A Piece of Jimi Hendrix's Rainbow

Page 2 of 5

Douglas is not entirely altruistic, however. On the first album, Crash Landing, not only was he listed as the record's coproducer (with Tony Bongiovi, who waded through all the tapes and did most of the initial editing), he also put himself down as cowriter with Hendrix on five of the album's eight songs, thereby claiming a healthy slice of the composer's royalties along with half the producer's.

When asked why, Douglas seems nervous – and with some interviewers, testy – saying there were "copyright problems," that it was a "political situation, a confusion between the estate and the people administering the publishing." He chooses to say no more. But he did not claim such royalties on the subsequent albums.

Another figure in London that final week was Ed Chalpin, a young record promoter Hendrix had known in his pre-Experience days.

When Jeffrey got Hendrix to sign recording, publishing and management contracts in September 1966, he had every reason to believe he had the man tied up. But he was wrong. Hendrix's first album, Are You Experienced?, was released in September 1967; a month after that, Ed Chalpin filed suit against Hendrix and several record companies, including Warner Bros.

To back up his claim, Chalpin produced a one-page agreement, executed in 1965, in which Hendrix agreed to play, sing and produce records for Chalpin and Chalpin's PPX Enterprises for a period of five years in exchange for a two percent royalty. Although Hendrix was never recorded by PPX except as a background guitarist for Curtis Knight, eventually Chalpin would release, repackage and rerelease at least 14 albums. The way the first was titled, Get That Feeling: Jimi Hendrix Plays and Curtis Knight Sings, released by Capitol Records, shows how the Hendrix name was exploited.

A settlement was reached in about six months while the case was being tried in a New York court. Warners gambled on Hendrix's future earnings and agreed to pay everything. This included a two percent override to be paid to Chalpin for Hendrix's first three albums, two of which had already been released and a third which was in production. Chalpin was further guaranteed that the two percent would amount to $200,000 and was given the rights to Hendrix's fourth LP – the Band of Gypsies album, released about two years later – which Chalpin sold to Capitol. Eventually, Chalpin would collect more than $1 million.

Flushed with victory, Chalpin took his claims abroad, bringing suits against Hendrix and two London-based companies, Track and Polydor. Instantly, both companies put a hold on all future royalties due Hendrix and they too filed suit against Hendrix.

Jeffrey panicked and, with the approval of Henry Steingarten, Hendrix's lawyer and the partner of his own lawyer, Steve Weiss, got Hendrix to sign a piece of paper indemnifying Jeffrey from all future judgments that might go against Hendrix in Britain.

This is where things stood in September 1970 when Hendrix was bouncing around London like a pinball gone wild. He was to meet with solicitors representing both sides of the case on Wednesday, September 16th. But he stood them up.

The stories continue to crisscross and contradict, with perhaps dozens of people claiming they shared Hendrix's final days. Whatever happened, it seems clear that he returned to share a simple meal with Monika Danneman late Thursday. At 1:30 a.m., Monika Danneman apparently took Hendrix to (in her words) "some people's flat. They were not his friends and he did not like them. He told me he did not want me to go with him, so I dropped him off there and picked him up an hour later, just after three."

Returning to their flat, Danneman made Hendrix a tuna sandwich and Hendrix wrote "The Story of Life," a poem Eric Burdon would pronounce a suicide note. Others, including Jeffrey, disagree, claiming that dozens of Hendrix's poems and lyrics can be taken any way the reader wishes.

Monika Danneman points to the final stanza and says she agrees with Burdon:

The story
Of life is quicker
Than the wink of an eye
The story of love
Is hello and goodbye
Until we meet again.

She also told Curtis Knight, author of Jimi: An Intimate Biography of Jimi Hendrix, that she saw him empty a bottle of sleeping pills into his hand in her bedroom. She claims she grabbed the bottle away and soon after that Hendrix lay down to sleep.

For a while she said she watched him, until she thought he was asleep, then she took a sleeping pill herself. That was about 7:30 Friday morning.

She told Knight: "I woke up again at about 10:20 and I couldn't sleep anymore. I wanted some cigarettes, but as Jimi did not like me to go out without telling him, I looked to see if he was awake. He was sleeping normally.

"Just before I went out I looked at him again, and there was sick on his nose and mouth. He was breathing and his pulse was beating. I checked it with mine and there was no difference. I put my shoes on quickly, grabbed my coat and ran across the street as quickly as I could.

"When I returned and approached the door of the flat, I sensed something was wrong. The door stuck this time, as it sometimes did, and I became very frightened. Finally I managed to get the door open, and when I rushed into the bedroom, even before I looked at him, I knew something was terribly wrong. There was only a lamp burning in the room, because I had turned the ceiling light off after I thought Jimi had gone to sleep. The lamp cast this eerie glow. There was a hush in the room as though time had stood still."

"My first impulse was to try to awaken him. I shook him again and again, frantically. I felt his face. It was cold."

Ten days later, a coroner's inquest ruled the death was due to suffocation caused by the inhalation of vomit, following barbiturate (Quinalbarbitone) intoxication. Was it suicide? "Insufficient evidence of circumstances" led the coroner to leave the question unresolved and to file an "open verdict."


Part Two: The Lawyers

Both of Angela Davis' male trial attorneys were black, but where one was obviously so, the other, Leo Branton, was often thought to be white. By studying the way each prospective juror responded to questioning by the two lawyers, by watching for the slightest involuntary eye movements, the smallest hand gestures, the team of psychologists hired by the Davis defense was able to spot hidden racial prejudices.

Branton had represented show people, such as Nat "King" Cole and Dorothy Dandridge, for eight years before retiring in 1968 with his wife to Mexico City. They'd planned to move to Sweden "to try their style of socialism." Branton canceled his plans to help 13 members of the Black Panther party who'd been arrested in Los Angeles. He served them without charge until he was called to the Angela Davis case. By then, he'd also begun representing Jimi Hendrix's father and controlling the Hendrix estate.

Branton got involved in the case through Jimi's valet, Herbert Price, who had been Nat Cole's valet at one time. Price was in London when Hendrix died and he accompanied the body to Seattle, where he met Al Hendrix, a gentle, self-employed gardener who'd raised his son alone from age ten. The elder Hendrix informed Price that Michael Jeffrey had said there wouldn't be much of a legacy – all they'd been able to find was $21,000 in cash. Alarmed, Price urged the guitarist's father to meet Leo Branton. Branton, he said, could work miracles.

Branton listened to the father's story, then went to New York to meet with Jeffrey and the estate's legal administrator, Henry Steingarten, returning to California with fire in his eyes. How, Branton puzzled, could Steingarten represent the Hendrix estate properly when Jeffrey was being represented by Steingarten's partner, Steve Weiss?

Branton met again with Al Hendrix, who gave him permission to do whatever he thought best. Branton states he went straight to Steingarten and threatened to take him before the Bar Association, charging conflict of interest, unless he resigned as the estate's administrator. For whatever reason, Steingarten did resign. Branton, meanwhile, had engaged two young, black attorneys, Ed Howard and Kenny Hagood. The deal was: Hagood would be the administrator of the estate, Howard would be the attorney of record, and Branton would mastermind the strategy and argue the Hendrix cause in court.

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