Who Killed Jimi Hendrix?: Rock Culture , COINTELPRO and the Continuing Legacy of Guitar Greatest
PANW Editor's Note: This article is being published in honor of the 65th birthday of Jimi Hendrix (November 27, 1942-September 18, 1970). This research report raises critical questions which debunk the "official theories" surrounding his mysterious death in 1970 in London.
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Chapter seven from the book: "The Covert War Against Rock"
by Alex Constantine
Published by Feral House, 2000
I Don't Live Today: The Jimi Hendrix Political Harassment, Kidnap and Murder Experience
"I don't believe for one minute that he killed himself. That was out of the question."
— Chas Chandler, Hendrix Producer
"I believe the circumstances surrounding his death are suspicious and I think he was murdered."
— Ed Chalpin, Proprietor of Studio 76
"I feel he was murdered, frankly. Somebody gave him something. Somebody gave him something they shouldn't
— John McLaughlin, Guitarist, Mahavishnu Orchestra
He didn't die from a drug overdose. He was not an out-of-control dope fiend. Jimi Hendrix was not a junkie. And anyone who would use his death as a warning to stay away from drugs should warn people against the other things that killed Jimi—the stresses of dealing with the music industry, the craziness of being on the road, and especially, the dangers of involving oneself in a radical, or even unpopular, political movements. COINTELPRO was out to do more than prevent a Communist menace from overtaking the United States, or keep the Black Power movement from burning down cities. COINTELPRO was out to obliterate its opposition and ruin the reputations of the people involved in the antiwar movement, the civil rights movement, and the rock revolution. Whenever Jimi Hendrix's death is blamed on drugs, it accomplishes the goals of the FBI's program. It not only slanders Jimi's personal and professional reputation, but the entire rock revolution in the 60's.
—John Holmstrom. "Who Killed Jimi?"(1)
As the music of youth and resistance fell under the cross-hairs of the CIA's CHAOS war, it was probable that Jimi Hendrix—the tripping, peacenik "Black Elvis" of the '60s—should find himself a target.
Agents of the pathologically nationalistic FBI opened a file on Hendrix in 1969 after his appearance at several benefits for "subversive" causes. His most cutting insult to the state was participation in a concert for Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden, Bobby Seale and the other defendants of the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial,(2) "Get [the] Black Panthers," he told a reporter for a teen magazine, "not to kill anybody, but to scare [federal officials]....I know it sounds like war, but that's what's gonna have to happen. It has to be a war....You come back to reality and there are some evil folks around and they want you to be passive and weak and peaceful so that they can just overtake you like jelly on bread....You have to fight fire with fire."(3)
On tour in Liesburg, Sweden, Hendrix was interviewed by Tommy Rander, a reporter for the Gotesborgs-Tidningen. " In the USA, you have to decide which side you're on," Hendrix explained. "You are either a rebel or like Frank Sinatra."(4)
In 1979, college students at the campus newspaper of Santa Barbara University (USB) filed for release of FBI files on Hendrix. Six heavily inked-out pages were released to the student reporters. (The deletions nixed information "currently and properly classified pursuant to Executive Order 11652, in the interest of national defense of foreign policy.") On appeal, seven more pages were reluctantly turned over to the UCSB students. The file revealed that Hendrix had been placed on the federal "Security Index," a list of "subversives" to be rounded up and placed in detainment camps in the event of a national emergency.
If the intelligence agencies had their reasons to keep tabs on Hendrix, they couldn't have picked a better man for the job than Hendrix's manager, Mike Jeffrey. Jeffrey, by his own admission an intelligence agent,(5) was born in South London in 1933, the sole child of postal workers. He completed his education in 1949, took a job as a clerk for Mobil Oil, was drafted to the National Service two years later. Jeffrey's scores in science took him to the Educational Corps. He signed on as a professional soldier, joined the Intelligence Corps and at this point his career enters an obscure phase.
Hendix biographers Shapiro & Glebeek report that Jeffrey often boasted of "undercover work against the Russians, of murder, mayhem and torture in foreign cities....His father says Mike rarely spoke about what he did—itself perhaps indicative of the sensitive nature of his work—but confirms that much of Mike's military career was spent in 'civvies,' that he was stationed in Egypt and that he could speak Russian."(6)
There was, however, another, equally intriguing side of Mike Jeffrey: He frequently hinted that he had powerful underworld connections. It was common knowledge that he had had an abiding professional relationship with Steve Weiss, the attorney for both the Hendrix Experience and the Mafia-managed Vanilla Fudge, hailing from the law firm of Seingarten, Wedeen & Weiss. On one occasion, when drummer Mitch Mitchell found himself in a fix with police over a boat he'd rented and wrecked, mobsters from the Fudge management office intervened and pried him loose.(7)
Organized crime has had fingers in the recording industry since the jukebox wars. Mafioso Michael Franzene testified in open court in the late 1980s that "Sonny" Franzene, his stepfather, was a silent investor in Buddah Records. At this industry oddity, the inane, nasal, apolitical '60s "Bubblegum" song was blown from the goo of adolescent mating fantasies. The most popular of Buddah's acts were the 1910 Fruitgum Company and Ohio Express. These bands shared a lead singer, Joey Levine. Some cultural contributions from the Buddha label: "Yummy, Yummy, Yummy," "Simon Says," and "1-2-3 Red Light."
In 1971, Buddha Records' Bobby Bloom was killed in a shooting sometimes described as "accidental," sometimes "suicide," at the age of 28. Bloom made a number of solo records, including "Love Don't Let Me Down," and "Count On Me." He formed a partnership with composer Jeff Barry and they wrote songs for the Monkees in their late period. Bloom made the Top 10 with the effervescent
"Montego Bay" in 1970. Other Mafia-managed acts of the late 1960s were equally apolitical: Vanilla Fudge ("You Keep Me Hangin' On," "Bang, Bang"),(9) Motown's Gladys Knight and the Pips, and Curtis Mayfield.(10) In the '60s and beyond, organized crime wrenched unto itself control of industry workers via the Teamsters Union. Trucking was Mob controlled. So were stadium concessions. No rock bands toured unless money exchanged hands to see that a band's instruments weren't delivered to the wrong airport.(11)
Intelligence agent or representative of the mob? Whether Jeffrey was either or both—and the evidence is clear that a CIA/Mafia combination has exercised considerable influence in the music industry for decades—at a certain point, Hendrix must have seen something that made him desperately want out of his management contract with Jeffrey.
Monika Dannemann, Hendrix's fiancé at the time of his death, describes Mike Jeffrey's control tactics, his attempts to isolate and manipulate Hendrix, with observations of his evolving awareness that Jeffrey was a covert operator bent on dominating his life and mind:
Jimi felt more and more unsafe in New York, the city where he used to feel so much at home. It had begun to serve as a prison to him, and a place where he had to watch his back all the time.
In May 1969 Jimi was arrested at Toronto for possession of drugs. He later told me he believed Jeffrey had used a third person to plant the drugs on him—as a warning, to teach him a lesson.
Jeffrey had realized not only that Jimi was looking for ways of breaking out of their contract, but also that Jimi might have calculated that the Toronto arrest would be an easy way to silence Jimi.... Jeffrey did not like Jimi to have friends who would put ideas in his dead and give him strength. He preferred Jimi to be more isolated, or to mix with certain people whom Jeffrey could use to influence and try to manipulate him.
So in New York, Jimi felt at times that he was under surveillance, and others around him noticed the same. He tried desperately to get out of his management contract, and asked several people for advice on the best way to do it. Jimi started to understand the people around him could not be trusted, as things he had told them in confidence now filtered through to Jeffrey. Obviously some people informed his manager of Jimi's plans, possibly having been bought or promised advantages by Jeffrey. Jimi had always been a trusting and open person, but now he had reason to become suspicious of people he didn't know well, becoming quite secretive and keeping very much to himself.(12)
Five years after the death of the virtuoso, Crawdaddy reported that friends of Hendrix felt "he was very unhappy and confused before his death. Buddy Miles recalled 'numerous times he complained about his managers." His chief roadie, Gerry Stickells, told Welch, "he became frustrated...by a lot of people around him."(13)
Hendrix was obsessed with the troubles that Jeffrey and company brought to his life and career. The band's finances were entirely controlled by management and were depleted by a tax haven in the Bahamas founded in 1965 by Michael Jeffrey called Yameta Co., a subsidiary of the Bank of New Providence, with accounts at the Naussau branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia and the Chemical Bank in New York.(14) A substantial share of the band's earnings had been quietly drained by Yameta. The banks where Jeffrey opened accounts have been officially charged with the laundering of drug proceeds, a universal theme of CIA/Mafia activity. (The Chemical Bank was forced to plead guilty to 445 misdemeanors in 1980 when a federal investigation found that bank officials had failed to report transactions they knew to derive from drug trafficking.(15) The Bank of Nova Scotia was a key investor in the Bank of Commerce and Credit International, BCCI, once described by Time magazine as "the most pervasive money-laundering operation and financial supermarket ever create," with ties to the upper echelons of several governments, the CIA, the Pentagon and the Vatican.(16)
BCCI maintained warm relationships with international terrorists, and investigators turned up accounts for Libya, Syria and the PLO at BCCI's London branch, recalling Mike Jeffrey's military intelligence interest in the Middle East. And then there were bank records from Panama City relating to General Noriega. These "disappeared'' en route to the District of Columbia under heavy DEA guard. An internal investigation later, DEA officials admitted they were at a loss to explain the theft.(17)
Friends of Hendrix, according to Electric Gypsy, confiscated financial documents from his New York office and turned them over to Jimi: "One showed that what was supposed to be a $10,000 gig was in fact grossing $50,000."
"Jimi Hendrix was upset that large amounts of his money were missing," reports rock historian R. Gary Patterson. Hendrix had discovered the financial diversions and took legal action to recover them.(18)
But there was another factor also involving funds.
Some of Hendrix's friends have concluded that "Jeffrey stood to make a greater sum of money from a dead Jimi Hendrix than a living one. There was also mention of a one million dollar insurance policy covering Hendrix's life made out with Jeffrey as the beneficiary." The manager of the Experience constructed "a financial empire based on the posthumous releases of Hendrix's previously unreleased recordings."(19) Crushing musical voices of dissent was proving to be an immensely profitable enterprise because a dead rocker leaves behind a fortune in publishing rights and royalties.
Roadies couldn't help but notice that Mike Jeffrey, a seasoned military intelligence officer, was capable of "subtle acts of sabotage against them," reports Shapiro. Jeffrey booked the Experience for a concert tour with the Monkees and Hendrix was forced to cancel when the agony of playing to hordes of 12-year-old children, and fear of a parental backlash, convinced him to bail out.
As for the arrest in Toronto, Hendrix confidantes blame Jeffrey for the planted heroin. The charges were dropped after Hendrix argued that the unopened container of dope had been dropped into his travel bag upon departure by a girl who claimed that it was cold medicine.(20)
In July, 1970, one month before his death, at precisely the time Hendrix stopped all communications with Jeffrey, he told Chuck Wein, a film director at Andy Warhol's Factory: "The next time I go to Seattle will be in a pine box."(21)
And he knew who would drop him in it. Producer Alan Douglas recalls that Hendrix "had a hang-up about the word
'manager.'" The guitarist had pled with Douglas, the proprietor of his own jazz label, to handle the band's business affairs. One of the most popular musicians in the world was desperate. He appealed to a dozen business contacts to handle his bookings and finances, to no avail.(22)
Meanwhile, the sabotage continued in every possible form. Douglas: "Regardless of whatever else Jimi wanted to do, Mike would keep pulling him back or pushing him back....And the way the gigs were routed! I mean, one nighters—he would do Ontario one night, Miami the next night, California the next night. He used to waste [Hendrix] on a tour—and never make too much money because the expenses were ridiculous."(23)
The obits were a jumbled lot of skewed, contradictory eulogies: "DRUGS KILL JIMI HENDRIX AT 24," "ROCK STAR IS DEAD IN LONDON AT 27," "OVERDOSE." Many of the obituaries dwelt on the "wild man of rock" image, but there were also many personal commentaries from reporters who followed his career closely, and they dismissed as hype reports of chronic drug abuse. Mike Ledgerwood, a writer for Disc and Music Echo, offered a portrait that the closest friends of Jimi Hendrix confirm: "Despite his fame and fortune—plus the inevitable hang-ups and hustles which beset his incredible career—he remained a quiet and almost timid individual. He was naturally helpful and honest." Sounds magazine "found a man of quite remarkable charm, an almost old-world courtesy."
Hendrix biographer Tony Brown has, since the mid-'70s, collected all the testimony he could find relating to Hendrix's death, and finds it "tragic" but "predictable":
"The official cause of death was asphyxiation caused by inhaling his own vomit, but in the days and weeks leading up to the tragedy anyone with an ounce of common sense could see that Hendrix was heading for a terrible fall. Unfortunately, no one close to him managed to steer him clear of the maelstrom that was closing in. Brown sent a report based on his own investigation to the Attorney General's office in February, 1992, "in the hope that they would reopen the inquest into Jimi's death. The evidence was so strong that they ordered Scotland Yard detectives to conduct their own investigation." Months later, detectives at the Yard responded to Sir Nicholas Lyle at the Attorney General's office, rejecting the proposal to revive the inquest.(24)
The pathologist's report left the cause of death "open." Monika Dannemann had long insisted that Hendrix was murdered. At the time of her death, she had brought media attention to the case in a bitter and highly-publicized court battle with former Hendrix girlfriend Kathy Etchningham. On April 5, 1996, her body was discovered in a fume-filled car near her home in Seaford, Sussex, south England. Police dismissed the death as a "suicide" and the corporate press took dictation. But the Eastern Daily Press, a newspaper that circulates in the East Anglian region of the UK, raised another possibility: "Musician Uli Jon Roth, speaking at the thatched cottage where Miss Dannemann lived, said last night: 'The thing looks suspicious. She had a lot of death threats against her over the years....I always felt that she was really being crucified in front of everybody, and there was nothing anyone could do about it.' Mr Roth, formerly with the group The Scorpions, said Miss Danneman 'is not a person to do something to herself.'" Roth threw one more inconsistency on the lot: "She didn't believe in the concept of suicide."
Devon Wilson, another Hendrix paramour, in Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell's view, "died under mysterious circumstances herself a few years later."(25)
Red, Red Wine
Was Hendrix murdered while under the influence? Stanton Steele, an authority on addiction, offers a seemingly plausible explanation: "Extremely intoxicated people while asleep often lose the reflexive tendency to clear one's throat of mucus, or they may strangle in their vomit. This appeared to have happened to Jimi Hendrix, who had taken both alcohol and prescription barbiturates the night of his death."(26)
Evidence has recently come to light clarifying the cause of death—extreme alcohol consumption aggravated by the barbiturates in Hendrix's bloodstream—drowning. Hendrix is said to have choked to death after swallowing nine Vesperax sleeping tablets. This is not the lethal dose he'd have taken if suicide was the intent—he surely would have swallowed the remaining 40 or so pills in the packets Dannemann gave him if this was the idea—as Eric Burdon, the Animals' vocalist and a friend of Hendrix, has suggested over the years.
Hendrix was not felled by a drug overdose, as many news reports claimed. The pills were a sleeping Haid, and not a very effective one at that. The two Vesperax that Dannemann saw him take before she fell asleep at 3 am failed to put him under. He had taken a Durophet 20 amphetamine capsule at a dinner party the evening before. And then Hendrix, a chronic insomniac with an escalated tolerance level for barbiturates, had tried the Vesperax before and they proved ineffective. He apparently believed nine tablets would do him no harm.
At 10 am, Dannemann awoke and went out for a pack of cigarettes, according to her inquest testimony. When she returned, he was sick. She phoned Eric Bridges, a friend, and informed him that Hendrix wasn't well. "Half asleep," Bridges reported in his autobiography, "I suggested she give him hot coffee and slap his face. If she needed any more help to call me back." Dannemann called the ambulance at 18 minutes past eleven. The ambulance arrived nine minutes later. Hendrix was not, she claimed, in critical condition. She said the paramedics checked his pulse and breathing, and stated there was "nothing to worry about."
But a direct contradiction came in an interview with Reg Jones, one of the attendants, who insisted that Dannemann wasn't at the flat when they arrived, and that Hendrix was already dead. "It was horrific," Jones said. "We arrived at the flat and the door was flung wide open...."I knew he was dead as soon as I walked into the room." Ambulance attendant John Suau confirmed, "we knew it was hopeless. There was no pulse, no respiration."(27)
The testimonies of Dannemann and medical personnel at the 1970 inquest are disturbingly contradictory. Hendrix, the medical personnel stated, had been dead for at least seven hours by the time the ambulance arrived. Dr. Rufus Compson at the Department of Forensic Medicine at St. George's Medical School undertook his own investigation. He referred to the original medical examiner's report and discovered that there were rice remains in Hendrix's stomach. It takes three-four hours for the stomach to empty, he reasoned, and the deceased ate Chinese food at a dinner party hosted by Pete Cameron between the hours of 11 pm and midnight, placing the time of death no later than 4 am.(28) This is consistent with the report of Dr. Bannister, the surgical registrar, that "the inside of his mouth and mucous membranes were black because he had been dead for some time." Dr. Bannister told the London Times, "Hendrix had been dead for hours rather than minutes when he was admitted to the hospital."(29)
The inquest itself was "unusual," Tony Brown notes, because "none of the other witnesses involved were called to give their evidence, nor was any attempt made to ascertain the exact time of death," as if the subject was to be avoided. The result was that the public record on this basic fact in the case may have been incorrectly cited by scores of reporters and biographers. Tony Brown: "Even [medical examiner] Professor Teare made no attempt to ascertain the exact time of death. The inquest appeared to be conducted merely as a formality and had not been treated by the coroner as a serious investigation."(30)
In 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky (1996), Bill Henderson describes the inquest and its aftermath: "Those who followed his death....noticed many inconsistencies in the official inquest. It has been an open and shut affair that managed to hide its racist intent behind the public perceptual hoax of Hendrix as a substance abuser....As a result, millions of people all over the world thought that Hendrix had died that typical rock star's death: drug OD amid fame, opulence, decadence. But it seems that Hendrix could very well have been the victim not of decadence, but of foul play."(31)
Forensic tests submitted at the inquest have been supplemented over the years by new evidence that makes a reconstruction of the murder possible. In October, 1991, Steve Roby, publisher of Straight Ahead, a Hendrix fanzine, asked, "What Really Happened?": "Kathy Etchingham, a close friend/lover of Jimi's, and Dee Mitchell, Mitch Mitchell's wife, spent many months tracking down former friends and associates of Hendrix, and are convinced they have solved the mystery of the final hours." Central to reconstructing Hendrix's death is red wine. Dr. Bannister reports that after the esophagus had been cleared, "masses" of red wine were "coming out of his nose and out of his mouth." The wine gushing up in great volume from Hendrix's lungs "is very vivid because you don't often see people who have drowned in their own red wine. He had something around him—whether it was a towel or a jumper—around his neck and that was saturated with red wine. His hair was matted. He was completely cold. I personally think he probably died a long time before....He was cold and he was blue."(32)
The abstract morbidity of Hendrix's body upon discovery may indicate a more complex scenario than has been commonly held. Hendrix was not a red wine guzzler, especially in the amounts found in and around his body. He was known to be moderate in his consumption. If he was 'sleeping normally,' then why was he fully clothed? And how could the ambulance attendants have missed seeing someone who was supposed to be there? The garment, or towel, around his neck is totally mysterious given the scenario so widely distributed. But it is consistent with the doctor's statement that he drowned. Was he drowned by force? In a radio interview broadcast out of Holland in the early '70s, an unnamed girlfriend answered 'yes' to the question, 'Was Hendrix killed by the Mafia?'"(33)
Tony Brown, in Hendrix: The Final Days (1997), correlates the consumption of the wine to the approximate time of death: "It's unlikely that he drank the quantity of red wine found by Dr. Bannister.... Therefore, Jimi must have drunk a large quantity of red wine just prior to his death," suggesting that the quantity of alcohol in his lungs was the direct cause.(34)
The revised time of death, 3-4 am, contradicts the gap in the official record, and so does the revelation that Jimi Hendrix drowned in red wine. While it is common knowledge that Hendrix choked to death, it has only recently come to light that the wine—not the Verparex—was the primary catalyst of death. Hendrix was, the evidence suggests, forced to drink a quantity of wine. The barbiturates, as Brown notes, "seriously inhibited Jimi's normal cough reflex." Unable to cough the wine back up, "it went straight down into his lungs....It is quite possible that he thrashed about for some time, fighting unsuccessfully to gain his breath."(35) It is doubtful that Hendrix would have continued to swallow the wine in "massive" volumes had it begun to fill his lungs.
One explanation that explains the forensic evidence is that Jimi Hendrix was restrained, wine forced down his throat until his thrashings ceased. All of this must have taken place quickly, before the alcohol had time to enter his bloodstream. The post mortem report states that the blood alcohol level was not excessive, about 20mg over the legal drinking limit. He died before his stomach absorbed much of the wine. Jimi Hendrix choked to death. That much of the general understanding of his demise is correct, and little else.
The kidnapping, embezzling and numerous shady deceptions would make Jeffrey the leading suspect in any proper police investigation. And his reaction at the news of Hendrix's death did little to dispel any suspicions that associates may have harbored. Jim Marron, a nightclub owner from Manhattan, was vacationing with Jeffrey in Spain when word of the musician's death reached him. "We were supposed to have dinner that night in Majorca," Marron recalls.
Jeffrey "called me from his club in Palma saying that we would have to cancel....I've just got word from London. Jimi's dead." The manager of the Hendrix Experience took the news completely in stride. "I always knew that son of a bitch would pull a quickie," Jeffrey told Marron. "Basically, he had lost a major property. You had the feeling that he had just lost a couple of million dollars—and was the first to realize it. My first reaction was, Oh my God, my friend is dead."(36) But Jeffrey reacted coldly, comparing the fatality to a fleeting sexual romp in the afternoon.
His odd behavior continued in the days following the death of Hendrix. He appeared to be consumed by guilt, and on one occasion "confessed." On September 20, recording engineer Alan Douglas received a call from Jeffrey, who wanted to see him. Douglas drove to the hotel where Jeffrey was staying. "He was bent over, in misery from a recent back injury. We started talking and he let it all out. It was like a confession."
"In my opinion," Douglas observed, "Jeffrey hated Hendrix."
Bob Levine, the band's merchandising manager, was perplexed by Jeffrey's response to the tragedy. First, Hendrix's manager dropped completely out of sight. "We tried calling all of Jeffrey's contacts....trying to reach him. We were getting frustrated because Hendrix's body was going to be held up in London for two weeks and we wanted Jeffrey's input on the funeral service.
A full week after Hendrix's death, he finally called. Hearing his voice, I immediately asked what his plans were and would he be going to Seattle. 'What plans?' he asked. I said, 'the funeral.' 'What funeral?' he replied.
I was exasperated: 'Jimi's!' The phone went quiet for a while and then he hung up. The whole office was staring at me, unable to believe that with all the coverage on radio, print and television, Jeffrey didn't know that Jimi had died." As noted, Jeffrey had been notified and almost grieved, in his fashion. "He called back in five minutes and we talked quietly. He said, 'Bob, I didn't know,' and was asking about what had happened. While I didn't confront him, I knew he was lying."(37)
It was reported that Michael Jeffrey "paid his respects" sitting in a limousine parked outside Dunlap Baptist Church in Seattle. He refused to go inside for the eulogy.(38) Hendrix was buried at the family plot at Greenwood Cemetary in Renton.
Screenwriter Alan Greenberg was hired to write a screenplay for a film on the life of Jimi Hendrix. He traveled to England and taped an interview with Dannemann shortly before her death in April, 1996. In that interview, Dannemann sketched in more details of Jeffrey's skullduggery, which continued after Hendrix's death and has long been concealed behind a wall of misconceptions. On the Greenberg tapes, Dannemann denied allegations of heroin use, as do others close to Hendrix: "You should put that into the right perspective since all of the youngsters still think he was a drug addict.
The problem was, when he died, I was told by the coroner not to talk until after the inquest, so that's why all these wild stories came out that he overdosed from heroin." The coroner found no injection tracks on Hendrix's body. That he snorted the opiate, a charge advanced by biographer Chris Welch in Hendrix, is disputed by Jimi's closest friends. He indulged primarily in marijuana and LSD. The popular misconception that Hendrix was a heroin addict lingers on but should have been buried with him. One of rock's greatest talents was maliciously smeared by the press on this count.
At times, he public has been deliberately misled about Hendrix's drug habits. Kathy Etchingham, a former girlfriend, was deceived into giving an article about Jimi to a friend in the corporate media, and it was snatched up by a newspaper, rewritten, and the story that emerged depicted the guitarist as a violent and drug-infested lunatic. The editor later apologized in writing to Kathy for falsifying the record, but failed to retract in print.(39) Media swipes at Hendrix to this day are often unreasonably vicious, as in this transparent attempt to shape public opinion from London's Times on December 14, 1993:
Not only did [Hendrix] leave several memorable compositions behind him; he left a good-looking corpse. Kathy Etchnigham, a middle-class mother of two, who used to be one of Hendrix's lovers, still mourns his passing and is seeking to persuade the police that there is something suspicious about the circumstances in which he died. Quite why she should bother is hard to say. Perhaps she is bored.
Hendrix, we are advised, "lived an absurdly self-indulgent life and died, in essence, of stupidity."
Close friends of Jimi Hendrix suggest that Jeffrey was the front man for a surreptitious sponsor, the FBI, CIA or Mafia. In 1975, Crawdaddy magazine launched its own investigation and concluded that a death squad of some kind had targeted him: "Hendrix is not the only artist to have had his career sabotaged by unscrupulous sharks and leeches." The recent memory of the death of Average White Band drummer Robby McIntosh from strychnine-laced heroin circulating at a party in L.A. "only serves to update this fact of rock-and-roll life. But an industry that accepts these tragedies in cold blood demonstrates its true nature—and the Jimi Hendrix music machine cranks out, unencumbered by the absence of Hendrix himself. One wonders who'll be the next in line?"(40)
On March 5, as if in reply, Michael Jeffrey, every musician's nightmare, was blown out of the sky in an airplane collision over France, enroute to a court appearance in London related to Hendrix. Jeffrey was returning from Palma aboard an Iberia DC-9 in the midst of a French civil air traffic control strike. Military controllers were called in as a contingency replacements for the controllers. Hendrix biographer Bill Henderson considers the midair collision fuel for "paranoia."
The nature of military airline control "necessitated rigorous planning, limited traffic on each sector and strict compliance with regulations. The DC-9 however was assigned to the same flight over Nantes as a Spantax Coronado, which 'created a source of conflict.' And because of imprecise navigation, lack of complete radar coverage and imperfect radio communications, the two planes collided. The Coronado was damaged but remained airworthy; no one was injured. The DC-9 crashed, killing all 61 passengers and seven crew . . . ." There are [theories] that Jeffrey was merely a tool, a mouthpiece for the real villains lurking in the wings, that he was "the target of assassination."(41)
A quarter-century after Hendrix died, his father finally won control of the musical legacy. Under a settlement signed in 1995, the rights to his son's music were granted to 76-year-old Al Hendrix, the sole heir to the estate. The agreement, settled in court, forced Hendrix to drop a fraud suit filed two years earlier against Leo Branton Jr., the L.A. civil rights attorney who represented Angela Davis and Nat King Cole. Hendrix accused his lawyer of selling the rights to the late rock star's publishing catalogue without consent.
Hendrix, Sr. filed the suit on April 19, 1993, after learning that MCA Music Entertainment—a company rife with Mafia connections—was readying to snatch up his son's recording and publishing rights from two international companies that claimed to own them. The MCA deal, estimated to be worth $40 million, was put on hold after objections were raised in a letter to the Hollywood firm from Hendrix. By this time, Experience albums generated more than $3-million per a Ênnum in royalties, and $1-million worth of garments, posters and paraphernalia bearing his name and likeness are sold each year. All told, Al Hendrix received $2-million over the next 20 years.(42)
1. John Holstrom, "Who Killed Jimi?" Lions Gate Media Works, http://lionsgate.com/Music/hendrix/I_ Dont_Live_Today.html.
2. John Raymond and Marv Glass, "The FBI Investigated Jimi Hendrix," Common Ground, University of Santa Barbara, CA student newspaper, vol. iv, no. 9, June 7, 1979, P. 1.
3. "Jimi Hendrix, Black Power and Money," Teenset, January, 1969.
4. Tony Brown, Hendrix: The Final Days, London: Rogan House, 1997, p. 43.
5. On Mike Jeffrey's undefined politics, see: John McDermott with Eddie Kramer, Hendrix: Setting the Record Straight, New York: Warner, 1992, p. 180.
6. Harry Shapiro and Ceasar Glebbeek, Jimi Hendrix, Electric Gypsy, New York: St. Martin's, 1990, p. 120.
7. Bill Henderson, "IT'S LIKE TRYING TO GET OUT OF A ROOM FULL OF MIRRORS," Jimi Hendrix web page, http://www.rockmine. music.co.uk/jimih. html.
8. Fredric Dannen, Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Industry, New York: Times Books, 1990, p. 164-5.
9. Shapiro and Glebbeek, Jimi Hendrix, Electric Gypsy, New York: St. Martin's, 1990, p. 294. The Fudge once booked a tour with Jimi Hendrixs, per arrangement between the band's mobbed-up management and Michael Jeffrey, Hendrix's manager.
10. Dannen, p. 165.
11. Shapiro and Glebbeek, p. 295.
12. Monika Dannemann, The Inner World of Jimi Hendrix, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995, pp. 76-8.
13, John Swenson, "The Last Days of Jimi Hendrix," Crawdaddy, January, 1975, p. 43.
14. Ibid., p. 488 ff.
15. "Banks and Narcotics Money Flow in Suth Florida," U.S. Senate Banking Committee report, 96th Congress, June 5-6, 1980, p. 201.
16. Jonathon Kwitny, The Crimes of Patriots: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money, and the CIA, New York: Touchstone, 1987, p. 153.
17. Josh Rodin, "BANK OF CROOKS AND CRIMINALS?" Topic 105, Christic News, Aug 6, 1991.
18. R. Gary Patterson, Hellhounds on Their Trail: Tales from the Rock-n'-Roll Graveyard, Nashville, Tennessee: Dowling Press, 1998, p. 208.
20. Shapiro and Glebbeek, p. 473.
21. Shapiro and Glebbeek, p. 477.
22. Swenson. In Crosstown Traffic (1989), Charles Murray reports that Hendrix "began consulting independent lawyers and accountants with a view of sorting out his tangled finances and freeing himself from Mike Jeffrey" (p. 55).
23. Henderson Web site.
24. Brown, p. 7.
25. Mitch Mitchell with John Platt, Jimi Hendrix—Inside the Experience, New York: St. Martin's, 1990, p. 160.
26. Stanton Steele, "The Human Side Of Addiction: What caused John Belushi's death?" U.S. Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, April 1982, p. 7.
27. David Henderson, 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky, New York: Bantam, 1996, pp. 389-90.
28. Brown, p. 164.
29. Henderson, p. 392.
30. Brown, p. 163.
31. Henderson, p. 388.
32. Ibid., p. 392.
33. Henderson, 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky, p. 393. If the Mafia did indeed participate, Hendrix wasn't the first Afrifcan-American musician to have a contract on his head. In May 1955, jazz saxman Wardell Gray was murdered, probably by Mafia hitmen. Gray had toured with Benny Goodman and Count Basie in 1948. His remarkable recording sessions of the late 1940s, especially with Dexter Gordon, brought him fame. Bill Moody, a jazz drummer and disk jockey, published a novel in 1996, Death of a Tenor Man, based on the life and death of Grey. "It's strange," a publisher's press release comments, "that 1950s Las Vegas, a town in which the Mob and corrupt police worked hand in glove, became the home of the first integrated nightclub in the country. The Moulin Rouge was owned by blacks and had the honor of being the only casino hotel in Vegas that allowed African-Americans to mingle with white customers. On opening night, Nat 'King' Cole and Frank Sinatra sat in with Benny Carter's band. The second night, Wardell Gray, a black sax player in the Carter band with a growing reputation, was beaten to death. The police said he overdosed and 'fell out of bed,' dying later 'of complications.' Some suspected Gray's death was the Mob's way of telling the African-American businessmen who backed the Moulin Rouge that 'this town isn't big enough for the both of us.' Gray's murder has never been investigated. It "hung over the Moulin Rouge like a storm cloud" and remains unsolved. The casino went out of business a few months later.
And the 1961 attempt on the life of soul singer Jackie Wilson has never been rationally explained. Wilson was shot in the stomach by a fan supposedly trying to "prevent a fan from killing herself." He recovered from the assault and went on to release "No Pity (In the Naked City)," and "Higher and Higher."
The Halloween, 1975 murder of Al Jackson, percussionist for Booker T. and the MGs, at the age of 39, also appeared to be a premeditated hit. Barbara Jackson, his wife, was the sole eyewitness. She told police, according to Rolling Stone, that she "arrived home on the night of the shooting and was met by a gun-wielding burglar who tied her hands behind her back with an ironing cord." Al Jackson, who'd been taking in a closed circuit telecast of the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fight, arrived an hour later. Any burglar would have collected valuables in the house and fled by this time, but he waited a full hour for Jackson to return home. Babara Jackson was freed from the ropes and the "burglar" ordered her at gunpoint to open the door for him. "After confronting Jackson and asking him for money, the intruder forced him to lie on the floor. He then shot Jackson five times in the back and left." (Rolling Stone, November 1975)
34. Brown, p. 165.
35. Brown, pp. 165-66.
36. McDermott and Kramer, pp. 286-87.
39. Shapiro and Glebeek, p. 474.
40. Swenson, p. 45.
41. Henderson Web site.
42. Chuck Philips, "Father to Get Hendrix Song, Image Rights," Los Angeles Times (home edition), July 26, 1995, p. 1. Also named as defendants were producer Alan Douglas and several firms that have profited from the Hendrix catalogue since 1974 under contracts negotiated by Branton: New York-based Bella Godiva Music Inc; Presentaciones Musicales SA (PMSA), a Panamanian corporation; Bureau Voor Muzeikrechten Elber B. V. in the Netherlands; and Interlit, based in the Virgin Islands.
Branton negotiated two contracts in early 1974—signed by Al Hendrix—that relinquished all rights to his son's "unmastered" tapes for $50,000 to PMSA and all his stock in Bella Godiva, his son's music publishing company, for $50,000."PMSA and the other overseas companies were later discovered to be part of a tax shelter system created by Harry Margolis," reported the L.A. Times, "a Saratoga attorney whom federal prosecutors charged but never convicted of tax fraud. The tax shelter plan collapsed after Margolis' death in 1987, and also [prompted] complaints from the estates of other entertainment clients, including singer Nat King Cole, screenwriter Larry Hauben as well as from followers of New Age philosopher Werner Erhard, who allegedly stashed revenues from his EST enterprise in the foreign account."