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Jimi Hendrix's 'final words' found in poem after his death

·4-min read

In the early hours of the final day of August 1970, Jimi Hendrix delivered what would become one of his most legendary performances.

A crowd estimated to number hundreds of thousands of people watched in awe as the American guitarist, singer and songwriter wowed them at the Isle of Wight Festival.

Jimi Hendrix (1942 - 1970) performing at Madison Square Garden, New  York City, 18th May 1969. (Photo by Walter Iooss Jr./Getty Images)
Guitar legend Jimi Hendrix, pictured performing at Madison Square Garden in New York in May 1969, died on 18 September, 1970. (Getty Images)

Hendrix was the biggest name - and the biggest influence - in popular music. It would be his last show in England.

Less than three weeks later, rock was in mourning.

Hendrix died 51 years ago today, on 18 September, 1970. His career spanned just four years, but in that time he changed music forever.

Anyone who picked up a guitar after hearing songs like Purple Haze, Hey Joe, The Wind Cries Mary, Voodoo Child (Slight Return), Crosstown Traffic and Foxy Lady owes something to Hendrix.

Rock guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix (1942 - 1970) caught mid guitar-break during his performance at the Isle of Wight Festival, August 1970.   (Photo by Evening Standard/Getty Images)
Jimi Hendrix during his performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in August 1970. (Getty Images)

Those songs, and the guitar sound Hendrix created, have stood the test of time. His influence is etched in stone.

The circumstances surrounding his death are less clear, with many conflicting versions of how the musician’s life ended.

What is known is that an ambulance was called to a flat in the Samarkand Hotel in Notting Hill, London, at 11.18am on 18, September 1970.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JULY 1: An exterior view of the former Samarkand Hotel in London, where Jimi Hendrix died on 18th August, 1970. Location shoot on July 1, 2009. (Photo by Rob Monk/Classic Rock Magazine/Future Publishing via Getty Images)
An exterior view of the Samarkand Hotel in Notting Hill, London, where Jimi Hendrix died on 18 September, 1970. (Getty Images)

When paramedics arrived at the scene, they found Hendrix lying on a bed, unresponsive. He was transported to St Mary Abbot’s Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at 12.45pm.

A post-mortem examination and inquest found that Hendrix had choked on his own vomit and died of barbiturate-related asphyxia.

The flat was rented by Hendrix’s girlfriend, German painter Monika Dannemann, who had called the ambulance.

In the hours before his death, she had driven him to a friend’s home at about 1.45am that morning, then picked him up and took him back to the flat at 3am. 

She later said that Hendrix had taken nine of her prescribed sleeping tablets, 18 times the recommended dosage, as they were to be taken in halves.

In the days after Hendrix’s death, it emerged that a poem he had written had been found in the flat. Dannemann claimed he had written it about her, and Eric Burdon, a singer with bands The Animals and War, described it as a “suicide note”, though he later retracted this, saying he had misread the words.

American rock guitarist and singer Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970) performs live on stage playing a black Fender Stratocaster guitar at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival at Afton Down on the Isle of Wight on the night of 30th-31st August 1970. (Photo by David Redfern/Redferns)
Jimi Hendrix performed at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival less than three weeks before he died. (David Redfern/Getty)

The final words of what Hendrix had written, whether poem or a song he was working on, reportedly read: “The story of life is quicker than the wink of an eye/The story of love is hello and goodbye, until we meet again.”

The poem, often referred to as The Story Of Life, reportedly begins: “The story of Jesus/So easy to explain/After they crucified him/A woman, she claimed his name.”

It was also reported that Hendrix had left a message before he died on his manager Chas Chandler’s answering machine, with the words: “I need help bad, man.”

London, UK - An English Heritage blue plaque, marking the house in Mayfair, central London, where the musician Jimi Hendrix lived in the late 1960s.
An English Heritage blue plaque, marking the house in Mayfair, central London, where the musician Jimi Hendrix lived in the late 1960s. (Getty)

In 1997, a blue plaque to Hendrix was erected at 23 Brook Street, Mayfair, London, where he lived between 1968 and 1969.

Music fans can visit the flat as part of the Handel & Hendrix museum - the German-British composer George Frideric Handel lived at number 25 from 1723 until his death in 1759.

Hendrix, born in Seattle, Washington, was 27 when he died. Just over two weeks later, US singer Janis Joplin died of a drug overdose at the same age. 

A number of other famous musicians have died at the age of 27, including The Rolling Stones' Brian Jones, The Doors’ Jim Morrison, Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain and singer Amy Winehouse.

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