Good Night, Sweet Prince

Nowadays, I shy away from posting entries that are either angry or melancholy. My reasons are my own, so I won't go into justifying myself. The point is, last night during a research session, I came upon something that has somehow slipped beneath the radar—both mine and that of the general public—for the past year

All these years we've believed that Jimi Hendrix died of  asphyxiation, of choking on his own vomit after mixing sleeping pills with wine before going to bed after a night of orgies and wild partying. This has forever tainted his image and, because he died at the age of 27, he has been inducted into the so-called 27 Club, whose members include Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Kobain, and a great many others whose deaths are somehow mysterious or tragic. Of course, any death that occurs at so young an age is tragic, but that's not the point of this entry...

Because I met Jimi (you can read my story here) and found him to be a truly kind and gentlemanly person, I have a soft spot in my heart for him. Anyone who met him feels the same way, I've learned, so I know I didn't just happen to meet him on a good night. By all reports, he was the genuine article and, although his stage performances were electrifying and sometimes shocking, his shyness and gentleness still come through the videos if you know how to recognize those traits in him.

In 2009 Tappy Wright, a roadie for both The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Animals, published Rock Roadie, a book in which he reveals the true nature of Jimi's death. I might not tend to believe his account so readily if it didn't include a confession by Jimi's second manager (and Animals manager) Michael Jeffrey (Jimi was first managed by Chas Chandler, bass man for The Animals). Like the taped confession of Brian Jones' murder by Frank Thorogood, Jeffrey's confession rings true to me.

Michael Jeffrey is well-known for having been the business manager from hell, acting out the worst case scenario of what happens when the suits take over the arts. He has been condemned by members of The Animals, who blame him for their breakup, claiming that he worked the group into the ground and made off with most of their earnings. People in the loop allege that Jeffery siphoned off most of Hendrix's income as well and channeled it into foreign bank accounts, and that he had dubious connections to US intelligence services (insiders often claimed that he worked for MI5, British Secret Intelligence and that he had connections to European organized crime). Jeffrey himself admitted to being an intelligence agent. Once, when Jimi's bassist Noel Redding asked where Jeffery was going with briefcases of the band's money, he was asked to leave.

In his book Tappy Wright wrote that Jeffrey drunkenly confessed to killing Jimi 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. Jeffrey told him in 1971 that Jimi had been "worth more to him dead than alive" as he had taken out a life insurance policy on the musician worth $2 million, with himself as the beneficiary. Jeffrey, it seems, had a history of insurance fraud, which is he how he acquired the capital to sign The Animals in 1964. In his book, Tappy writes:
"I had to do it, Tappy. You understand, don't you? I had to do it. You know damn well what I'm talking about. I was in London the night of Jimi's death and together with some old friends... we went round to Monika's hotel room, got a handful of pills and stuffed them into his mouth... then poured a few bottles of red wine deep into his windpipe. I had to do it. Jimi was worth much more to me dead than alive. That son of a bitch was going to leave me. If I lost him, I'd lose everything."
Dr. John Bannister, the surgeon who treated Jimi at hospital, said he was convinced the star had drowned in red wine, despite having very little alcohol in his bloodstream.
"I recall vividly the very large amounts of red wine that oozed from his stomach and his lungs and in my opinion there was no question that Jimi Hendrix had drowned, if not at home then on the way to the hospital."

Jimi died on September 18, 1970. An emergency ambulance team found his body in the Samarkand Hotel in west London, in the room of Monika Dannemann, whom he had known for only a few days. He was found alone, lying on his back. The door of the room was wide open and there was no record of who had called the ambulance.

When you read online that he died from mixing drugs and alcohol in his girlfriend's flat, remember that's all crap. I have a stinking suspicion that she was used to lure him to her hotel, where Jeffrey and his henchmen could accomplish the "hit". And I'm not the only one. Kathy Etchingham, Jimi's live-in girlfriend for over two years believes the same thing. When she and Monika Danneman began to legally confront each other regarding Jimi's mysterious death, the latter committed suicide. Or perhaps it wasn't a suicide; there are questions.

This story has made me so damned angry and so utterly sad, I can scarcely articulate it and, at the risk of sounding maudlin, I confess that it makes me well up whenever I think about it. Maybe it's just that I'm so close to the Sixties and the Rock personalities of that time right now while I'm writing my trilogy. Maybe it's just that I loved Jimi. Maybe it's both, or maybe it's something that I haven't yet defined. I don't know.

My only consolation is that Michael Jeffrey was killed in a mid-air collision in 1973 before he could screw or murder anyone else. Some claim that he was making a get-away after finally receiving the insurance money following the long arbitration period. I kind of hope so. That's real karma.