Jimi – the last post

Yes, I know that I’ve written a lot about Hendrix of late, but 2010 is the 40th anniversary of his death after all and thus a good time for myself as well as the film makers to remember one of the all time greats. No more – at least for a while – I promise.


BBC4’s celebration of the 40th anniversary of the death of Jimi Hendrix threw up an extremely interesting documentary last night.

The 90 minute ‘Jimi Hendrix: Guitar Legend’ was far more typical of your average ‘rock doc’ than ‘Voodoo Child’ which I reviewed here a couple of days ago.

There was lots of interview footage featuring various celebs and brief clips of Jimi on and off stage – on the face of it, pretty uninspiring – but the approach that the film maker took was what made this absolutely essential viewing.

The key to understanding the film lies in the train of events that followed Jimi’s death.

As I understand it, after he died, his estate did not go directly to his family but spent some years under dispute. His financial affairs whilst alive were somewhat murky, which didn’t help matters, and it wasn’t until quite a few years later that the Hendrix family gained control of the various interests which were of considerable worth.

At first Jimi’s father Al was the chief beneficiary, but his daughter Janie (from a subsequent relationship after Jimi’s mother died) took over the estate when he died. However, Jimi had a younger brother Leon who was ‘paid off’ if I recall correctly. Leon’s past was somewhat colourful by all accounts, with booze and gambling featuring very heavily,

Here’s what Wikipedia has to say:

When Al Hendrix died of congestive heart failure in 2002, his will stipulated that Experience Hendrix, LLC was to exist as a trust designed to distribute profits to a list of Hendrix family beneficiaries. Upon his death, it was revealed that Al had signed a revision to his will which removed Hendrix’s brother Leon Hendrix as a beneficiary. A 2004 probate lawsuit merged Leon’s challenge to the will with charges from other Hendrix family beneficiaries that Janie Hendrix, Al’s adopted daughter, was improperly handling the company finances. The suit argued that Janie and a cousin of Jimi Hendrix (Robert Hendrix) paid themselves exorbitant salaries and covered their own mortgages and personal expenses from the company’s coffers while the beneficiaries went without payment and the Hendrix gravesite in Renton went uncompleted.

Janie and Robert’s defense was that the company was not profitable yet, and that their salary and benefits were justified given the work that they put into running the company. Leon charged that Janie bilked Al Hendrix, then old and frail, into signing the revised will, and sought to have the previous will reinstated. The defense argued that Al willingly removed Leon from his will because of Leon’s problems with alcohol and gambling. In early 2005, presiding judge Jeffrey Ramsdell handed down a ruling that left the final will intact, but replaced Janie and Robert’s role at the financial helm of Experience Hendrix with an independent trustee.

Although it’s probably inevitable that such disputes will follow the death of someone like Hendrix when the posthumous earnings potential is so high, nonetheless it casts a long and unpleasant shadow over the deceased’s artistic legacy and does nothing to promote respect for the dead person, but Hendrix’s family seems to have done rather less than most to diminish these negative feelings.

‘Jimi Hendrix: Guitar Legend’ was very firmly in the pro-Leon camp with zero involvement by Janie et al at ‘Experience Hendrix’. From the accounts given in the film by both Leon and Jimi and Leon’s aunt, Jimi’s father Al Hendrix was a poor father and quite content to send Jimi and Leon away to stay with relatives in Canada, see Leon taken into care and to let the two boys to be fed by neighbours.

As well as Jimi’s brother and aunt, other people interviewed who spoke very candidly were Lemmy of Motorhead (once a roadie for Jimi) and Eric Burdon, a long term friend. Neither had a good word to say about the late Monika Danneman, who was with Hendrix when he died, and Burdon still seems to believe that Jimi committed suicide. Lemmy, on the other hand, attributed Jimi’s death to a poor response from the emergency services and stated that Jimi was still alive when he went into the ambulance, although the official line was that he’d been dead for some time when found. Danneman’s part in all this remains a mystery, with her giving several differing accounts of the events of that day in various interviews.

Of course, with zero involvement by Experience Hendrix, the film was short on decent film clips, but the interviews featuring lots of people who actually knew Hendrix made up for this. Eric Clapton, Zoot Money, Lemmy, Kathy Etchingham, Alan Douglas, Ben Palmer and many others spoke authoritatively and lent the film a certain gravitas that the Experience Hendrix film lacked.

Linking all this was Slash of all people who – of course – was not one of Jimi’s contemporaries. However, he spoke cogently about Jimi and firmly cited him as highly influential and still extremely relevant today.

If you missed either film then it’s probably available on iPlayer, but you really do need to see both if you’re any sort of guitar/rock/Hendrix fan.

‘Voodoo Child’ was a ‘coffee table’ film, heavy on the glossy visuals but short on source material, whilst ‘Guitar Legend’ went to the people who knew Jimi so that it gave a more intimate portrait of the man both on and off stage.

If you can only stand to watch just one of the two, then go for the ‘unofficial’ ‘Guitar Legend’ which digs rather deeper than ‘Voodoo Child’.

7 Responses

  1. I love Jimi,a true legend.Although i did not see that lastnight i will look for it today,cheers..

  2. Thanks for the heads up Steve.I recently read an article which claims it was murder,part of a cointelpro operation against the antiwar movement.


    You probably know a lot more about his death than me-do you think its tinfoil madness or on the money?Did you ever hear stories about it on the music circuit?

    Don’t be too hard on Jerry Garcia btw..’Anthem for the Sun’ is a great LP if you give it a chance,maybe help it with a reefer 😉

  3. The older I get, the more I use Occam’s Razor.

    I’m now inclined to think that the whole death was as simple as an accidental overdose (suicide, possibly) combined with a delay in getting an ambulance out to him soon enough – either through the delayed actions of those around him or the ambulance service or even both.

    Dope never helped me appreciate Jerry even back then!

  4. Steve,
    I’ve been a fan of Jimi’s ever since I was a teenager in 1981. I’ve read many accounts of his death, and sadly that documentary rehashed a lot of nonesense. A guy called Tony Brown did a lot of research into Jimi’s death and released a book in 97, but it’s origins can be traced back to Kathy Etchingham’s legal action against Monika Dannenberg in 91. kathy tracked down the ambulancemen, one policeman who attended that morning and some of the medical staff who received Jimi at the hospital. Their accounts conflicted with Moniker’s so drastically that Kathy was able to get the police to reopen the case. In essence the ambulance was called for at about 11.20, it arrived about 10 minutes later. Both ambulancemen, long retired and no publicity seekers confirmed that Jimi was dead when they arrived. The flat was deserted, hence they called the police. Whilst it isn’t common practice to send dead bodies to hospital (I know from personal experience as a former policeman), they did so because of the lack of identification and people present. All the medical staff who remember the case also confirm that the body was dead. None, according to their testimony, had any idea who he was.
    Now…Danneman was proven to be a liar in almost every way, and her accounts were contracdictory anyway. Her claim that he was alive and died due to negligance is contradicted by all other testimony. Burdon lost a lot of credibility by claiming that Jimi commited suicide, yet pops up in virtually every documentary spouting self serving nonesense. It annoys me to see his face now.
    There’s so much to say, but in essence Danneman was simply a groupie who hardly knew Jimi. It’s likely he took the sleeping tablets that killed him by accident; Danneman realised she couldn’t wake him. She called Burdon at around dawn (7 ish), and through all the self-serving, contradictory accounts, it’s likely that Burdon, several roadies and others cleaned the house of drugs and then phoned the police from a local call box. Burdon has virtually admitted this in late accounts anyway. That leaves the mystery of the excess wine and vomit. In Brown’s book he virtually accuses Danneman of pouring the wine down in a fit of rage (several witnesses at the party she collected him from that night attest that they rowed), but I’ll admit that it does allow the possibility of murder by persons unknown.
    I hope this helps!

  5. Of course the delay is the key thing. If Jimi really were still alive when the ambulance arrived, why was it called for at 11.20 and not when Danneman claimed to have tried to rouse him? Burdon has nothing to gain by repeating the story that she phoned him at dawn. He now says that he knew, without checking, that Jimi was dead. This must have been the case otherwise all the people who visited the flat that morning are complicit in his death. Thank god Kathy Etchingham tracked down the witnesses and got the case reopened, otherwise Danneman’s account would have been believed and rehashed for another 20 years

  6. So all that has been proven on hendrix’s death,” Monika dannemann lied about it for 25 years? How did Kathy etchingham feel about monica after committing suicide?

  7. As you all know,”YoU cAnT beLivE eVeRytHInG yOu sEE aNd hEaR,”nOw,”caN yoU? noW iF YoU pLeAsE eXcUse mE i mUsT bE oN mY StrANgE eliPtiCaLoRbiTaLhiGhwaY..What’? what uhh,;’ I don’t beleive it!

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