50 Years Ago: Jimi Hendrix Performs Live for the Final Time
He sat in that night with former Animals frontman Eric Burdon, who'd just begun a week-long residency at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in London with his new group, War. Burdon and Hendrix reconnected a few days prior, according to Hendrix's girlfriend Monika Dannemann in Tony Brown's book Hendrix: The Final Days, and Burdon invited him to jam on the 15th.
But when Hendrix showed up at the Soho club, Burdon said, he was "well out of it. He had his guitar with him but he was wobbling too much to play, so I told him to come back tomorrow night."
The Final Days offers testimony from a few people who claim that they spent part of the next night with Hendrix. Former manager Chas Chandler said that Hendrix showed up at his apartment to ask him to produce his next record, while Eric Clapton claimed he spotted Hendrix at Sly & the Family Stone's concert at the Lyceum Ballroom, but was unable to speak with him.
Dannemann, however, said that the two of them attended a birthday party for her friend Judy Wong. Wong has confirmed those details, adding that Hendrix told her that he and Dannemann were making marriage plans. Then the three of them headed to Ronnie Scott's.
Hendrix came on during the second set. "I introduced Jimi to the audience," Burdon wrote in his autobiography Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. "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.”
They played extended versions of two covers that Burdon and War had released on their debut, Memphis Slim's "Mother Earth" and a rave-up on John D. Loudermilk's "Tobacco Road." Burdon wrote that Hendrix was "flying," adding that his presence made War guitarist Howard Scott "play better than he ever had before." Still, Brown defined Hendrix as "reluctant" and more willing to play in the background than in the usual jams. A recording of the evening is embedded below.
After coming off the stage, Hendrix ran into NME writer Roy Carr and chatted for a few moments about his reported plans to record with Miles Davis and Gil Evans, and his existing sessions with John McLaughlin and Larry Young. Hendrix offered that he was unsure if what he was doing could be classified as jazz.
He and Dannemann then went for a late-night meal at the Speakeasy before retiring to the Samarkand Hotel, where she was living. Dannemann found Hendrix unresponsive on the morning of Sept. 18. He was pronounced dead at 12:45PM, having choked on his own vomit after taking an overdose of sleeping pills.
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