of Operation CHAOS, an immense interagency attempt to counter the anti-war movement. CHAOS was international, so it was THIS operation that interfered with the Panther concert. The FBI and police hit squads killed 28 Black Panthers." Constantine considers Tupac Shakur as the twenty-ninth. Several significant members of Tupac's extended family were Black Panthers. His first recorded song was entitled "Panther Power." Hendrix had donated money to the unfairly imprisoned New York City Panther 21, which included Tupac Shakur's mother, Afeni.
Other accounts of Hendrix's mysterious death had him overdosing on superpowerful heroin at a friend's house on the outskirts of London and then taken to Monika Dannemann's place. Yet another account had him flown to Hollywood in a private jet, where he was murdered, and then flown back to London. Another account had him dying at a well-known rock star's apartment with Devon Wilson by his side.
Yet another account had Hendrix mistakenly receiving a lethal dose of heroin that had been given to Alan Douglas by Michael Jeffery in order to eliminate his successor as manager.
The following are Monika Dannemann's responses at the inquest on September 28, 1970, with commentary in brackets.
I am an artist and I live at the Garden Flat, 22 Lansdowne Crescent, London, W11. I have known Jimi Hendrix for about two years; we met in Germany. I had been in touch with him by telephone and letter while he was in the States. I met him when he came to this country in August. I have not known him to consult a doctor while in this country. I would say that all the time I knew him he was exhausted. As far as I know he always fulfilled his engagements. He took sleeping tablets from his doctor because he was nervous, but they were not that strong. I have not known him to take hard drugs, he tried them out just for experience. I do not know whether he took amphetamines. I have not known him to have a vomiting attack.
He had been staying with me since Tuesday, 15th September. Nobody else was staying at the flat. He slept well on the Tuesday and Wednesday night.[It is well documented that Hendrix spent Wednesday night at Danny Secunda's home in Knightsbridge.] Ido not know about Thursday night. We did not spend a tiring day on Thursday and arrived home about 8:30 P.M.[That time is disputed by several persons.]
I cooked a meal and had a bottle of white wine about 11:00 P.M. He drank more of the bottle than I did. He had nothing to drink other than the wine. I had a bath and washed my hair and then we talked. At this time there was no arguments or stress, it was a happy atmosphere.
When we came back[from picking him up from Peter Cameron's party]we were talking. I took a sleeping tablet at about 7:00 A.M.[One researcher opines that a whole tablet would put someone of her size out for many more hours than the two or three she had testified to sleeping.]I made him two fish sandwiches.[Terry Slater was certain there was no food in the house when he arrived that fateful morning to help "clean up."]We were in bed talking.[He was taken to the hospital fully clothed, rather "flamboyantly" at that, according to one doctor. Hardly pajamas, or sleepwear of any kind.]I woke around 10:20 A.M. He was sleeping normally.[According to the ambulance attendants, "He was covered in wine and vomit." There was "tons" of it all over the bed and the pillows.]I went around the corner to get cigarettes, when I came back he had been sick, he was breathing and his pulse was normal[the ambulance attendants say he was dead when they arrived],but I could not wake him. I saw that he had taken sleeping tablets, there were nine of mine missing. I phoned for an ambulance and he was taken to hospital, where he lived for a short time.[Doctors at the hospital that day said Hendrix was dead on arrival. And that he had been dead for a long time.]
I had forty Vesperax sleeping pills at the flat. There were nine missing, I think he knew exactly what he could take in the way of sleeping tablets. When I last saw him before he went to sleep he was quite happy.[Since she says she fell asleep while Hendrix was still awake she would not know if he slept at all.]The tablets were in a cupboard, he would have to get out of bed to get the tablets.
He said he had had cannabis. There was no question of exhaustion on this particular evening. He was not a man to have moods. He was not tensed up. I have never heard him say he wished he were dead or that life was not worth living. He had business stresses but this did not worry him.
Later, the inquest returned an "open verdict," as it was called.
The death certificate listed as cause of death:
Inhalation of vomit.
Barbiturate intoxication (quinalbarbitone).
Insufficient evidence of circumstances.
The "open verdict" was greatly dependent on the testimony of Monika Dannemann and Hendrix's road manager, Gerry Stickells.
The "open verdict," according to The New York Times, "meant that the court was unable to decide the exact reason for Mr. Hendrix's death..."
The admitting doctor at St. Mary's Abbot Hospital stated on the record that Jimi Hendrix's death was by drowning.
Although Gavin L. B. Thurston, coroner for Inner West London, is listed as informant, he did not sign the death certificate. A time of death was never officially determined.
Later, to the press and to friends, Dannemann was to reveal more about the evening. After the inquest and the "open verdict," Dannemann publicly revealed the untitled "The Story of Jesus" poem.
Further analysis of the pathology report indicated that Hendrix had a very low level of alcohol in his blood, much lower than the amount of wine that had been suffusing his organs and coming out of his nose and mouth when he arrived at the hospital. It would seem, according to the state of his body, that he had had an impossible amount of red wine after the party at Peter Cameron's and early the morning of September 18, yet the alcohol level in his blood remained unusually low. Hendrix did not drink like that, in crazy, sloppy overindulgence that would produce wine all over his clothing and even cake in his hair.
The cursory nature of the original inquest was a clear message to the youth culture and the black consciousness movement that the British authorities would not do what was needed to rule out any crimes that may have been done to Jimi Hendrix's person. There would be no investigation.
Those who followed the death and the aftermath noticed many inconsistencies in the official inquest. It was an open-and-shut affair that managed to hide its racist intent behind the public perceptual hoax of Hendrix as a substance abuser.
The initial reports in London newspapers, radio, and television misstated the facts of his death in accordance with the misinformation that was afloat. These reports took wing, and the initial contentions of death by drug overdose would seldom be altered by subsequent news media. The fabled British press would do no investigative stories.
As a result, millions of people all over the world thought that Hendrix had died the typical rock star death: drug overdose amid fame, blondes, opulence, sex. Decadence is usually associated with drug deaths. But it seems that Hendrix could very well have been the victim of foul play, foul play with extreme prejudice.
Jimi Hendrix did not die of a drug overdose.
As the immediacy of Hendrix's death faded, Monika Dannemann and Eric Burdon began to alter and expand their stories and reveal more of their involvement with and around Hendrix's last hours alive. At the same time, other stories began to surface. What may have seemed like a cut-and-dried accidental death began to acquire serious complications.
On September 21, very soon after Hendrix's death, Eric Burdon went on the BBC-TV program 24 Hours, hosted by Kenneth Alsop, and declared that he believed, from the Hendrix poem that was discovered after his death, that he had committed suicide. Burdon may have been believed had he not been so obviously stoned while making those assertions.
Warner Bros. is said to have collected one million dollars from a Lloyd's of London insurance policy as a result of Hendrix's death.
A fluke interview that Dannemann was said to have given to the GermanlanguageEnquirer-like magazineBildthe day after Hendrix's death seemed to be quite revealing. One can imagine, after reading her broken English accounts of what happened, that she must have been more at ease speaking to a fellow German in her own language. Upon checking out of the hotel she had retreated to after Hendrix's death, with Eric Burdon and others, she had had a dispute over the bill and then had trouble finding a taxi. Egan F. Freheit, the reporter fromBild, helped her out, rode in the taxi he had procured for her, and got an exclusive interview.
The article, considered a scoop, ran under the headline "I Gave Jimi the Tablets" (Bild, September 24, 1970). Dannemann is quoted as having said, "'We looked forward to getting married. We already thought about how everything should be. I would then have designed the sleeves for his records.' The blonde girl talks about the evening when Jimi Hendrix died. 'The intrigues of the people who he worked with finished him off. He could not sleep so I gave him the tablets.... He died from that. No drugs were involved.' And about the many girls who he was supposed to have had? Monika: 'All a lie. I was the only one with whom he was together until the end, the whole time before the end of his life and that for every minute.'"
Monika would later deny giving the interview in any formal way, but she admitted riding with and talking to the reporter. The accompanying photo of her and Jimi in 1969 could have, at that time, only been obtained from her, according to author and researcher Tony Brown.
Later, Dannemann made a slight change in her story. Where she once said that she saw he was sick and called the ambulance, she began saying that she had called others before she called the ambulance, that she had not acted alone, as her initial statement in circulation indicated. Her time of awakening also changed. She told a police officer named Shaw on September 18 that she woke at 11:00 A.M. But at the inquest the time changed to 10:20 A.M. Later, the time would be 9:00 A.M. To Officer Shaw she did not mention going out for cigarettes, as she did later. Nor to any of the authorities did she mention her interactions with Eric Burdon, Alvenia Bridges, Judy Wong, and Terry Slater.
Years later, in 1986, Burdon published his memoir,I Used to Be an Animal but I'm All Right Now,and made some pretty serious admissions. He stated that he had answered Monika's telephone call as "the first light of dawn was coming through the window." He called her back to make sure she had called the ambulance. "She said, 'I can't have people around here now, there's all kinds of stuff [drugs] in the house.'" He states that he caught a minicab to the hotel shortly afterward. This is an admission that he had met Dannemann at the Samarkand rather than at the hospital. Dannemann maintained that Burdon's recollection was unreliable because he was still under the influence of drugs. But from his account and other interviews with him, this event sobered him up and woke him up completely. He quickly became aware of how bad it could be.
Dannemann's story is dependent on a time line that does not implicate her in Hendrix's death (she had been accused of waiting too long to call the ambulance). Burdon's statement that the time was at "first light," or around dawn, 7:00 A.M., when he first talked to Dannemann about Jimi's being in danger, makes the time consistent with the doctor's statement that Jimi had been dead for hours by the time he arrived at the hospital just before 11:30 A.M.
Five years later, in 1991, in a conversation with Kathy Etchingham, he seemed to have thrown all previous caution to the wind. Burdon stated, "It was early morning when I got the call, in fact, I thought it was earlier than early morning. I thought it was like in the early hours." He reiterated that he yelled and screamed for Dannemann to get an ambulance and those screams happened "on more than one occasion." He thought she was stalling because of being frozen with fear of being implicated and even prosecuted for drugs (the police report noted how "smartly clean" the premises were). Burdon, thinking that she would not call for help until the place was clean, went over there to take care of that business. "When I arrived there [at the Samarkand], I remember quite clearly the door being open, and I think maybe I got there and he was there and I didn't want to, you know, look at it, you know, I didn't want to look at the mess. We had to be there before. We got the guitars out, we got the drugs out of the place...she [Dannemann] didn't leave in the ambulance, she was with me."
Terry Slater, a former Animal employee, was also there. He toldEarthmagazine in December of 1970, "I had been at the flat [the Samarkand Hotel suite] on Thursday night, and although he [ Jimi] wasn't happy, it was impossible to envisage what was going to happen." He would make a statement to Scotland Yard in 1992 to the effect that he had been at the Samarkand that morning and had helped clean up "the mess." For some reason he stated that "there was no food whatsoever in the flat and no evidence any had been cooked." But Slater may have solved the mystery of a call Jimi made that morning in which he said, "I need help bad, man." Slater: "When he called Eric that morning he called a friend, not his manager or any of his hangers-on -- he went straight to a friend."
Slater was the one who had phoned Gerry Stickells between 8:00 A.M. and 9:00 A.M. in the first place to tell him there was a problem with Jimi at the hotel. Stickells had been delayed because he went at first to the Cumberland Hotel suite where Jimi was registered.
Eric Burdon went to the Samarkand Hotel and helped Monika clean up before the ambulance was called. They would clean the place of drugs and paraphernalia. Other sources said that some stuff was buried in the garden. Keith Altham, the journalist, has mentioned in a documentary that "Eric Burdon supposedly hoovered the place and got rid of drugs and things, in which case the ambulance was delayed before it got there."
Author Tony Brown adds to Burdon's and Slater's statements. In one of the many interviews he conducted with Monika Dannemann, before and after Etchingham's conversation with Eric Burdon, she mentioned that Gerry Stickells and Eric Barrett -- both road managers of Hendrix in Jeffery's employ -- were also in the flat that morning, possibly before the ambulance was called. "Gerry Stickells and Eric Barrett, they took some of Jimi's stuff. Mainly, like messages, that kind of stuff. That was funny, that was so strange. They were only interested in all messages Jimi had received. Clotheswise they didn't bother at all. And the guitar, that was one of the things they wanted to take. I explained to them that in 1969 Jimi said to me, if ever he would not come back I could have his guitar. And I told them this, and Gerry Stickells still wanted to take it away from me, and I was completely in tears, naturally, not because of the guitar but because of the whole, you know, what happened. And it was Eric Barrett who sort of said to Gerry Stickells, let her have it."
It's possible they knew he was dead before the ambulance was called. If he was still alive they would have understood that their delay could have been a factor in his death. The doctors in the hospital emergency room (who ought to know) noted that Jimi Hendrix had been dead a long time. Although no one claimed to have checked Hendrix's life signs before the ambulance arrived, there is an implication that he was dead. That means that Dannemann, Slater, Bridges, Burdon, and possibly others may have had some idea of how Hendrix died, or at least more than is commonly known.
Another source said that the investigation carried on during the attempt to reopen the inquest discovered that the ambulance had been called from the public telephone within eyeshot of the Samarkand Hotel, suggesting that those who were there had left, called the ambulance, watched as the ambulance came, and then followed it to the hospital. And what does the huge amount of red wine have to do with anything? Vesperax is unusually strong; one pill is a barbiturate equivalent of 200 milligrams -- with 150 milligrams of quinalbarbitone, a quick inducer of sleep, and 50 milligrams of brallobarbitone, which as an intermediate induces a longer sleep. It also contains an antihistamine of 39 milligrams of hydroxyethyl hydroxyzine dimaleate.
Author Tony Brown points out, "The normal recommended dose of half a tablet of Vesperax would induce an eight-hour sleep for a normal man weighing one hundred sixty pounds. If Monika had taken one of these sleeping tablets, as she had stated -- which would be twice the stated dose -- on top of drinking so much red wine earlier in the evening, it would be nigh on impossible for her to wake up early and refreshed after only having three hours of sleep."
Does the content of Jimi's blood as determined from the autopsy indicate his having taken nine pills? And does the alcohol content of his liver and urine indicate the vast amounts of wine exuding from his orifices? His blood "Ethanol was at not more than 5 mgs percent. Extractions revealed a mixture of barbiturates consistent with those from Vesperax. The amount calculated as quinalbarbitone is 0.7 mgs percent." There was also 1.3 mg 100 ml of Seconal in his blood and 3.9 mg 100 ml of Seconal in his liver. His liver extractions also revealed properties consistent with those of brallobarbitone. Quinalbarbitone in the blood was at 3.9 mgs percent. The search for toxic drugs failed to reveal any hydroxyethyl hydroxyzine dimaleate. A mysterious compound was isolated, which they said "might be a metabolite," and was found not only in the liver but in the urine as well, where there was a 46 mgs level of alcohol. It was thought "the blood-alcohol level was probably at 100 mgs at the time when he took the Vesperax." There was also brallobarbitone and amphetamine "easily detectable" in the urine.
In 1975, on the fifth anniversary of Hendrix's death, Dannemann told Caesar Glebbeek, a Dutch collector and Hendrix biographer, that she had awakened that fateful morning at 9:00 A.M. She said Hendrix was still asleep, but she just couldn't sleep anymore. Then she realized he had been sick. She tried to wake him but couldn't. He wouldn't wake up. So she called the ambulance, which came after ten minutes, and the ambulance attendants assured her, "He'll be okay again." She then repeated her oft-repeated theory: "While we were driving in the ambulance, they seated Jimi on a chair but with his head backwards, which I found out later was the worst position they could have put him in, because through this he couldn't breathe proper, because he has been sick." One can see the problems with her syntax. Her lack of fluency could give rise to all sorts of interpretations, but her concluding remarks are unequivocal: "I do believe that he got poisoned, that he actually got murdered. Well, there are some proof, but, well, you can't go to the police with it. There is something really behind the whole thing, and there's quite a powerful group behind all that. I think it is the Mafia."
The two ambulance drivers who on September 18, 1970, responded to the distress call from 22 Lansdowne Crescent and took Jimi Hendrix to St. Mary's Abbot Hospital were allowed by their employer, the London Ambulance Service, some years later to override their contractual restrictions and give interviews regarding that particular situation involving a celebrity.
The following is a statement issued on London Ambulance Service stationery and signed by David Smith, the press and public affairs manager:
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN: 3.1.92/ J Hendrix, deceased (18th September 1970)/ In the light of our extensive enquiries it is apparent that the ambulancemen acted in a proper and professional manner./ There was no one else, except the deceased, at the flat (22 Lansdowne Crescent, LONDON W11) when they arrived; nor did anyone else accompany them in the ambulance to St. Mary Abbot Hospital./ I hope this clarifies the situation.
Reg Jones was the senior man of the two ambulance drivers. "I knew he was dead as soon as I walked in the room. You get a feel for it. I can't explain, but you do and I knew he was dead.... It was horrific...the door was flung wide open.... The room at first was dark...we had to pull the curtains. He was covered in vomit. There was tons of it all over the pillow. Black and brown it was. We felt for any pulse between his shoulders, pinched his earlobes and nose, showed a light in his eyes, but there was no response at all.... We had to get the police. We only had an empty flat.... I didn't know who he was. Jimi Hendrix? A bit out of my age group. When we got him to the hospital, full lights and sirens, we had to clean the ambulance out, it was really a mess, his bowels and bladder, all that goes when you're dead. That flat must have needed a good clean, too.... Sit him up! No, you don't sit people up when they've choked. Them steps up the flat was steep, and you had a natural incline on the way up, but no, he wasn't sat up."
The other ambulance attendant, John Saua, said, "We got down to the flat, and there was nobody but the body on the bed...he was on top of the bed, dressed, but I didn't recognize him.... We knew it was hopeless. There was no pulse, no respiration. He was flat on his back when we got there.... When we moved him the gases were gurgling. You get that when someone has died, it wasn't too pleasant. The vomit was all the way down...we had a hell of a time trying to suck him out; I mean, the vomit was dry and there was a hell of a lot of it. The aspirators in those days were all right...[but] they couldn't shift that lot.... I don't know if anybody would've recognized him. His own mother wouldn't have recognized him."
Ian Smith, one of the two police officers called to the scene, recalls that if anyone else had "been in the flat, they [the ambulance attendants] would have never called us to come in...he [ Jimi Hendrix] would have been identified....They could have just taken him off, but in the circumstances, you know -- just the body, well, they radioed their control to get us in...nobody knew who he was..."
Dr. Seifert was one of the casualty doctors who received Jimi Hendrix's body at St. Mary's Abbot Hospital. Seifert was also the medical registrar. "Jimi was rushed into the resus[citation] room. He was put on a monitor, but it was flat. I pounded his heart a couple of times, but there was no point in doing anything else as he was dead.... I never spoke to or saw anyone about Jimi -- no woman in admissions.... No one would have been allowed to look at him or stand over him. That would never have been done. I would have done anything to save him, but it was too late, he was dead.... No nurse went out to say we'd revived him, because we didn't -- that just never happened. We didn't work on him anything like an hour, just a few minutes -- he was dead."
Dr. Bannister was the surgical registrar at St. Mary's Abbot Hospital. He told theLondon Times, "He didn't have any pulse. The inside of his mouth and mucous membranes were black because he had been dead for some time. He had no circulation through his tissues at any time immediately prior to coming to the hospital....Masses" of red wine were "coming out of his nose and out of his mouth. It was horrific. The whole scene is very vivid because you don't often see people who have drowned in their own red wine. He had something around him -- whether it was a towel or a jumper [sweater] -- around his neck that was saturated with red wine. His hair was matted. He was completely cold. I personally think he probably died a long time before. He was cold and he was blue. He had all the parameters of someone who had been dead for some time. We worked on him for about half an hour without any response at all. There was a medical registrar, myself, nursing staff, and I think one other doctor.... The medical staff used an eighteen-inch sucker to try to clear Hendrix's airway but it would just fill up with red wine from his stomach. A heart monitor did not register. Hendrix had been dead for hours rather than minutes when he was admitted to the hospital."
The testimony of the ambulance drivers and the examining doctors directly contradicted Monika Dannemann's statements that she was with Hendrix the entire early morning of his death, that she could account for all but a few minutes of his last hours alive, and that they retired to bed and rested peacefully for several hours. (We assume he did not bed down with his clothes on.) According to her testimony, when she called the ambulance, Hendrix was still alive, and within the hour he was at the hospital. Yet the ambulance attendant said he was dead when they arrived, that he had no pulse. And both doctors say he had been dead a long time. A long time is much more than an hour.
Jimi was at the center of a number of dilemmas at the time of his death, and most of those dilemmas were chronic situations that had been going on consistently for a good while in his life as a star.
One of the most serious of his dilemmas had to do with women, and that may have proved fatal one way or the other. Hendrix often brought out the best and the worst in women, depending on what degree of moral analysis they brought to the picture or what level of Jimi's rock star libidinal behavior an individual thought justifiable. However it was cut, Jimi had a woman problem. Women lined up at his door or knocked at his door at all hours of the night and early morning. The Plaster Casters and others raved about his superior physical endowment. His erotic stage act made grown women scream like teenage girls (long before male strippers came on the scene). Jimi's act was notorious, although it seemed that he had toned it down at the beginning of the 1970s, perhaps more sensitive to the enormous effect he had on people.
This woman problem also extended, logically, to his friends, acquaintances, fellow musicians, performers, and business associates: employees and partners. Although not as obviously enchanted as the screaming fans, many of the wives, girlfriends, secretaries, and personal assistants of his associates were known to pounce when the time and proximity were right. Jimi, a king of Flower Power and the resultant sexual freedom, operated consistently as an uncommitted, sexually open individual. But many of his male associates were threatened by the possibility that their significant others would be drawn to Jimi.
One of the massive complicating factors was that Jimi Hendrix generated so much money that most of the people around him made their living directly or indirectly from him.
It was in the realm of marriage that Hendrix faced his greatest danger. Although musicians and performers were not known for successful marriages, Jimi's business associates often prided themselves on their normal, traditional lives and committed personal relationships.
Hendrix's sexual conquests were so vast that they often ceased to have any real significance for him. Many women around him acted as if they, too, were sexually liberated, open in their sexual relationships, but few really were.
Hendrix's involvement with Angie Burdon, estranged wife of Eric Burdon, was a very public affair. In at least two incidents they got into actual physical violence. The first was witnessed by the roadie "H" (Howard Parker), a local music-scene insider in whose London flat they had fought. The second time was in the Londonderry Hotel on Jimi's return to London for what would turn out to be his last tour. The aftermath of the violence of that early morning in his hotel suite -- where he, Angie, and another woman had spent the night in bed together -- was witnessed by his former girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham. Angie had summoned her to the hotel so she would intervene and allow the girls to retrieve their clothes, which were inside the bedroom with an angry Hendrix. Angie and Eric Burdon shared (separately) a good portion of Jimi's final moments on earth.
Jimi's return to London as a headliner at the Isle of Wight festival had a big effect on the small, tight London scene. He had had a big impact in the recent past and his presence in town was keenly felt. Alfreda Benge -- the girlfriend and later, wife, of Robert Wyatt (Soft Machine) -- was candid about her attraction to Hendrix's flamboyant sexuality. Benge told Charles Shaar Murray, "For my generation of white females, he was the first person who transcended the sexual barrier between black and white.... It had never occurred to me to fancy someone black. He was a big breakthrough for antiracism. From then on, black people became fanciable."
Pete Townshend of the Who had found Hendrix's early London performances very sexual, not in an "appealing way," but rather, more "threatening." When he asked his girlfriend Karen Astley (who he married in 1968) if she thought Hendrix's act was sexual, and she replied, "Are you fucking kidding?," Townshend had been unaware of how "aroused" his girlfriend had become seeing those shows.
Eric Clapton could have been speaking for many men on the set when he revealed a frustration with Hendrix's sex appeal in remarks made toRolling Stonein 1968: "You know, English people have a very big thing towards a spade. They really love that magic thing. They all fall for that kind of thing. Everybody and his brother in England still sort of think that spades have big dicks. And Jimi came over and exploited that to the limit...and everybody fell for it." Robert Wyatt doubted Clapton would have said such things to Hendrix's face.
Just over two weeks after Hendrix's return to London and the night before his death, Daniel Secunda, who was hosting Alan and Stella Douglas in his London flat, took his guests, Jimi, and Devon to dinner at a Moroccan Restaurant on Fulham Road. It was clear to Secunda that Alan Douglas was "hustling to take over as Jimi's manager." Michael Jeffery, who was thought to have solid underworld and intelligence-agency connections, had Jimi "by now, very worried." It was a strange night. "Jimi and the girls were so smacked out that, through the meal, they barely ate anything or even said a word. When we got back to my place," Secunda said, "Jimi went off to bed with Stella and Devon. He loved a ménage à trois."
Alan Douglas, who is described by Sharon Lawrence as a "white man who affected the look of a black man, complete with Afro hairstyle, goatee and, often, deep tan," had many times been in contention with Hendrix's manager, Michael Jeffery, for influence and a working relationship with Jimi. He had a meeting with Jeffery just after Hendrix's death. Said Douglas, "When I arrived he was bent over, in misery from a recent back injury. We started talking and he let it all hang out. It was like a confession. The one thing he said that I'll never forget was, 'Every time I had a woman I cared for, at some point I would realize that she was with me only to get to him.'" Douglas added, "In my opinion Jeffery hated Hendrix because Jimi had slept with Lynne Bailey [ Jeffery's girlfriend]. Being so open, Hendrix couldn't have understood why Jeffery might be upset."
But Hendrix's potential conflicts were not limited to jealous husbands, wives, girlfriends, and boyfriends. He was also having a serious conflict with drug smugglers who were pressuring him to allow them to use his tour apparatus to make it possible for them to smuggle large amounts of cocaine and other substances. Some, who had made him frequent gifts of coke, hash, marijuana, methamphetamines, LSD, poppers, and other substances, felt he owed them a favor. Others had used their entree, through gifts, to increasingly pressure him to comply.
Throughout his life as a star, Hendrix had frequently been dosed with drugs by fans and friends who meant well. But since the beginning of 1970, he had to deal with some of the most severe dosing he had ever encountered. Jimi could handle most substances. Though often challenged, he could usually get through a set. But during his last European tour his behavior had been seriously affected on several occasions, and he had been unable to play.
Jimi would not be as totally disoriented as Billy Cox had become, yet they were affected in similar ways by dosing. Jimi could still function impaired, could keep on moving and eventually rebound, but Billy Cox was another story. Once Billy returned to the States, Jimi was relieved of having to care for him, but he lost connections with that survival energy. And, as it appears, Jimi was still susceptible to being dosed.
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Dannemann published a book in 1995, The Inner World of Jimi Hendrix, in which she describes fantastic plans she and Hendrix had allegedly made to marry, to have a child, to live in Europe. He encouraged her painting, he telephoned her mother, he was concerned about her father, who she maintained had recently had a heart attack. She understood that they could not officially announce their wedding yet, since the press would surely challenge her father's recovery. On the cover and title page of her book she prefaced her name as author with: "by his fiancée."
Most of Hendrix's close friends doubted that he would even consider marriage to Dannemann. Jimi proposed marriage on many a one-night stand, but it was understood to be essentially an amusing extension of/variation on a pickup line.
Dannemann's variances in her stories of Jimi's last days are now legend, and many of them have been completely discounted. Her statements at the inquest perhaps began these fictions. Researchers have pretty well established that Hendrix was not living with her at the Samarkand Hotel. He had no clothes there other than a headband, but his most important possession was there: his Fender Stratocaster. It has been established that he was changing clothes and taking meals at the Cumberland Hotel. He didn't often sleep there, but neither did he often stay at Monika's.
Another little-known piece of the puzzle that took years to surface concerned three people who encountered Jimi and Dannemann as they drove in traffic on the afternoon of September 17, hours before Hendrix would die under extremely mysterious circumstances.
Phillip Harvey was tooling along in his 1968 Mustang with two young and attractive teenagers in the front seat with him. The girls saw Jimi and waved, and Jimi waved back. They came up next to each other and got to chatting. Harvey invited Jimi to his home for a drink, and Jimi accepted, but first they followed him to the Cumberland Hotel, where Jimi got his messages, and then Jimi, with Monika driving, followed Harvey to his nearby home.
Monika parked her sports car in front of Harvey's fashionable town home. It was clear he was a wealthy young man of status. One of the young women was Anne Day, a redheaded Canadian folksinger of nineteen who was staying there with Phillip; the other one was Penny Ravenhill, who was sixteen. They were, according to Harvey, "very attractive in a natural kind of way, they were both wearing tight blue jeans without any makeup or adornment at all." Harvey contrasted their appearance by commenting that Dannemann appeared to be about thirty years of age, "an overly made-up lady with dyed blonde hair."
Harvey waited for more than twenty years before coming forward to recount Hendrix and Dannemann's visit to his home. The good scene turned ugly at the end with Monika becoming violently angry with Hendrix when he retired to a small room with one of the girls. Dannemann stormed out of the house, shouting loudly on the respectable street that Hendrix was a "fucking pig." Embarrassed, Jimi followed her out. She refused to return and Jimi came back inside to apologize profusely. He left and Harvey watched them drive off noting that the time of their departure was about 10:30 P.M.
Phillip Harvey, the son of the prominent politician Lord Harvey of Prestbury, a Conservative member of parliament, is nowadays known as the Honorable Phillip Harvey. He had remained silent about the encounter because of his family's prominence in public service. But after his father's death, in 1994, he felt it was all right to reveal this significant prelude to Hendrix's death.
Dannemann maintained at the inquest and in statements to the public and to writers and others that after the encounter with Harvey, Anne, and Penny, she and Hendrix went to her hotel suite at the Samarkand. But others maintain that he went on to a party at the home of Peter Cameron very soon after the visit to Harvey's. He did not take Monika in with him. Devon was there; Stella and Alan Douglas; his old nemesis, Angie Burdon; and several others. Dannemann maintains that Jimi asked her to pick him up after a short time, but those at the party indicate that Jimi came, ate Chinese food, hung out, and was cool until sometime later when Dannemann began ringing him on the intercom. He put her off but she persisted by coming back in half an hour. This became a heated thing. Stella got on the intercom and was extremely rude to Monika. This did not put her off. Pretty soon, Angie recalled, guests were hanging out the window yelling at Monika. They cried, "Fuck off" and "Leave him alone," yet Dannemann persisted. Then finally he went to the intercom, mumbled something, and then without saying anything, just got into the elevator and split. "That was around three in the morning by then," according to Angie Burdon. This may have angered Dannemann all the more since Jimi had stayed so long at a party where she was not welcome, and in fact had been ridiculed, insulted, and cursed.
Monika Dannemann turns out to be quite the mystery woman. There is little if any biographical information on her in England, the United States, or in Germany. She may or may not have been who she said she was. Suppressed information that has come to the fore provides a surprising turnaround from Dannemann's long-disputed versions of her story of Hendrix's last days. Also to consider are the various monumental motivations of the characters interacting with Hendrix during his last days.
Monika Dannemann is at the top of that monumental motivation list. Although maniacally opposed to any notion that she may have indeed been just another "groupie," Dannemann's suppressions tended to reinforce that notion of her own groupiedom. Other black musicians, such as Ram John Holder, Al
Anderson (lead guitarist with Bob Marley and the Wailers), and Jerome Rimson (the itinerant African-American bass player), all spoke of a close relationship with her before Hendrix came along. Her unrealistic fantasies of married life with Hendrix, and her great anger with him and the girls they encountered with Phillip Harvey, reveal an irrational, volatile, dangerous side to her carefully constructed image. Her struggle to express herself creatively and be validated seems to lie behind many of her public statements and actions. In fact, no one ever heard of her until Hendrix died in her bed.
According to several of his close friends, Devon Wilson was the closest Hendrix had been to having a real girlfriend. They had an open relationship that was unorthodox in many other ways as well. She lived with him at 59 West Twelfth Street in New York City, an apartment she had found for him to rent. Hendrix had made it clear that he did not want her in England during what turned out to be his last tour. The fact that she showed up in London did not please him. He told Judy Wong that he and Monika would marry, he knew that Wong (who was married to a member of the rock group Jethro Tull) would tell Devon. The object of this obvious intrigue was to needle Devon. She responded, threatening Monika physically. Hendrix had to know that would be her reaction. He purposefully pissed her off. They had a history of doing this kind of stuff to each other and then making up. Hendrix, a participant in innumerable one-night stands, was known to often play newlywed or at least fiancé with many he bedded. He had long played with the sanctity of marriage: lately it had been a preoccupation. He had expressed a desire to marry angelic model/actress Kristen Nefer, whom he had recently met and who had been his companion from just before the Isle of Wight gig at the end of August 1970 until his leaving for the Isle of Fehmarn, Germany, about ten days later. Nefer might have continued touring with him, but she was filming a movie. She had managed to accompany him on his Scandinavian gigs, and he had stayed with her and her family in Denmark. Somehow the local papers had reported they were to marry.
There was no doubt that at the time of his death Devon was provoked and angry with him, as, strangely enough, it appears Dannemann was also. And so were others close to him. Alan Douglas, Michael Jeffery, Eric Burdon could have been angry -- although they could have never expressed anything that would alienate themselves from Hendrix, the king of the music scene, and necessary to their success in the music business.
Michael Jeffery had several things going with Hendrix. On one hand Jeffery had made Jimi's dream, Electric Lady Studios, a reality, even though Jimi provided most of the funds. Jimi had become a very wealthy man, but mainly from his live performances. He had cash. But a lot of that cash had been lost, and other funds had been documented as missing. Jeffery was not above impacting Jimi's creativity. He was against Jimi playing with black musicians. Taharqa and Tunde-Ra Aleem (the Ghetto Fighters, aka "The Twins," Jimi's personal backup singers) laughed at how Jeffery and the all-white office staff would always refer to them -- Billy Cox, Buddy Miles, even Jimi -- as "the boys," totally unaware of the insult.
It seemed like Jeffery was not only against Jimi getting involved with black musicians, black politics, or radical organizations, like the Black Panthers or the anti-Vietnam war movement, but he also kept mainstream politics away from his star, which Jimi learned after the fact. In 1968 Robert Kennedy tried to reach Jimi after the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination to help offset unrest that summer. Jimi was being recognized as a person of power who could help influence the course of the nation. But Kennedy himself was assassinated that summer, never having heard from Hendrix because Jeffery refused to deliver the message to Jimi. The same happened the following year when Richard Nixon sought to include Hendrix in a countercultural conference the White House was sponsoring for its own edification. Again, Jeffery failed to deliver the message. And Jeffery's employees would publicly insist that Hendrix was color blind, unaware of race.
Hendrix had made it public on several occasions that he was dissatisfied with Jeffery's management and wanted a change. Alan Douglas seemed anointed by Hendrix to succeed Jeffery. In September of 1970, Douglas, a noted producer, was doing well with his Last Poets album, which was in the Billboard Top 30 best-selling LP list. Jeffery knew that if his management deal with Hendrix ended in December 1970, less than three months away, was not extended, everything about that management history and his other partnerships with Hendrix would be up for review -- and there was a lot of money missing and a lot of other inconsistencies that have been revealed in the subsequent years.
Alan Douglas was the point man, trying to help Hendrix with the transition. But it was, kind of, all in the family. His wife, Stella, was very close to Hendrix. This situation was a factor in Hendrix's trust of Douglas. Stefan Bright, Douglas's recording engineer and employee, believed Stella, Devon, and Colette, Stella's design partner, were "very intriguing women. Especially Stella and Colette, who were so sensual. The attraction was mutual. They were both beautiful but at the same time very sad people. Their relationship with Hendrix was intimate; it wasn't just, 'Let's go down to the Scene and listen to Jimi,' it went way beyond the club scene. Stella and Colette were more emotionally stable than Devon, who was in and out with Jimi so many times it was unbelievable, but in the end he always came back to the three girls."
Strangely enough, Alan Douglas would come to control Hendrix's music after his death and -- with Stefan Bright as recording engineer -- would make numerous serious creative decisions about Jimi's music.
Eric Burdon was strangely connected to Hendrix throughout his London days and especially in the hours leading up to the early morning of the day he died. Hendrix had sat in with his group War at Ronnie Scott's jazz club the night before in what would be his last performance. Burdon admitted (some twenty years later) that he had gone to the hotel suite where Hendrix lay dead or dying and helped "clean" the place. Burdon had been very close to Michael Jeffery, manager of the Animals, the group Burdon had been lead singer of. They were in court due to money missing from the Animals' bank account in the Bahamas, which Jeffery oversaw. Hendrix's funds had also been deposited there and then "lost." In the early morning of September 18, Hendrix had just left the party at Peter Cameron's house where Angie Burdon was with Stella and Devon. Eric and Angie had married while Hendrix was emergent in England in 1966-1967 and Hendrix may have been a factor in their eventual divorce.
Just about everyone who was with Hendrix during his last hours either worked for or was in some way financially connected to Michael Jeffery, or was part of the extended family of Alan Douglas.
Eric Burdon: "The business killed him and I just can't put it any better."
Jimi Hendrix did not die of a drug overdose. He was drowned.
Devon Wilson died a mysterious death at the Chelsea Hotel in New York City early in 1971. Some say she leaped or was pushed from a hotel window or the roof. Others say she was found at the Chelsea badly beaten, perhaps to death, with a needle sticking from her arm.
Michael Jeffery perished when his commercial flight collided with another airplane over Majorca, Spain, in March 1973.
Angelina "Angie" Burdon eventually divorced from Eric Burdon. She moved to Australia, where she was murdered by a boyfriend in 1992.
Monika Dannemann was found dead in April of 1996 in a small seaside town in England. A hose attached to the exhaust pipe of her Mercedes and routed through a window was said to have been responsible for her death, which was officially termed a suicide.
Copyright © 1978, 1981, 2008 by David Henderson
Excerpted from 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky: Jimi Hendrix: Voodoo Child by David Henderson
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.