Mick Jagger on Why Jimi Hendrix Went ‘Off the Deep End’

Sadly, Jimi Hendrix died young from a drug overdose — and Mick Jagger has a theory as to why Hendrix went “off the deep end.” Jagger had a strong reaction to Hendrix when he first saw him perform. In addition, Keith Richards had an interesting take on Hendrix’s musical legacy — and why he almost ruined the guitar.

A signed picture of Jimi Hendrix smiling
A signed photo of Jimi Hendrix | Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images

Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix, and ‘the same old story’

First, a little background. Hendrix was a legendary guitarist who, during his lifetime, was most known for his hit “Purple Haze.” Hendrix died in 1970, becoming a quintessential member of the so-called “27 Club” of musicians who died at the age of 27.

When Jagger saw Hendrix perform for the first time, it was “exciting, sexy, [and] interesting.” While Jagger wasn’t a fan of Hendrix as a vocalist, he thought he was a great guitarist. Jagger appreciated the fusion of blues music and English rock music in Hendrix’s oeuvre. 

But what did Jagger think of Hendrix as a person? “He was a really sweet guy,” Jagger told Rolling Stone. “A bit confused. It’s the same old story: Jimi Hendrix played all over the place with all these bands. He’d been a background guitar player for donkey years. 

“Purple Haze”

“And suddenly he gets what he wants, then has to play ‘Purple Haze’ every night,” Jagger continued. “He goes, ‘Uh, I don’t want to play “Purple Haze” every night. I don’t want to burn the guitar.’ And then when everyone went off the deep end, he had to go off the deep end. He became a heroin addict.” In other words, Jagger said Hendrix succumbed to his personal demons because he got sick of his job.

Why did Jimi Hendrix die?

Hendrix sadly did go “off the deep end,” culminating in his untimely death. However, did heroin play a role in Hendrix’s death? According to Rolling Stone, the coroner’s report states Hendrix died because he inhaled his own vomit after he got high on barbiturates. 

In contrast, Ultimate Classic Rock reports Hendrix’s friend, Meic Stevens, says red wine played a major role in his death. Specifically, Stevens recalls Hendrix mixing red wine with lager the night he died. According to Stevens, Hendrix never drank red wine before and didn’t know how to drink it properly. Neither of these explanations for Hendrix’s death involve heroin.

Jimi Hendrix holding his guitar above his head
Jimi Hendrix | Peter Timm\ullstein bild via Getty Images

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Keith Richards on how Jimi Hendrix almost ‘ruined’ the guitar

Like his fellow Rolling Stone Jagger, Keith Richards had quite a bit to say about Hendrix. While Jagger focused on Hendrix’s personal demons in the aforementioned Rolling Stone interview, Richards focused on Hendrix’s musical prowess. Interestingly, Richards felt Hendrix almost “ruined” the guitar as an instrument — in a good way.

“Jimi Hendrix, bless his heart … almost inadvertently ruined [the] guitar,” Richards told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “Because he was the only cat who could do it like that. Everybody else just screwed it up, and thought wailing away [on the guitar] is the answer. But it ain’t; you’ve got to be a Jimi to do that, you’ve got to be one of the special cats.”