He can’t play the guitar or any other instrument, he only sings to himself, and he says he’s no big fan of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Can this really be Jimi Hendrix’s son? “Ja,” answers Jimi Hendrix Jr., an unemployed 24-year-old Swede who shares the legendary guitarist’s African Cherokee looks. Armed with a paternity judgment affirmed by Swedish courts, Hendrix Jr. is seeking to inherit Hendrix’s scattered and bitterly contested estate, estimated to be worth at least $30 million – but possibly more than double that amount.
U.S. courts have recognized no heirs except Hendrix’s father, Al Hendrix, a retired Seattle gardener. When Jimi died from a sleeping-pill overdose in 1970, Al inherited both mastered and unmastered tapes, song copyrights and the rights to his superstar son’s image. In a lawsuit filed in March in California, Hendrix Jr. claims that Al, along with various lawyers and corporations, “maliciously” and “fraudulently” concealed the Swede’s status as the “exclusive” and “rightful heir.” Responds Al’s attorney, Yale Lewis: “[Al] Hendrix did not participate in a conspiracy to defraud anyone.” Lewis also says Hendrix Jr.’s claims – first filed in the mid-’70s in Sweden – are being brought too late.
Hendrix Jr. was born James Henrik Daniel Sundquist in October 1969 nine months after his mother, Eva, hooked up with Hendrix in Stockholm, Sweden, and “had two complete intercourses,” as the Swedish judges put it. (Hendrix first met Eva in 1968 and dedicated some performances to her, but apparently he never saw the child.)
Hendrix Jr.’s case thickens the legal haze surrounding Hendrix’s artistic corpus. In 1974, Al began signing away rights to his son’s musical legacy in a series of agreements with international corporations. In return, Al received a $50,000 annual stipend. But last year, the alder Hendrix filed a federal lawsuit alleging he was swindled. Al Hendrix and Hendrix Jr. are, in fact, suing some of the same defendants: estate lawyers and holding companies that handle Jimi Hendrix rights and royalties.
“I’m not angry with Al,” explains Hendrix Jr., who says he met his American grandfather on a visit to Seattle with his more when he was 7 years old. “I just feel I’ve been treated unfairly. I want people to know that I am not a fake.” Hendrix Jr. was legally declared to be Hendrix’s son in 1975, even though no sample of the purported father’s blood was available. Today’s DNA-matching methods could decisively prove paternity but would require the exhumation of Hendrix’s body. “It’s a horrible thought,” says Hendrix Jr., “but if it’s the only way to find out what’s right or what’s wrong, then it can’t be avoided.”
This story is from the May 19th, 1994 issue of Rolling Stone.