I feel I should begin this essay with the statement that I try not to dwell too much on negative things, and also a reiteration that this part of C&S is meant to celebrate Jimi's life, rather than focusing on the unhappy circumstances which led to its ending. At the same time, however, I do have some things I would like to say on the subject, and which I hope will give other fans a bit more peace of mind than perhaps they've been able to find on their own.
So: I don't intend to dignify the media coverage of the matter by giving out links to any articles about it, especially since I'm sure you can find plenty of information yourself via your preferred search engine if you really wish to. In essence, though--and as greatly as I dislike repeating the details--a coroner's report was published sometime in early November 2014 concerning the investigation into what had caused Jimi's passing. Officially it was ruled as accidental, but the report also brought to light that he had methamphetamine in his system at the time of death, and the drug was very likely what had induced the hemorrhagic stroke which actually did the poor guy in.
::The Webmistress pauses here to take and release one deep, calming breath::
The news media, of course, had an absolute field day with this bit of information, and did their collective best to trumpet it to the world in the worst possible light. Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I didn't actually see most of the headlines myself, or read through any of the articles. I tend to actively avoid the news in general anyway--I don't believe that humans were meant to be burdened with detailed knowledge of all the horrible, tragic things that go on in the world every day, most of which any given individual is not really in a position to affect one way or the other. Moreover, my status as an empath only makes the energy of such things all the more immediate, even if they happened clear on the other side of the globe. So I honestly don't believe it benefits anyone for me to keep myself in a continual state of panic over a lot of stuff I have no control over, and thus I ended up hearing about this particular situation from a couple of friends rather than a TV program or internet site.
I also freely admit that my initial reaction was pretty much, WTF? That can't be right; either someone's made a real whopper of a mistake, or something seriously fishy is going on. As time passed and things had more of a chance to sink in, though... well, let's just say that a harsh truth is still a truth. And all the denial in the world won't make the truth go away, no matter how painful it may be. I still didn't do any reading of my own, just because I knew that exposing myself to the media feeding frenzy directly wasn't going to help anything; all it would have done was raise my blood pressure to no useful purpose. I asked my husband to look over precisely ONE article and relay the most salient details to me, just to make sure I had all my facts straight, but that was all.
Still, I'm not ashamed to say that I pretty much obsessed over the whole thing for several days afterward, struggling to make sense out of something that seemed completely senseless. The very idea of Jimi being on drugs was a total non-sequitur to me just in and of itself; it didn't jive with anything I'd ever read or heard about him, and it was definitely at odds with all of what I'd seen (and otherwise sensed) firsthand! He did not have the feel of someone who would ever try to escape his own problems by drugging them away, and I can report with great certainty that whenever I had the pleasure of seeing and speaking with him face-to-face, he was always clear-eyed and absolutely lucid.
The longer I thought about both the original report and what the media were trying to make it into, then, the less sense any of it actually made. Now, I want to make it clear that I'm not being completely naive here; even I will concede that it's quite possible Jimi might have tried drugs of one sort or another at some point in time. I suspect most rock musicians have at least one or two brushes with such things during the course of their careers, if only out of curiosity--but there's also a BIG difference between once-or-twice experimentation, especially in one's younger days, and long-term habitual use. In Jimi's case, the latter option just seems incredibly unlikely to me; after all, he'd spent his entire adult life, some 40+ years working in the music business, with the temptation of drugs of all kinds present on every side, and never had ANY kind of issue with substance abuse in all that time. (Well, unless you count cigarettes, but as far as THAT point goes, he grew up in an area and an era where EVERYBODY smoked.) Jimi did what he did because music was his great passion in life, and he took his career and his capability to continue recording and performing very seriously indeed; even someone like me, who had gleaned a significant chunk of her knowledge about him from interviews and the like, could figure THAT much out with scarcely any effort at all. And he was no dummy, either--I daresay he must have realized early on in life that he could derail himself in VERY short order by going down the road of addiction. He didn't even drink alcohol very much, for crying out loud; think about that story he used to tell about being drunk when he recorded "The Search Is Over," and how he'd managed to get into that state by splitting a single bottle of wine with the record producer!
If he had EVER had a serious problem with drugs of any kind, then, I think we would all have known about it a long, long time ago. You really can't keep that kind of thing quiet when you're as much of a public figure as he was, and what's more, I VERY much doubt that he either could or would have accomplished everything he did over the course of his life and career if he'd been some kind of secret junkie. Anyone who followed him even casually as a musician ought to know that he did a metric ton of charity work, and to be blunt, drug addicts don't tend to care about much beyond their next fix. They don't give selflessly of their time and talent to help out a bunch of sick kids, the way he was wont to do, or a fellow musician who happened to have fallen on hard times, or any of the many other worthwhile causes that Jimi supported pretty much all the time.
So, where did all that leave me? Right back at the same place I'd started out. The media couldn't possibly have it RIGHT, in my view--but then, they weren't precisely wrong, either. There was still this piece of pretty incontrovertible evidence in regard to what Jimi had actually died of, and how could I reconcile that with the bigger picture of the man I knew and loved? Well, believe it or not, I DID finally find the answer, or at least something that felt near enough to an answer as to make very little difference. In essence, we should all keep in mind that nothing ever happens in isolation--it has to be taken in context. And what gave me my first foothold toward true context in this case was another piece of information which had been included in the coroner's report.
Now, the media had more or less ignored this detail in favor of the sensationalistic stuff, but it hit a bit too close to home for me to do the same, even if I'd wanted to. Regardless of anything else, Jimi had a coronary artery which was 90% blocked. Let me stop and repeat that figure for you one more time: NINETY. PERCENT. Folks, my own father had an arterial blockage almost that bad (70%) when my husband and I were first married, back in the early 2000's, and I remember quite clearly how he couldn't even function for a while, he felt so horrible. He was in pain pretty much all the time, and too exhausted to do anything more active than sit around and watch TV, no matter how much he slept at night. Our family was very lucky in that he was able to get the blockage dealt with via angioplasty and a stent rather than bypass surgery, and also that he got treated BEFORE he had a heart attack, rather than after. But to learn that Jimi was in a similar plight, and with no indication that he'd sought treatment or had any real relief for his suffering in sight... well, that just broke my heart for him all over again. If he was in that much pain, and struggling even with simple day-to-day activities the way my dad did for a while (and I've heard quite a few things since then to suggest that this was indeed the case) and THEN to pile all the pressures of travel and performing on top of it... merciful Gods. Our poor, poor sweetie--I honestly have no idea how he managed to keep going even for as long as he did!
And once that idea occurred to me, then the rest of the pieces finally started falling into place. It's another harsh truth that everyone has their breaking point, and enough pain and misery can make even the most level-headed person do things they would never have considered under less desperate circumstances. And I could all too easily imagine Jimi being desperate enough, towards the end, to have tried just about ANYTHING that might have lent him the strength to carry on, and keep up with a lifestyle which would have been taxing even for someone quite a bit younger than he was, and who didn't have severe cardiovascular problems on top of it. In fact, once I had the basic concept, my writer's mind immediately started coming up with all sorts of FAR more plausible scenarios about what might have actually happened than anything the media was bruiting about--up to and including the idea that he might not even have known exactly what he was ingesting.
Now, perhaps you think that's just me grasping at straws, but when I was discussing the issue with a friend who also went to a lot of shows at about the same time that all the rest of this was going on, she related an incident she'd witnessed with her own eyes where Jimi was sick at a concert (he had a cold or bronchitis or somesuch). One of the crew had apparently handed him some kind of medicine and said, "Here, this will get you through the show," and Jimi just downed it without even asking what it was! And he HAD performed the night before he passed, at what I believe was a charity show to raise money for cancer research. I think we all know he was always adamant about not cancelling shows unless he absolutely couldn't avoid it, and again, I could very easily imagine a benefit concert being doubly compelling to him on that level, no matter how bad he was feeling in a physical sense. And goodness only knows, I thought then, but what one of the roadies or somebody slipped him the stuff and just told him, "This will give you a boost," and he took them at their word.
Now, obviously that last is pure speculation on my part, and I will be the very first to admit that I have no concrete proof of anything one way or the other. But either of those explanations--a true accident, or an act of desperation borne out of extreme circumstance--really did make a ton more sense to me than any of what the media was trying to claim. It fit not only what was in the coroner's report, but also everything I knew about Jimi as a person, and in the final reckoning, it didn't even make that much difference to me as to which scenario might in fact have been the case. His death was every bit as tragic either way--and every bit as forgivable. I mean, yes, obviously there was some poor judgment involved, regardless, and if you think it didn't rip me up inside to contemplate the idea that he might still be alive if matters had fallen out just a little bit differently, then trust me, you are VERY much mistaken. But at the same time, let's be honest, here: Who among us HASN'T made some questionable decisions every now and again in our lives, especially when we were sick or under some other kind of heavy stress? As I've pointed out many times before now, Jimi was as much a human being as anyone else, and humans just simply aren't perfect. Each and every one of us has our own set of flaws and fallibilities, biases and blind spots, and sometimes we make bad choices or do things that really aren't in our own best interest. And I just couldn't find it in my heart, then OR now, to judge Jimi too very harshly for a single mistake, no matter how spectacular--especially given that he ended up paying the ultimate price for it.
And as a bit of a footnote to the story, I came to the above conclusion in the evening, after several days of thinking REALLY hard about it. The next morning, I had to go out to run some errands, and I was still mulling the whole business over while I got dressed and had my breakfast and so forth, even though I'd more or less settled it in my own mind by then. I also tend to just automatically turn our satellite radio on whenever I get in the car to go somewhere, and I had XM set to the channel that's all 80's music that day, as usual. Well, just as I was backing out of our driveway, "Human" by the Human League came on. If you don't happen to be familiar with that song, the video is available on YouTube, here. For my own part, though, I very definitely knew it--it's been a favorite of mine for years, and I could probably sing the entire thing cold (if I could sing at all, that is). And I have to say, it was a damn good thing no one else was driving along our street just then, because my eyes filled with tears as soon as I heard the opening notes, and I had to pause for several very long breaths before I could put the car back in gear and carry on with what I was doing. After everything I'd been thinking and all the different verdicts I'd only just arrived at in regard to it, to hear that particular song in that particular moment absolutely socked me right in the heart and gut. I mean, to be asked, first, and in so many words, Won't you please forgive me? and then told, I'm only human, of flesh and blood I'm made / Human, born to make mistakes... Gods above and below. I actually HAD pretty much forgiven him for whatever had gone on already, but that incident was more than enough to put a firm and final seal on the deal. Indeed, just after the first chorus, I remember looking up into the sky and whispering aloud, "I know, sweetie--I know."
Now, WAS that song actually a message from Da Man himself, wherever he is now? Well, to me it seemed like more than just a random coincidence, and it wouldn't be the first time something like that has happened, either. But in the end, yet again, I can offer no proof. All I really know is how it made me feel in my heart--and believe me, to a clairsentient, feeling is everything! The experience brought me a great deal of comfort at a time when I was sorely in need of some, and I very much hope that my relating the tale has passed on a little of that energetic gift in some way. In the end, though, that's my perspective and mine alone, and all of you out there reading will just have to decide for yourselves what you think the answer is.