Jimi Hendrix’s penchant as a live performer is nearly unparalleled in the history of rock music. From the Café Wha in Greenwich Village, to the Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock and the Fillmore East, there was nary a stage in the world that the guitarist couldn’t dominate. On Sept. 16, 1970, just two days before his untimely death, Hendrix performed live one last time.

After playing the massive Open Air Love & Peace Festival in Fehmarn, Germany on Sept. 6 with Mitch Mitchell and Buddy Miles, Hendrix retreated back to his adopted home in London for some much-needed R&R. At some point, he bumped into his old friend Eric Burdon, the former lead singer of the Animals who was now fronting a group named War and he invited him down to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London’s Soho district for a jam. Hendrix took Burdon up on his offer but when he showed up to the venue with his current girlfriend Monica Dannemann in tow, it was readily apparent that he in no shape to play, so Burdon extended the invitation to join him the next night. Sure enough, the guitar player obliged.

In his autobiography Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, Burdon recalled the scene, “Hendrix made his entrance during the second set. There was a crack in the air. I introduced Jimi to the audience … the typical London jazz crowd tried to show indifference as he took the stage, but a ripple of applause greeted the greatest guitar player in the world.”

Once Hendrix got a hold of an instrument, all bets were off and it was up to the rest of the musicians in War to keep up. “The guys in War held their ground as we launched into a triple-time version of 'Tobacco Road,'" Burdon wrote. “Having Hendrix onstage made [War guitarist Howard Scott] play better than he ever had before. We slid into 'Mother Earth,' a beautiful blues written by Memphis Slim. We ended the set with a burning jam. Jimi was flying. And then it was over.”

After coming off the stage, Hendrix ran into NME writer Roy Carr and chatted for a few moments about his future plans. Of his new music, he only offered that, “maybe it’s not jazz … maybe it is,” then left for Dannemann’s apartment where he would die in his sleep two nights later from asphyxiation.

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