Lithofayne Pridgon, Jimi Hendrix’s long-time period girlfriend and the very likely inspiration for just one of his most well-known and enduring tracks, “Foxy Woman,” spent most of her existence in a hallowed orbit of new music stars.
A muse, confidant and forever a free of charge spirit by means of the 1950s and ‘60s songs scene, Pridgon’s lifetime intersected once again and yet again with the professions of Sam Cooke, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Etta James and — of course — Hendrix, whom she to start with connected with when the quickly-to-be-insanely-well known guitarist was angling for a gig with Cooke.
Both of those mysterious and omnipresent in an period of great musical improve, Pridgon died at her dwelling in Las Vegas on April 22 at age 80. Her dying was mainly forgotten and her family produced no general public announcement.
Bootsy Collins, the former Parliament-Funkadelic musician, explained Pridgon as the “Queen of the Chitlin Circuit” on social media. “She aided alter my daily life & tons of others,” he wrote.
In 1955, at age 15, Pridgon achieved rambunctious, increasing R&B star Tiny Willie John backstage at the Riverside Ballroom in Springfield, Mass. A calendar year later, John, who would turn into her initial lover, took her to New York and launched her to Cooke at a bash in Harlem’s Cecil Hotel. Over the up coming handful of several years, she would satisfy a host of foreseeable future tunes stars, Marvin Gaye, even now of the Moonglows, Brown, then of the Popular Flames, and Wilson, soon just after he joined Billy Ward and the Dominoes.
“She was nobody’s concubine,” claimed musician and cultural critic Greg Tate, author of “Midnight Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Knowledge,” who initial turned informed of Pridgon as a result of her captivating physical appearance in the 1973 documentary “Jimi Hendrix.”
“This is someone who was as a great deal of a celebrity as any of the gentlemen she dated, as a Black girl in the earth, and at that time in the planet,” he stated.
In the Harlem of the ‘50s and ‘60s, where by a porous border existed among the tunes globe and the underworld, Pridgon, streetwise and possessed of an enviable survival intuition, held her individual. By Willie John, she satisfied James, clean off her very first strike, “The Wallflower,” who would turn out to be a lifelong close friend and confidant. In 1961, when James was roughed-up by a lousy-boy paramour, Pridgon connected her with one more 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 employed far more, she felt, for her skill to glance and shift the aspect, fairly than what she referred to as “my one particular octave singing variety.” Life on the Chitlin Circuit in the course of the civil legal rights era could be perilous. In the course of one cease in Ga, the musicians had been mistaken for liberty riders and their tour bus was pelted with bottles and rocks.
In later a long time, keeping court docket on the cellular phone from her residence in Las Vegas, Pridgon was a gifted and entertaining raconteur. Blessed with an eidetic memory and a mordant (and, oft-moments, self-deprecating) wit, she could remember persons, areas, occasions and even conversations from in excess of 50 % a century ago. An inveterate reality-teller, her roving recollections instructed from an insider’s perspective, which she also fully commited to paper as aspect of a very long-gestating but never ever-published memoir, constituted an totally special personal chronicle of submit-Planet War II Black American society.
An only boy or girl from a substantial prolonged family members, Lithofayne Pridgon (also recognised as Faye or Fayne Pridgon) was born in 1940 in Moultrie, Ga., and largely raised in a part of the town known as “Dirty Spoon,” an alley with a dip at the finish, wedged among the railroad, a cemetery and two highways.
She was intoxicated by the comings and goings in Filthy Spoon: a world of loose girls and womanizing guys, moonshine, juke joints, and the blues. Immediately after listening to John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillen” as a youngster on a crank-take care of Victrola, she grew to become enamored with the blues, particularly by Muddy Waters, Hooker and Elmore James — “lowdown, back again alley, sho’nuff, stomp down, filthy blues,” as Pridgon termed it.
Author and historian Peter Guralnick, who interviewed Pridgon thoroughly for his 2005 Sam Cooke biography, “Dream Boogie,” stated she was “a keen and insightful observer of the human comedy, vivid with enthusiasm for the environment that she so exuberantly inhabited” and was also “unabashed and unapologetic in recounting her activities.”
A circumstance in point, a story she never tired of telling: the conditions of her preliminary conference with Hendrix at a 1962 orgy held in the Harlem condominium of her pal and patron “Fat Jack” Taylor, a area drug kingpin, restaurateur and aspiring audio mogul. Her attraction to Hendrix, then a 19-yr-outdated budding musician two many years her junior and recently discharged from armed forces support, was quick. “He was skinny, he was uncooked-boned, he was my sort,” she explained.
A calendar year afterwards, they fulfilled again by likelihood at the Apollo Theater, where by Pridgon was these kinds of a fixture she was regarded as “Apollo Faye.” Hendrix was angling for a gig as a sideman with Cooke. Pridgon, then Cooke’s lover, helped make an introduction. From that time on, she and Hendrix have been “inseparable.”
They lived with each other, wrote tracks and manufactured 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 capture a break. But, as enamored as she was of him, she wasn’t prepared to improve her way of living. “I needed to keep on viewing Jackie and Sam and Willie.” That didn’t wash with Hendrix, who was younger and “insanely jealous.”
Amid her most cherished belongings was a collection of handwritten letters and notes Hendrix wrote to her, in florid script, that comprise poetic but pained expressions of the two his intense devotion to her and huge irritation that she wouldn’t dedicate to him only. The identical sentiment drives “Foxy Girl.” (The song’s title alludes to a kitten he gave Pridgon, and later a poodle, both named “Foxy.”)
Pridgon’s personal songs, rooted in the blues and brimming with perspective and sardonic humor, with titles like “Low Down Alley Lady,” rankled Hendrix in their celebration of her free of charge-dwelling, no cost-loving approaches, but won her a deal with Atlantic Data from the label’s founder, Ahmet Ertegun, who signed her himself in 1972, generating sessions for an unreleased album in Muscle Shoals, with guitarist Shuggie Otis.
“She was surely a Jimi cheerleader,“ stated Collins, who recalled Pridgon attempting to broker a assembly for him and his brother, Catfish Collins, with Hendrix, angling to back him in a new group adhering to the launch of “Band of Gypsys,” Hendrix’s dwell album with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles.
The evening Hendrix died in London, Pridgon was recording in the guitarist’s recently opened Electric Girl studio in Greenwich Village. She gave minimal credence to conspiracy theories that however swirl all over Hendrix’s death at age 27 — a coroner established he choked to death on his own vomit — mainly simply because she was privy to details about him that could only occur from an personal.
Hendrix, she mentioned, suffered from a snooze apnea. “I utilized to have to wake him up, and make him transform over on his facet in his rest, mainly because he was choking.” This was a thing, she observed, that German figure skater Monika Dannemann, with whom Hendrix used his fateful night, was very likely unaware.
Amid Hendrix fans, specially fellow musicians, Pridgon acquired an almost talismanic good quality as the muse who nurtured and encouraged him from ambitious sideman to revolutionary artist. She was courted by Sly Stone, who brought her to Los Angeles in 1971, ostensibly to deliver her audio, and lived in his Bel-Air mansion. There, she hooked up with a different amazing guitarist and Hendrix acolyte, Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic, who was so enamored of Pridgon he wrote her a adore notice in his individual blood.
“She just experienced a presence, a selected ability that would occur in excess of you,” claims Collins. “She was an incredible human being, 1 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 good-grandson.
Campion is a Instances distinctive correspondent.
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