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Kathy Etchingham, best known for being Jimi Hendrix’s first English girlfriend during the 1960s, played a significant role in the legendary guitarist’s life and career. While she was undoubtedly his muse and confidante, her influence extended far beyond their romantic involvement.

This article explores Kathy Etchingham’s role in Jimi Hendrix’s life, exploring her unique perspective on his rise to stardom, the ups and downs of his career, and the intimate details of their relationship. As a central figure in Hendrix’s world, Etchingham offers invaluable insights into the man behind the music, providing a deeper understanding of the legend himself.


Who Is Kathy Etchingham?

Kathleen Mary Etchingham was born on June 18, 1946, in Derby, Derbyshire, England, and was Jimi Hendrix’s girlfriend between 1966 and 1969, when Jimi Hendrix was one of the greatest rock artists in the world. Kathy is also known for being an English writer recognized for her involvement in the Swinging London music scene of the 1960s.

Kathy Etchingham’s life took an early turn when her Irish father, Charles Etchingham, was left to raise her alone after her mother abandoned the family when Kathy was 10. Sent to a convent boarding school in Skerries, Dublin, Kathy was later brought back to England by her mother, eventually finding her way to London.

In London, Etchingham’s career expanded beyond hairdressing. As a DJ, she became immersed in the burgeoning music scene, rubbing shoulders with soon-to-be legends like The Animals, The Who, The Kinks, The Moody Blues, and The Move. These very bands, spearheading the British Invasion, would soon take America by storm in the mid-1960s.


Jimi Hendrix and Kathy Etchingham’s Relationship

In 1966, 20-year-old Kathy Etchingham met 24-year-old Jimi Hendrix at The Scotch of St. James nightclub on his first night in London. Fresh from New York and having endured the grueling “chitlin circuit” for five years, Jimi Hendrix was on the verge of superstardom.

In an interview with BBC, Kathy recalls, “There were stairs winding down to the basement, and everybody was leaning over the banisters to listen to this guy sitting in the corner of the club playing…They were enthralled.

As Jimi Hendrix’s set ended, his manager, Chas Chandler, introduced him to Kathy Etchingham. An instant connection was made between the two former runaways with shared experiences and aspirations. Their similar backgrounds fostered deep late-night conversations, where Hendrix confided in Etchingham how his father, Al Hendrix, used to beat him “senseless” for trying to learn the guitar by putting string on a broom. Etchingham shared her childhood struggles, too, revealing her alcoholic father and the pain of growing up without the companion of a mother.

Their bond deepened quickly, and by December 1966, they were living together in Ringo Starr’s former flat, sharing the space with Chas Chandler and his girlfriend. This arrangement was short-lived, however, as Hendrix and Etchingham soon moved to 23 Brook Street, immersing themselves in the heart of London’s vibrant music scene.


Why Did Jimi Hendrix and Kathy Etchingham Break Up?

As drink and drugs began to take hold, Kathy Etchingham observed a change in Jimi Hendrix’s once-sweet nature. Jimi became volatile and aggressive towards others, even resorting to destructive behavior in hotel rooms. After three years together—the longest and most stable relationship of Hendrix’s life—Etchingham realized she had to move on, leading to a break-up with Jimi Hendrix in 1969.

Jimi Hendrix had numerous girlfriends throughout his life. While women like Devon Wilson, Carmen Borrero, Faye Pridgon, Kristen Nefer, and Monika Dannemann played significant roles, Kathy Etchingham is often considered his most significant love. Their separation and her subsequent marriage in 1970 left him deeply heartbroken.

Upon hearing the news of Kathy Etchingham’s recent marriage, Jimi Hendrix calls her in London to confirm the truth. “I hadn’t heard from Jimi for a while and apparently he was having problems,” Etchingham recounted in her memoir, “Through Gypsy Eyes,” (Victor Gallancz, 1998). “He had a disastrous gig at Madison Square Gardens and walked off-stage. Around this time someone must have told him about me getting married to Ray. [Jimi] rang to find out if it was true.”

Jimi Hendrix tragically died after choking on his vomit on September 18th, 1970. Initially, Kathy felt guilty for not visiting him, but now recognizes that it likely wouldn’t have changed the outcome. She emphasizes that she wants Hendrix to be remembered not solely as a guitar hero but also as a “really lovely person – a natural, normal human being.


The Impact of Kathy Etchingham on Jimi Hendrix Music

YouTube player
Jimi Hendrix – The Wind Cries Mary- TV Appearance, Stockholm 1967. Colourized.

In an interview, Jimi Hendrix revealed: “Kathy is my past girlfriend, my present girlfriend and probably my future girlfriend; my mother, my sister and all that bit. My Yoko Ono.

Kathy Etchingham served as a muse for many of Jimi Hendrix’s compositions. These include “The Wind Cries Mary,” written after a disagreement, and “Foxy Lady,” where Hendrix famously pointed her out during an early performance. She is believed to be the inspiration for Katherina in “1983… (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)” and initially for “Send My Love to Kathy,” later changed to “Send My Love to Linda” and now associated with Linda Keith.


Kathy Etchingham’s Book About Jimi Hendrix: “Through Gypsy Eyes”

“Through Gypsy Eyes: My Life with Jimi Hendrix” offers an intimate and unparalleled glimpse into the world of Jimi Hendrix, told through the eyes of Kathy Etchingham during his rise to fame. Published in 1998, this captivating memoir provides a unique perspective on Hendrix’s personality, struggles, and triumphs, painting a portrait of a complex and multifaceted artist.

Considered one of the most insightful biographies about Jimi Hendrix, Etchingham arguably holds the most intimate knowledge of Jimi Hendrix. After all, they were together for three years. Etchingham’s firsthand account takes readers beyond the stage and into the heart of the swinging sixties, revealing the darker side of fame and the challenges Hendrix faces in a cutthroat industry. With rare behind-the-scenes access, readers witness firsthand encounters with music legends like John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Keith Moon, Brian Jones, and Eric Clapton.

This intimate portrait reveals Jimi’s vulnerabilities, humor, and deep love for music. Etchingham also dispels the rumors surrounding Hendrix’s tragic death, providing a clear-eyed account of his final hours (very different from the one told by Monika Dannemann). “Through Gypsy Eyes” is an essential read for any fan of Jimi Hendrix.

I want him to be remembered for what he was – not this tragic figure he has been turned into by nit-pickers and people who used to stalk us and collect photographs and “evidence” of what we were doing on a certain day. He could be grumpy, and he could be terrible in the studio, getting exactly what he wanted – but he was fun, he was charming. I want people to remember the man I knew.


Kathy Etchingham About “Jimi: All Is by My Side”

“Jimi: All Is by My Side,” written and directed by John Ridley and released in 2013, is a drama based on Jimi Hendrix’s life as he left New York City for London, where his career took off in late 66. The film tells the story of Hendrix’s career beginnings, from his arrival in London to the creation of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and the beginning of his fame before his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival the following year. 

In 2014, Etchingham criticised the biographical film which described the film depiction of her life with Hendrix as “absolute nonsense“. Kathy Etchingham, who appears as a central character, also added the film’s depiction of Hendrix as violent towards her is “completely made up.

In a Sydney Morning Herald interview, she characterized the film as “completely unethical” and threatened legal action to prevent its release, “If it’s that bad, I’ve got no choice,” she said. “If I don’t [take legal action], it’ll just get repeated and repeated, and it’ll become the truth.”

“Jimi: All Is By My Side” received mixed reviews overall, but André Benjamin’s remarkable performance as Jimi Hendrix, capturing the musician’s essence during a pivotal period in his life, is a standout element. However, the absence of Hendrix’s iconic music due to copyright issues is a significant drawback, leaving the film lacking the emotional impact the original soundtrack would provide.


FAQS

Is Kathy Etchingham Related to Julie Etchingham?

Kathy Etchingham and Julie Etchingham are cousins. Julie is a well-known British newsreader and journalist.

Is Kathy Etchingham Still Alive?

Kathy Etchingham is alive and will turn 78 on June 18, 2024.

What Happened to Kathy Etchingham after Jimi Hendrix’s Death?

After Jimi Hendrix’s death, Kathy Etchingham’s first marriage broke up. She has been with her second husband, a doctor, for over 35 years. They have two sons and, until recently, lived in Surrey. She has largely remained private about her life with Hendrix but has occasionally spoken about their relationship in interviews and documentaries.

In 1997, she was instrumental in placing an English Heritage blue plaque on Jimi Hendrix’s home wall at 23 Brook Street, Mayfair.

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