Circus Magazine Report of Jimi's Death
Karl J. Geisler
Circus Magazine December 1970. Part II
Written by Tony Glover
Jimi Hendrix is dead.
That's only four words, but they're pretty heavy. Twenty-seven
years old, he had a lot in front of him. As I write this, it's early Monday;
he was found unconscious by a friend in London last Friday, and died shortly
afterwards in St. Mary Abbott's hospital. Scotland Yard says there'll be an
autopsy in a couple of days, but it'll most likely confirm what all the papers
have been saying - "O.D."
Overdose of drugs.
The questions people ask now will probably never be answere. Loke, how
and why? Was it an accident? Get a bit stoned, have some drinks, take a
sleeping pill, have some more drinks, did I take the pill? Better do another,
whoops. . . .
Or was it deliberate? Could a cat who had bread, fame, chicks, and
talent get so tired of it all that he just didn't care anymore?
Only Jimi knows for sure, the rest is just guessing. . . .
Being an artist of any kind is a heavy trip . . . if you're totally
committed to what you do, you pay a lot of different types of dues. It seems
out culture is getting kind of tragic lately: Brian Jones, Altamont, Canned
Heat's Al Wilson and now Hendrix - but it's been going on as long as creative
people have been around. Van Gogh went a bit insane, cut off an ear, mailed it
to a chick and went on to paint some masterpieces. Edgar Allen Poe, the master
of the macabre died in a gutter. Modigliana was an addict. Nijinski, the
Russian dancer, spent the last years of his life in an insane asylum.
Hart Crane, the poet, jumped overboard from his ship. Lenny Bruce OD'd . . .
the list goes on.
Why? It's not easy creating and very often the sensitivity and a
awareness that makes an artist able to communicate emotions to people also makeshim very easily hurt by both his art and life. And Hendrix was vulnerable.
Listen to the Redding-Hendrix Monterey LP on Reprise, dig him talking to the
people. That was really his first big gig in the US - he was established in
England, but hardly heard of here. He puts himself down and at times almost
pleads with audience. ("Don't get mad now, come on . . .") Later he
would put down audiences, and walk off-stage when there were equipment hassles.
He did it on the Tonight Show and left the back-up drummer sitting there looking
stupid. But it wasn't just an ego trip - he really cared about getting the right
sound . . . and doing it right or not at all.
I remember the first time I interviewed him after a concert with the
Experience in Minneapolis in late 1968. It'd been a great concert, but t
there'd been some equipment trouble - one of his Marshall tops had quit on
him. I asked him what he thought of the concert.
"We don't judge by the people," he said, "we judge by what we get
across music-wise. If we're not laying down anything and they're screaming
and hollering and thinking that's good, it makes me feel bad."
A lot of artists demand much more of themselves than their audience
ever [will] - and get much more depressed when things don't work out.
And then the fame trip - it sounds groovy; be rich, be famous, do
what you wanna do . . . but a lot of times it ain't like that. If your face
is well known you can't go anywhere without people hitting on you for one
thing or another - your time, your money, your body maybe even your soul. If
you give a little to everybody who asks for it, how long before there's nothing
left for yourself? And then there's all the time you have to spend moving
through the plastic world of hotels and airports. The nights without
sleep . . . it adds up.
Jimi lived high, hard and fast. He said, "I think anybody should
be able to do whatever he wants." He did, and it cost him. And that's
where the tragedy comes in. Any musician knows sometimes you need ups and downs
just to get through the days and nights - road life is hard. But you gotta know
how much your body can take, and you gotta know what it is your taking and
what it'll do to you. . . you gotta be careful. Unless you just don't care.
How can you sum up a man's life and career in a few words in a few
hours? Let's just say this: Jimi made a lot of bread and spent a lot of bread.
He had a lot of women, a lot of good times. His guitar and life style have left
a permanent dent on rock music. He left behind five LP's that are classics.
(The next one is 3/4 finished. . . producer Eddie Cramer says he and Mitch
will try and finish it up for release.) He was here for awhile, he changed the
heads of anybody who ever tripped with him. . . and now he's gone for
Miss him? Hell yes, but don't mourn. When he was acquitted of drug
charges in Toronto over a year ago he said, "I tell you when I die I'm not
going to have a funeral, I'm going to have a jam session. And, knowing
me, I'll probably get busted at my own funeral."
Noel Redding said that before the funeral in Seattle there will
be a jam session in New York this weekend. He, Billy Cox, Mitch and George
Harrison will play. Just like they used to do for the jazzmen in
Music to send the spaceman home.
And now dammit, I'm crying too. . .