To say that the 1960s and 1970s in the United States were revolutionary would be an understatement. The 1960s were punctuated with shocking assassinations: President John F. Kennedy (November 1963), Malcolm X (February 1965), Martin Luther King Jr. (April 1968), and JFK’s brother Robert Kennedy (June 1968). The next decade started in 1970 with sensational drug overdoses among musicians – Alan Wilson in September and Janis Joplin in October. Janis passed away in California from an obvious overdose, but Jimi Hendrix (1942-70) died on September 18, 1970, in London under much more mysterious circumstances. Although reported as a drug overdose, the exact cause of Hendrix’s death has been debated on both sides of the pond for decades.
Subsequent research has strongly suggested that Hendrix was murdered by his manager, who allegedly confessed to the killing. The coroner in the Hendrix case, Gavin Thurston, had listed the cause of death as “barbiturate overdose” and that Jimi had asphyxiated himself by drowning in his own vomit. We now know that Hendrix had drowned because his lungs (and stomach) were filled with red wine, meaning that someone had forced the wine into Jimi, causing his death. How do we know this? It’s in the autopsy report that when Jimi’s body was opened red wine gushed from his lungs and stomach, even though there was very little alcohol in his blood. So why did the coroner write a different cause of death on the death certificate?
According to a May 2009 report in the British tabloid Sunday Mail by Sadie Gray, “One of Jimi Hendrix’s roadies named James ‘Tappy’ Wright claimed that Hendrix’s manager, Michael Jeffery (1933-73), drunkenly confessed to killing him by stuffing pills into his mouth and washing them down with several bottles of red wine because he feared Hendrix intended to dump him for a new manager.” Jimi’s contract with Jeffery was due to expire on December 1, 1970.
Getting dumped for a new manager is a weak excuse for murder, but were there other circumstances involved? In a 2009 (republished in 2010) book called Rock Roadie, author Wright says Jeffery told him in 1971 that Hendrix had been “worth more to him dead than alive” as he had taken out a life insurance policy on the musician worth $2m (about £1.2m at the time), with himself as the beneficiary. Or was it possible that Wright recalled the conversation he had with Jeffery decades earlier in order to sell more copies of his book?
“I can remember this as if it were yesterday,” said Tappy, sitting in London’s Groucho club in 2018, remembering the night that Jeffery [apparently] confessed to Hendrix’s murder. “As we are talking, Mike began to get very agitated and pale. ‘I had no bloody choice, I had to do it’. ‘What are you talking about?’ ‘You know exactly what I’m talking about. It was either that or I’d be broke or dead’,” writes Harry Shapiro in “How Jimi Hendrix Died” in loudersound.com. in 2018.
A former undercover operative for British army intelligence and MI6 officer in Egypt, the Russian-speaking Jeffery was also the manager for Eric Burdon’s band called the Animals. According to a documentary called “Jimi Hendrix: The last 24 Hours,” Jeffery also had mafia connections and owed the mob a lot of money. If his income from Hendrix was cut off, Jeffery knew he would indeed be a dead man. Also, Jimi had learned that Jeffery was channeling some 80% of Jimi’s income into his secret offshore bank account. Jimi had filed a lawsuit against Jeffery and was scheduled to appear in court the morning after he died. Coincidence? Maybe, but common sense seems to suggest otherwise.
Was it also coincidence that Jimi’s girlfriends with intimate knowledge of Jimi’s activities died mysterious deaths shortly after Jimi’s passing? Devon Wilson, one of Jimi’s closest black girlfriends for many years, died in 1971 from a fall from an eighth floor window in London’s Chelsea Hotel. Why did newspapers and other media around the world report that Jimi had died due to a heroin overdose when it was common knowledge among those who knew Jimi well that he never touched that particular drug? And finally why did Monika Dannemann (Jimi’s German ice-skating girlfriend who said she was with Jimi when he died) contradict herself in the official inquest, first saying she was there when Jimi died and then saying she wasn’t? The two-man medical team that recovered Jimi’s body stated years later that no one was with the deceased singer at that time and that he had been dead for some seven hours when they arrived, according to the above-listed documentary. Dannemann (1945-96) was found dead in her gas-filled car in an apparent suicide in 1996, just before she was slated to testify on the details of Jimi’s death, causing many to believe this incident also involved foul play.
Mike Jeffery died three years after Hendrix; he was 39 years old. Flying back from the Spanish island of Majorca, his Iberian Airways DC-9 flight was in a mid-air collision over France. There were no survivors. “Mike was terrified of flying and was in the habit of making several reservations at once and then choosing his flight at the last minute to escape the fates. But on 5th March 1973 his luck ran out and the full story behind his shocking confession died with him,” continued Tappy.
A laundry list of coincidences…
Accidental death, suicide or murder? There is evidence to support all three theories, but this writer believes the third theory holds the most water. Why? Because after Jimi got involved with the Black Panther movement in the late 1960s, he appeared on the FBI’s radar. Finally made public in 1976, FBI documents showed that Jimi Hendrix had been listed by FBI boss J. Edgar Hoover as a “target.” This meant that Jimi’s elimination suited the interests of Jeffery especially, the FBI and the mob (it mostly controlled the music industry at that time).
Rolling Stone magazine puts Jimi Hendrix as number one on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. The blues guitarist turned electronic alchemist will forever be remembered for his smash hits such as “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze,” “Voodoo Chile,” “All Along the Watchtower,” “Foxy Lady” and many others. Just think what Jimi could have achieved had he lived longer. Perhaps Jimi knew what was coming when he told a friend in 1969: “I will not live to see 28.” He was right, Jimi became another member of the “27 Club.”
Jimi Hendrix plays the National Anthem for 500,000 fans at Woodstock on August 15-18, 1969 in Bethel, New York, probably the pinnacle of his career: