5. Jimi Hendrix’s early death vaulted him into the pantheon of rock gods
At the time of his death on September 18, 1970, American guitarist Jimi Hendrix was the highest paid performer in the world, celebrated on the heels of legendary performances at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and Woodstock in 1969. Hendrix reinvented the electric guitar, both in his style of play and his use of the instrument as a stage prop. He first achieved fame in London, after having failed to attract much attention in his native United States, where he once, in a surreal pairing, served briefly as the opening act for The Monkees. The screaming tennyboppers dying for an appearance by their beloved Davy Jones failed to appreciate the innovations which were part of Hendrix’s onstage persona. By 1970 he was widely acclaimed by fellow guitarists and the music press as the greatest guitar player in the world.
His use of drugs and alcohol were in the long established tradition of American bluesmen, and by the end of his career his performances were often marked by his intoxicated state. Flamboyant and flashy, Hendrix was noted for playing the guitar with his teeth, setting the instrument afire, and smashing it to pieces as part of his act. A perfectionist in the recording studio, the amount of his published work was minimal during his short lifetime, and following his death he became a cottage industry, with both live and studio recordings released by his estate and an assortment of bootleggers. He died of an overdose of alcohol and barbiturates, either in the London apartment of a friend, in the ambulance on the way to the hospital, or in the hospital itself, depending upon which version of events one chooses to believe. His death was officially attributed to asphyxia from choking on his own vomit.