The musician Jimi Hendrix died 40 years ago this Saturday. He was 27 years old. Commentator John Ridley has this remembrance, and the story behind one Hendrix tune.

JOHN RIDLEY: January 16th, 1970. The greatest rock guitarist to ever play the instrument, Jimi Hendrix, has eight months and two days to live. He spends part of the day at New York City's Record Plant, laying down some tracks.

(Soundbite of music)

RIDLEY: And after a few busted takes...

Unidentified Voice: On five.

RIDLEY: ...Jimi launches into one of the most amazing instrumentals that few people have ever heard.

(Soundbite of song, "Sending My Love to Linda")

RIDLEY: Hendrix called the piece "Sending My Love to Linda."

(Soundbite of song, "Sending My Love to Linda")

RIDLEY: The first time I heard this rarity, I was blown away. It felt to me like this artist, who has always owned an amazing ability to express himself through his music, was truly working through something.

(Soundbite of song, "Sending My Love to Linda")

RIDLEY: Despite being a Hendrix fan, I had to go back and find out more about who this Linda was. What I found out goes something like this: One night in May of 1966, a beautiful girl walks into a bar - really. The bar was the Cheetah Club in NYC. The beautiful girl was Linda Keith. It's the beginning of one of the most amazingly undertold stories in rock history, a story Linda - who rarely speaks about her Hendrix connection - agreed to recount to me over the phone.

Back then, Linda was just 20 years old, a model and the girlfriend of Rolling Stone Keith Richards. She went to the Cheetah Club with some friends, and caught a band that she recalls as being fairly mediocre - except for a backup guitarist who played his right-handed guitar left-handed, upside down and strung backwards.

Linda invited the guitarist - who at that time, was performing under the name Jimmy James - for a drink. And the two struck up an instant friendship over their mutual love of the blues.

From there, I don't think it's an overstatement to say that Linda made it something of a mission to introduce the world to the man whose real name was Jimi Hendrix. Despite his own concerns about his voice, she encouraged him to sing. And maybe most significantly, Linda played Jimi a promotional copy of a record just cut by singer Tim Rose.

(Soundbite of song, "Hey Joe")

Mr. TIM ROSE (Singer, Songwriter): Hey, Joe. Where you going with that gun in your hand?

RIDLEY: Though rebuffed by the first few music managers and label reps she brought 'round to see him, Linda eventually convinced Chas Chandler - bassist with the group The Animals - to come listen to Jimi. Chas agreed, and the guitarist played a cover of the Tim Rose song - one Hendrix later made very much his own.

(Soundbite of song, "Hey Joe")

Mr. HENDRIX: Hey, Joe. Where you going with that gun in your hand? Hey, Joe. I said, where you going with that gun in your hand?

RIDLEY: These 40-some years later, I asked Linda why she didn't care to talk more about her time with Hendrix. She told me that it was because the press generally turned these interviews into something that wasn't quite accurate. They were more interested in the cliches of sex, drugs, and rock and roll than the man himself.

The Hendrix she remembers was a prodigious worker who was rarely without his guitar. Just listen, and you'll hear, she told me he would say. No truer words. Just listen and you'll hear Jimi's enduring gratitude for Linda.

(Soundbite of music)

WERTHEIMER: John Ridley is a screenwriter and editor of

You are listening to MORNING EDITION, from NPR News.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.