Was Jimi Hendrix Murdered?
Hendrix died on September 18, 1970, slightly more than a year following his legendary performance at the Woodstock music festival, and the circumstances of his death are still being speculated upon. After a couple of days missing, Hendrix was found dead at the flat of his girlfriend, Monika Dannemann. The following autopsy revealed enormous quantities of red wine in his stomach along with his lungs. The official cause of death was recorded as inhalation of vomit and barbiturate intoxication. It would take years to know that the gifted entertainer was potentially a victim of COINTELPRO, which even in death slandered him.
Jimi Hendrix was one of the highest-paid musicians in the world by the end of 1969 following the historic Woodstock Music Festival – reportedly with a net worth estimated at a modern $175 million.
It was Chas Chandler, the bass player of the rock band The Animals, who discovered Hendrix playing at the café Wha in New York in 1966. Acting on intuition and experience, Chandler sold his guitars and borrowed money to bring Hendrix to London.
After Hendrix played at the Monterey Summer Festival in 1967 and stole the show, he became a superstar overnight on both sides of the Atlantic. The sound of Hendrix differed from that of the Rolling Stones, The Beatles, or the other popular acts of the day. Another unique aspect was the introduction of a hippy-inspired African-American guitar player to a wide audience of mixed races.
Hendrix was managed by Mike Jeffery, who also worked for the government in the national service before joining military intelligence (MI16). Jeffery was known for his mafia ties, and, unfortunately for Hendrix, he was a suspicious character who allegedly stole large sums of money from the entertainer. At the end of Hendrix's life, Jeffery’s management contract was set to expire. The singer confided in associates the intention of firing Jeffery. It was during this time that Hendrix filed a lawsuit regarding earnings theft to recover lost income and funds. Hendrix would meet his end before the scheduled trial date. In a sinister twist, Jeffery purchased a $2 million life insurance policy on Hendrix shortly before his unexpected passing.
After finally firing Jeffery in August 1969, four men, whom Hendrix regarded as mafiosos, kidnapped him in New York the following month. Unknown to Hendrix, Jeffrey assigned spies to follow Jimi and even arranged a kidnapping. His kidnapping scenario savior? It was Jeffery and Jimi who smelled the con. Hendrix believed his manager wanted to prove he was indispensable to the future and security of the entertainer. As he told his friend and former frontman, Curtis Knight:
"Before I realized what had happened, I found myself forcibly abducted by four men. I was blindfolded, gagged, and shoved rudely into the back of a car. I couldn't understand what the fuck was going on as I lay there sweating with someone's knee in my back. I was taken to some deserted building and made to believe that they really intended to hurt me. They never told me why they abducted me. The whole thing seemed very mysterious because after a while, I realized that if they really had intended to hurt me, they would have already done it by this time. And the whole thing seemed even more mysterious when I was rescued by three men supposedly sent by the management. They really affected a storybook rescue. "
In the Jimi Hendrix documentary, The Last 24 Hours, directed by Mike Parkinson, contributions from Jeff Beck, Pete Townsend, and Eric Clapton, as well as Duncan Wells and Ray Santilli, build the case of a plot to neutralize Hendrix via the US government, the mafia, and his manager, Mike Jeffrey. In that documentary, documents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) show the US government and FBI head J. Edgar Hoover was concerned with growing anti-Vietnam movements and rising black power movements. At the time, rock stars commanded the attention of millions and held substantial influence in society. As a result, many of those high-profile individuals were placed on special watch lists, including Hendrix. That watch list seemed misplaced when considering Hendrix regularly expressed hawkish views in support of the Vietnam War and publicly criticized the Black Power movement, once rebuffing the Black Panthers, who were seeking a partnership with him, by telling them "the only colors I see are in my music."
Researcher and author Alex Constantine notes the US government and organized crime have collaborated multiple times since the jukebox days of the 40s and 50s. He further suggests that Hendrix made a fatally ill-advised statement about the Black Panthers invading Washington. And when he performed a benefit concert for Bobby Seale and the Chicago Eight, he attracted the full attention of the FBI and the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO) program. Constantine claims COINTELPRO "was a surveillance and assassination program responsible for the deaths of 28 Black Panthers plus Tupac Shakur, making 29." The COINTELPRO, or Counter Intelligence Program, designed by the FBI, was aimed at eliminating subversive behavior within the country.
Eric Burdon initially claimed that Hendrix’s death was a suicide, but the facts also contradict that assumption. Despite Hendrix’s increasingly erratic behavior and the dark circumstances present in his life, close friends claim that he was happy at the time. Hendrix roadie Tappy Wright wrote in his tell-all book a claim that Jeffrey confessed to him in private:
"You understand, don’t you? I had to do it. You know damn well what I’m talking about," it adds. "We went round to [his] 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."
John Bannister, the on-call registrar, also told The Times in 2000: "The amount of wine that was over him was just extraordinary." 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. 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."
Chas Chandler, the man who discovered Hendrix and flew him to London to become his producer, said after his death: "I don’t believe for one minute that he killed himself." That was out of the question."
But the Hendrix story would not be complete without some loose ends being tied in typical Operation Chaos style, Devon Wilson, one of Jimmy’s girlfriends, was found dead in 1971, plummeting from the balcony of the Chelsea Hotel window. Manager Jeffery also perished in a suspicious plane crash in 1973, aged 39, three years after Hendrix passed. His last girlfriend, Monika Dannemann, was a former ice-skating champion and the daughter of a prominent German industrialist family. Her inconsistent testimony revealed several holes and created additional questions for investigators. She also died of an alleged carbon monoxide poisoning in 1995, amid fresh interest in the mysterious circumstances of Jimi’s death.
Michael Eli Dokosi, Contributor