Guitar Aficionado

Jimi Hendrix’s Death as Reported on ABC TV 46 Years Ago This Week

Time has been much kinder to his memory than the network's news report was.

PHOTO: Michael Ochs Archives | Getty Images

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By Christopher Scapelliti

The video below shows how one TV network reported Jimi Hendrix’s death on September 18, 1970, at the age of 27.

The grainy and noisy clip features ABC anchor Frank Reynolds announcing Hendrix’s death on national TV. What’s particularly jarring is the condescending tone of the report. Reporter Gregory Jackson says nothing about Hendrix’s guitar talent, focusing instead on his “onstage gyrations [that] could make Elvis Presley look like a P.E. teacher.”

Jackson also implies that Hendrix could have had it all but threw it away.

“He should have been a millionaire,” the reporter intones. “It’s not known whether he saved his money, but it is known that, today, Jimi Hendrix is dead.”

Hendrix’s image certainly isn’t helped by the lousy performance footage. In 1969, he had appeared on The Dick Cavett Show, an ABC program, so the network certainly had some excellent footage available, but it clearly lacked a purpose to present Hendrix in a positive light to an audience of adults with no interest in rock and roll. There’s an obvious distaste for the subject matter. Hendrix’s death isn’t so much reported as it is presented as proof of rock’s debilitating effect on youth culture.

Fortunately, time has proved kinder to Hendrix’s image and talents, and today he’s celebrated throughout the world for both his innovative artistry and profound impact as a musician and guitarist.