I have an acid-soaked friend who claims it’s well known that Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix were killed by Nixon’s CIA for all the obvious reasons. I not only have never heard this theory but refuse to believe it. I’d like you to put this absurd rumor to rest— it’s ridiculous, never happened, it’s stupid. Right? Sheesh. — St. James Woo... (Wood? Wool? Woof? Wookie?), faxland
(Sorry, St. James Illegible.) In a Halloween-y mood, let’s neutralize a couple of spooky questions composting in my file labeled “Conspiracies, or, The CIA Ate My Homework.” Received two fresh entries just this past week, so paranoia again peaks in Aliceland. Sheesh, indeed. Your friend’s right about one thing, the rumor is “well known.” But if “notorious” equaled “correct,” I’d still be working as the marital-aids buyer for that chain of triple-X video stores. Anyway, despite our fondest wishes and a number of books to the contrary, M, H, and J died of self-imposed, drug-related causes,, not a plot. But here’s how this stuff might get going.
Do we need more confirmation of the official, if unwritten, government stand on rock music than the Panama City incident? The federal brain trust believed Led Zep and Blue Oyster Cult, cranked to the threshold of pain and blasted at Manuel Noriega’s hideout, would be the aural equivalent of tear gas. Most of us in Manuel’s spot would have just sent out for pizzas and a keg. But that episode confirmed what we’ve all “known” for at least 30 years—that “the government” is a bunch of sour old Mitch Miller fans dedicated to the elimination of those gol-dern rocknrollers and their subversive caterwauling. So when a rock icon or three or four succumbs to personal weakness, who better for us to blame than the federal fogeys? Certainly, it wasn’t the fault of our love objects.
So here we sit, our brains like fertile petri dishes waiting for a bacterium of truth to land; then we’ll weed and water it, mix it with what we already suspect, and spread it around. In the case of Morrison, Hendrix, and Joplin, the convenient germ was the rockers’ once-secret FBI files. Some of Hoover’s accumulated pages on the three are available for public scrutiny in Washington. Since the FBI’s busy, busy staff in those days kept similar files on practically everybody, it’s unlikely they were all on a government hit list.
And the FBI is kinda like the CIA, except the CIA is even spookier and sneakier and capable of almost anything, right? And of course, it would take a force that powerful to defeat another force as powerful as a rock star. And so a rumor is born. The truth is just too disappointing sometimes to be worth believing.