Jimi Hendrix? Bob Dawbarn? Chris Welch? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: Guitar legend Jimi Hendrix died tragically when he was only 27 years old. Shortly before his death he supposedly said this:
It’s funny how most people love the dead. Once you’re dead, you’re made for life.
Was this quote created by mythmakers, or did Hendrix really say it?
Quote Investigator: Hendrix passed away in September 1970, and eighteen months before this event the influential United Kingdom music weekly “Melody Maker” published a three part series about the musician. An extended interview conducted by journalist Bob Dawbarn was split across issues. The third part of the series appeared on March 8, 1969 and included the following remarks from Hendrix. Bold face has been added to highlight the key sentences. The phrasing differed slightly from the version given by the questioner [JHBD]:
The thing is you have to be positive. You have to keep going until you have all the negatives out of your system.
It’s funny the way most people love the dead. Once you are dead you are made for life. You have to die before they think you are worth anything.
I tell you, when I die I’m not going to have a funeral, I’m going to have a jam session. And, knowing me, I’ll probably get busted at my own funeral.
I shall have them playing everything I did musically – everything I enjoyed doing most. The music will be played loud and it will be our music.
After discussing the songs and the artists he envisioned at his own funeral Hendrix ended with this statement:
For that, it’s almost worth dying, just for the funeral.
Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.
In 1973 Chris Welch, another journalist at “Melody Maker”, released a biography of Hendrix with the publisher Flash Books. The quotation was included [JHCW]:
In March 1969 Jimi gave an interview in which he remarked on the pressures of the music business: ‘That’s the trouble with this business. People see a fast buck and have you up there being a slave to the public. …
Then Jimi stated: ‘It’s funny the way most people love the dead. Once you are dead you are made for life. You have to die before they think you are worth anything.
In 1988 the quote was featured in a syndicated series “Today in History” from United Press International [JHST]:
A thought for the day: Guitar virtuoso Jimi Hendrix once observed, “It’s funny the way most people love the dead. Once you are dead, you are made for life.”
In conclusion, the quotation appears to be authentic. The accuracy is dependent on the music journalist Bob Dawbarn. Some instances currently in circulation have slightly altered wording.
[JHBD] 1969 March 8, Melody Maker, Third Dimension: Hendrix the Man, [Interview of Jimi Hendrix by Bob Dawbarn], Start Page 12, Quote Page 13, IPC Specialist & Professional Press, London, United Kingdom. (Verified with scans via Interlibrary Loan; Great thanks to my local librarians for handling multiple requests. Massive thanks to Hendrix specialists: Rupe, Purple Jim, and J. Lucas)
[JHCW] 1973, Hendrix: A Biography by Chris Welch, Page 32, Column 1, Flash Books, New York. (Verified on paper)
[JHST] 1988 November 27, Sunday Times-Sentinel, Today in History, [United Press International], Page A-2, Column 3, Pomeroy, Ohio. (Google News Archive)