Jimi Hendrix: 40 Years Ago
Jimi Hendrix died 40 years ago today. God, that makes me feel old. I went to a bar tonight and played "Voodoo Chile" in his memory.
I literally grew up with Jimi. From the age of 11, when my contemporaries were grooving to Donny Osmond and the black Michael Jackson and his brothers, I was already veering into dangerous territory, diving headfirst into the music that would come to partially define me. At about the same time I was discovering Hendrix right after his death, I was also listening to The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Black Sabbath and the other bad boys of rock.
But Jimi resonated with me in a way that no other musician had. I never thought that he was communing with me either deliberately or coincidentally but even at the tender age of 11-12, I got where he was about musically and never looked back.
The above video is perhaps not a good way to memorialize the 40th anniversary of his death but it's the last full concert he ever gave, one in Fehmarn, Germany. He'd played since. His last public appearance was in the Balkans, a concert in which he'd played one or two songs then abruptly stopped and said he couldn't do it anymore. He walked off the stage dragging his guitar after him. The night before his death, he'd played with Eric Burden's new group, War. That was perhaps the last time he'd ever touched a guitar.
He had a court appearance the next day and at Monica Danneman's house that night, he took a handful of a narcotic call Vesparax (a potentially lethal cocktail comprised of 50 mg brallobarbital, 150 mg secobarbital and 50 mg hydroxyzine) and they were made by Danneman's father's pharmaceutical company. Jimi was unfamiliar with this narcotic and didn't know they were so powerful they had to be quartered before ingesting. He took a handful and it paralyzed his gag reflex even after his stomach rejected them. The paramedics stupidly put him in the ambulance in a sitting position and actually held his head back, thereby guaranteeing the vomit couldn't leave his airway.
Vesparax, sadly, was banned only long after it had killed Jimi Hendrix. And, in a Housmanic way, we'll never have to see Jimi age, grow decrepit or run out of hits.