Johnny Allen Hendrix (later renamed James Marshall) was born on Nov. 27, 1942 in Seattle, Wash. From an early age, young Hendrix pretended to strum along with his guitar idols — B.B. King, Buddy Holly, Robert Johnson — on an old broom. From there, he graduated to a one-string ukulele, then a used acoustic guitar. All the while, he taught himself to play, undeterred by his inability to read music.
In 1966, after a stint in the army and some work playing backup guitar for other performers, Hendrix formed his group, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, whose smash-hit debut Are You Experienced? sealed Hendrix’s fate as a legend. He soon dazzled audiences with his guitar playing at 1967’s Monterey Pop Festival, where he infamously burned his guitar on stage. After more hit records, Woodstock followed, and Hendrix ascended to greater heights of superstardom amidst the glorious purple haze of sex, drugs, and rock and roll that marked the late 1960s.
But on the morning of Sept. 18, 1970, his girlfriend, Monika Dannemann, called his friend, Eric Burdon of The Animals, and said that she couldn’t wake him up. Burdon urged her to call for an ambulance and headed to her apartment at London’s Samarkand Hotel — but it was already too late. Jimi Hendrix was dead, the newest member of the 27 Club.
Burdon tried to clean up before the police arrived. He cleared out Hendrix’s drugs and a sheet of lyrics he mistook for a suicide note. It 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.”
An ambulance arrived at the apartment at 11:27 a.m. to find the doors flung open and Hendrix alone and unresponsive, covered in his own vomit. They loaded his body into the emergency vehicle. He was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital at 12:45 pm. The death certificate cites the cause of death as “inhalation of vomit” and “barbiturate intoxication.” Police discovered nine of Danneman’s sleeping pills missing from the apartment.