The life of Jimi Hendrix is like the biblical story of Jesus Christ. A supernatural tale posthumously told by well-meaning disciples so lost in their own bullshit they require us to believe in miracles: that Jimi was heaven-sent, to show us the way towards true spiritual enlightenment. That he was a black man in a white world that simply didn’t see in colours. That he was a guitar player so gifted there would never be another like him. That had he lived, rather than die young from an accidental overdose of sleeping pills, the music he created would have made the world a more transformative place. That Jimi was full of love, love, love. Because that’s all anyone ever really needs.
And, of course, none of which is true.
Indeed, the orthodox Hendrix story, as rendered by successive generations of white middle-class journalists, is solidly built on lies.
Daddy was a drunk who sold-out his kids. Mama was a teenage hooker who lived and died on the streets. Jimi was a petty-thief delinquent who got the fuck outta Dodge by joining the army, then got out of that by faking homosexuality. (Though there are some who testify he wasn’t actually faking.)
Oh, the kid could play. So could a lot of wild black cats in those days. Jim’s calling card was that he dug Dylan and The Beatles, not just the Three Kings blues. He also read sci-fi, was into hippy escapism and dug that white chicks were better for him than black chicks. Pussy wasn’t the issue; it was who had the power – and the money and the reach.
It was a rich white chick from England – Linda Keith – that affected his escape in 1966 from New York non-entity to ultra-fash London celebrity.
From there it was easy meat. Brian Jones, Eric Clapton, Pete Townshend, Paul McCartney… they all bowed to Jimi’s big-dick greatness, his acid-crowned far-outness, his uber American coolness. And the chicks… Jimi had girlfriends, fiancées, old ladies, in every place he ever peed. It didn’t matter that he would sometimes beat them, throw vodka bottles at their heads, impregnate then negate them. He was Jimi Hendrix, baby, he had higher things on his mind, dig?
Like the fact black people didn’t like his music – at all. Like the fact all his money was going to his manager, Mike Jeffrey, the former British Secret Service, Mob-connected, Russian-speaking, ex-hitman that would eventually end the Hendrix story on a cliff-hanger.
When Jimi tried to create an all-black band, Mike arranged for the Boys in NY to kidnap him, hold a Glock to his head, and read him the rules. When Jimi persisted, Mike took it upon himself to spike a performance at Madison Square Garden with strychnine-laced acid, forcing Jimi to abandon ship after three songs.
And when six months later Jimi went around telling ‘good friends’ he was going to ditch Mike – that was when Jimi died his ‘accidental’ death in London. Not from sleeping pills, that old sob story. But through being waterboarded with red wine, bottle after bottle, held down by pro-thugs who knew what they were doing. When the dead body arrived at the hospital, the doctor was aghast. He had never seen so much red wine soaked in a cadaver’s hair, its face, its upper body and arms – and its lungs. There was no wine found in Hendrix’s stomach because he didn’t drink wine. But his lungs were filled to bursting with it. He had literally been drowned by it.
These days Jimi is a saintly-looking ghost looking down on all the guitarists that came after him with his arms spread wide in supplication, a beatific smile on his face. Like Jesus, or Elvis. Or all the other fluffy fairy-stories we might like to tell our children – and ourselves.