Lithofayne Pridgon, Jimi Hendrix’s extended-time period girlfriend and the probably inspiration for one particular of his most preferred and enduring songs, “Foxy Lady,” used most of her daily life in a hallowed orbit of music stars.
A muse, confidant and permanently a cost-free spirit by means of the 1950s and ‘60s songs scene, Pridgon’s life intersected once more and once again with the careers of Sam Cooke, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Etta James and — of program — Hendrix, whom she to start with related with when the shortly-to-be-insanely-popular guitarist was angling for a gig with Cooke.
Each mysterious and omnipresent in an era of huge musical modify, Pridgon died at her residence in Las Vegas on April 22 at age 80. Her dying was mostly forgotten and her loved ones made no general public announcement.
Bootsy Collins, the former Parliament-Funkadelic musician, described Pridgon as the “Queen of the Chitlin Circuit” on social media. “She assisted improve my life & tons of other folks,” he wrote.
In 1955, at age 15, Pridgon met rambunctious, increasing R&B star Little Willie John backstage at the Riverside Ballroom in Springfield, Mass. A yr later, John, who would come to be her very first lover, took her to New York and introduced her to Cooke at a occasion in Harlem’s Cecil Resort. In excess of the following couple of yrs, she would meet up with a host of foreseeable future music stars, Marvin Gaye, however of the Moonglows, Brown, then of the Renowned Flames, and Wilson, shortly following he joined Billy Ward and the Dominoes.
“She was nobody’s concubine,” reported musician and cultural critic Greg Tate, creator of “Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Expertise,” who initially turned knowledgeable of Pridgon by means of her charming overall look in the 1973 documentary “Jimi Hendrix.”
“This is any individual who was as substantially of a celebrity as any of the males she dated, as a Black female in the earth, and at that time in the entire world,” he stated.
In the Harlem of the ‘50s and ‘60s, the place a porous border existed among the music globe and the underworld, Pridgon, streetwise and possessed of an enviable survival intuition, held her have. Via Willie John, she achieved James, clean off her very first hit, “The Wallflower,” who would become a lifelong close friend and confidant. In 1961, when James was roughed-up by a terrible-boy paramour, Pridgon connected her with a different acquaintance, infamous Harlem mobster “Red” Dillard, for security.
In the early ‘60s, Pridgon toured as a backup singer with Bobby Blue Bland’s the Blandolls hired a lot more, she felt, for her skill to glance and move the element, somewhat than what she referred to as “my one particular octave singing selection.” Everyday living on the Chitlin Circuit through the civil rights period could be perilous. During one cease in Georgia, the musicians have been mistaken for independence riders and their tour bus was pelted with bottles and rocks.
In later on yrs, holding court on the phone from her dwelling in Las Vegas, Pridgon was a gifted and entertaining raconteur. Blessed with an eidetic memory and a mordant (and, oft-periods, self-deprecating) wit, she could recall folks, spots, occasions and even discussions from over half a century ago. An inveterate fact-teller, her roving recollections advised from an insider’s standpoint, which she also fully commited to paper as portion of a extensive-gestating but hardly ever-posted memoir, constituted an totally one of a kind personalized chronicle of submit-Entire world War II Black American culture.
An only little one from a large extended family members, Lithofayne Pridgon (also regarded as Faye or Fayne Pridgon) was born in 1940 in Moultrie, Ga., and largely elevated in a segment of the metropolis regarded as “Dirty Spoon,” an alley with a dip at the end, wedged involving the railroad, a cemetery and two highways.
She was intoxicated by the comings and goings in Dirty Spoon: a environment of free ladies and womanizing men, moonshine, juke joints, and the blues. Just after hearing John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillen” as a baby on a crank-cope with Victrola, she grew to become enamored with the blues, in particular by Muddy Waters, Hooker and Elmore James — “lowdown, back again alley, sho’nuff, stomp down, dirty blues,” as Pridgon termed it.
Author and historian Peter Guralnick, who interviewed Pridgon thoroughly for his 2005 Sam Cooke biography, “Dream Boogie,” reported she was “a keen and insightful observer of the human comedy, lively with enthusiasm for the environment that she so exuberantly inhabited” and was also “unabashed and unapologetic in recounting her activities.”
A circumstance in issue, a story she by no means drained of telling: the instances of her preliminary assembly with Hendrix at a 1962 orgy held in the Harlem condominium of her good friend and patron “Fat Jack” Taylor, a area drug kingpin, restaurateur and aspiring songs mogul. Her attraction to Hendrix, then a 19-12 months-old budding musician two yrs her junior and newly discharged from armed service assistance, was rapid. “He was skinny, he was raw-boned, he was my type,” she explained.
A calendar year later on, they fulfilled yet again by probability at the Apollo Theater, in which Pridgon was this kind of a fixture she was acknowledged as “Apollo Faye.” Hendrix was angling for a gig as a sideman with Cooke. Pridgon, then Cooke’s lover, aided make an introduction. From that time on, she and Hendrix were “inseparable.”
They lived alongside one another, wrote music and designed the rounds of Harlem nightspots, like the Palm Cafe and Smalls’ Paradise, Hendrix carrying an “old raggedy guitar case” with him in all places, hoping to sit in and catch a crack. But, as enamored as she was of him, she wasn’t inclined to modify her life style. “I preferred to proceed looking at Jackie and Sam and Willie.” That didn’t clean with Hendrix, who was younger and “insanely jealous.”
Among her most cherished belongings was a collection of handwritten letters and notes Hendrix wrote to her, in florid script, that contain poetic but pained expressions of both of those his intensive devotion to her and huge irritation that she would not commit to him exclusively. The similar sentiment drives “Foxy Woman.” (The song’s title alludes to a kitten he gave Pridgon, and afterwards a poodle, the two named “Foxy.”)
Pridgon’s have music, rooted in the blues and brimming with mindset and sardonic humor, with titles like “Low Down Alley Lady,” rankled Hendrix in their celebration of her absolutely free-living, free of charge-loving ways, but received her a deal with Atlantic Records from the label’s founder, Ahmet Ertegun, who signed her himself in 1972, developing sessions for an unreleased album in Muscle Shoals, with guitarist Shuggie Otis.
“She was undoubtedly a Jimi cheerleader,“ said Collins, who recalled Pridgon making an attempt to broker a assembly for him and his brother, Catfish Collins, with Hendrix, angling to again him in a new group pursuing the launch of “Band of Gypsys,” Hendrix’s reside album with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles.
The night Hendrix died in London, Pridgon was recording in the guitarist’s freshly opened Electric Woman studio in Greenwich Village. She gave minor credence to conspiracy theories that even now swirl all over Hendrix’s loss of life at age 27 — a coroner identified he choked to dying on his own vomit — largely due to the fact she was privy to details about him that could only arrive from an personal.
Hendrix, she mentioned, experienced from a rest apnea. “I made use of to have to wake him up, and make him transform over on his aspect in his snooze, for the reason that he was choking.” This was anything, she famous, that German determine skater Monika Dannemann, with whom Hendrix put in his fateful night time, was very likely unaware.
Among Hendrix fans, significantly fellow musicians, Pridgon obtained an practically talismanic quality as the muse who nurtured and encouraged him from bold sideman to revolutionary artist. She was courted by Sly Stone, who brought her to Los Angeles in 1971, ostensibly to make her new music, and lived in his Bel-Air mansion. There, she hooked up with another good guitarist and Hendrix acolyte, Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic, who was so enamored of Pridgon he wrote her a appreciate note in his personal blood.
“She just had a presence, a sure electricity that would come more than you,” says Collins. “She was an incredible individual, one of a variety.”
Pridgon is survived by two daughters, Vyki Z. Walls and Litho Fayne Ramsey a son, Quinn Pridgon two granddaughters, Kharisma and Fantasi Pridgon and a great-grandson.
Campion is a Situations particular correspondent.
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