Electric guitarist Jimi Hendrix, 24-year-old millionaire idol of the acid rock generation, died Friday [September 18, 1970] in a London Hospital as the result of an apparent overdose of drugs. [Note: His age was later corrected to 27 years.]
An American musician of Cherokee Indian and Negro stock, Hendrix’s recordings frequently sold more than a million each, and he had been a star attraction at the big rock festivals from New York’s Woodstock to England’s Isle of Wight. He had been arrested on narcotics charges and some of his concerts in the United States had been banned on grounds of obscenity.
The tall, rangy, mustachioed guitarist, one of the highest paid performers in the world, was admitted to St. Mary Abbot’s Hospital at 11:45 a.m. and died about an hour later. Police sources said unspecified drugs apparently caused his death, but a coroner would issue a final ruling.
According to British blues singer Eric Burdon, a close friend of bachelor Hendrix, the guitarist had spent the night with a girlfriend instead of at the Cumberland Hotel, where he was registered.
“She found him in a coma this morning and called for an ambulance,” he said. “All I know is that he had taken some sleeping tablets.”
Hendrix was acquitted of a charge of possessing hashish and heroin in Toronto, Ontario, last December. During the trial, he said he used marijuana, hashish, LSD and cocaine, but never heroin. His most popular song, “Purple Haze,” was descriptive of drug culture.
Hendrix had been on a tour of Europe with his band, and was visiting London after a two and a half hour appearance last month at the Isle of Wight Festival, which ended on a sour note of violence.
It was in England that Hendrix’s “Experience” group, including bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, had some of its greatest triumphs.
Hendrix formed “Experience” in 1966 but it broke up after more than two years and he absented himself from music for a time. Early this year, he rejoined the rock circuit with a new band, “The Band of Gypsies,” which he abandoned after a few months to form his current group.
The short life of James Hendrix
Born James Maurice Hendrix in Seattle, Washington, he was a high school dropout who had served as a parachutist in the U.S. Airborne Forces. After his discharge due to a parachute injury, Hendrix hitchhiked through the American south playing his guitar, and eventually made his way to New York.
Hendrix served his apprenticeship with the Isley Brothers, B.B. King, and Little Richard. He played and sang amplified blues-based fantasies with earthy sensuality, which he claimed was just his way of expressing emotion. He was spotted in New York by Chas Chandler, bass guitarist with Eric Burdon’s “Original Animals,” and Chandler decided to bring Hendrix to London.
“I saw at once that here was a guy that was going to turn on the chicks and crucify every guitarist in the world,” Chandler recalled.
Hendrix had been a recording star for Warner Brothers-Seven Arts Records since 1967, was Billboard’s “Artist of the Year” award winner in 1968, and Playboy Magazine’s “Artist of the Year” winner in 1969. He held three Gold Record awards for recordings that sold more than a million copies.