16/08/2022

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Lithofayne Pridgon, a muse to musicians and in all probability inspiration for Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Cunning Woman,’ dies

Lithofayne Pridgon, Jimi Hendrix’s lengthy-expression female friend and the in all probability inspiration for 1 of his most well liked and enduring songs, “Cunning Lady,” spent maximum of her life in a hallowed orbit of songs stars.

A muse, confidant and ceaselessly a unfastened spirit by the use of the Fifties and ‘60s tune scene, Pridgon’s lifetime intersected in all places once more and as soon as once more with the professions of Sam Cooke, James Brown, Jackie Wilson, Etta James and — of coaching direction — Hendrix, whom she first connected with when the shortly-to-be-insanely-well-known guitarist was once angling for a gig with Cooke.

The 2 mysterious and omnipresent in an generation of unbelievable musical enhance, Pridgon died at her home in Las Vegas on April 22 at age 80. Her death was once basically neglected and her family made no public announcement.

Bootsy Collins, the previous Parliament-Funkadelic musician, defined Pridgon because the “Queen of the Chitlin Circuit” on social media. “She aided adjust my life & heaps of folks,” he wrote.

In 1955, at age 15, Pridgon completed rambunctious, expanding R&B famous person Minimum Willie John behind the curtain on the Riverside Ballroom in Springfield, Mass. A year later, John, who would grow to be her to begin with lover, took her to New York and launched her to Cooke at a birthday celebration in Harlem’s Cecil Lodge. Greater than the approaching a number of a few years, she would meet a bunch of long term new tune stars, Marvin Gaye, nonetheless of the Moonglows, Brown, then of the Widely recognized Flames, and Wilson, presently quickly after he joined Billy Ward and the Dominoes.

“She was once no one’s concubine,” discussed musician and cultural critic Greg Tate, writer of “Nighttime Lightning: Jimi Hendrix and the Black Running revel in,” who first actual turned into aware of Pridgon by the use of her charming glance within the 1973 documentary “Jimi Hendrix.”

“That is any individual who was once as a substantial amount of a celeb as any of the boys she dated, as a Black lady within the earth, and at the moment within the planet,” he claimed.

Within the Harlem of the ‘50s and ‘60s, anyplace a porous border existed in between the brand new tune globe and the underworld, Pridgon, streetwise and possessed of an enviable survival intuition, held her particular person. Thru Willie John, she glad James, blank off her to start with hit, “The Wallflower,” who would become a lifelong friend and confidant. In 1961, when James was once roughed-up via a bad-boy paramour, Pridgon connected her with an extra acquaintance, notorious Harlem mobster “Purple” Dillard, for safety.

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Within the early ‘60s, Pridgon toured as a backup singer with Bobby Blue Bland’s the Blandolls employed way more, she felt, for her approach to seem and transfer the facet, on the other hand than what she known as “my one specific octave making a song array.” Lifestyles at the Chitlin Circuit in the course of the civil felony rights generation might be perilous. Thru 1 save you in Ga, the musicians have been fallacious for independence riders and their excursion bus was once pelted with bottles and rocks.

In in a while yrs, preserving courtroom at the cellphone from her home in Las Vegas, Pridgon was once a talented and entertaining raconteur. Blessed with an eidetic reminiscence and a mordant (and, oft-occasions, self-deprecating) wit, she may recall women and men, websites, occasions or even conversations from above fifty % a century previously. An inveterate fact of the matter-teller, her roving reminiscences instructed from an insider’s viewpoint, which she additionally devoted to paper as segment of a extended-gestating however hardly ever ever-released memoir, constituted an totally distinctive specific chronicle of publish-Complete global Warfare II Black American custom.

An handiest baby from a large extended family members, Lithofayne Pridgon (additionally said as Faye or Fayne Pridgon) was once born in 1940 in Moultrie, Ga., and most commonly lifted in a piece of town said as “Grimy Spoon,” an alley with a dip on the conclusion, wedged involving the railroad, a cemetery and two highways.

She was once intoxicated via the comings and goings in Dirty Spoon: a global of loose girls and womanizing grownup men, moonshine, juke joints, and the blues. Simply after being attentive to John Lee Hooker’s “Boogie Chillen” as a boy or lady on a crank-deal with Victrola, she grew to turn into enamored with the blues, particularly via Muddy Waters, Hooker and Elmore James — “lowdown, once more alley, sho’nuff, stomp down, grimy blues,” as Pridgon termed it.

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Writer and historian Peter Guralnick, who interviewed Pridgon widely for his 2005 Sam Cooke biography, “Dream Boogie,” defined she was once “a willing and insightful observer of the human comedy, colourful with enthusiasm for the earth that she so exuberantly inhabited” and was once additionally “unabashed and unapologetic in recounting her ordeals.”

Albert Allen, Pridgon, Hendrix and Arthur Allen at  Wells' Chicken and Waffles in Harlem in undated photo.

Albert Allen, Pridgon, Hendrix and Arthur Allen at Wells’ Hen and Wafffles in Harlem.

(Courtesy of the property of Lithofayne Pridgon)

A scenario in level, a story she not at all exhausted of telling: the instances of her preliminary meeting with Hendrix at a 1962 orgy held within the Harlem rental of her buddy and patron “Fats Jack” Taylor, a regional drug kingpin, restaurateur and aspiring tunes wealthy person. Her enchantment to Hendrix, then a 19-Twelve months-outdated budding musician two a very long time her junior and freshly discharged from army supplier, was once quick. “He was once thin, he was once uncooked-boned, he was once my shape,” she defined.

A 12 months in a while, they met all over again unintentionally on the Apollo Theater, during which Pridgon was once a lot of these a fixture she was once known as “Apollo Faye.” Hendrix was once angling for a gig as a sideman with Cooke. Pridgon, then Cooke’s lover, aided make an creation. From that point on, she and Hendrix had been being “inseparable.”

They lived collectively, wrote tunes and constructed the rounds of Harlem nightspots, just like the Palm Cafe and Smalls’ Paradise, Hendrix wearing an “previous raggedy guitar case” with him everywhere, hoping to sit down in and catch a break up. However, as enamored as she was once of him, she wasn’t able to enhance her lifestyles taste. “I wanted to proceed on having a look at Jackie and Sam and Willie.” That didn’t wash with Hendrix, who was once more youthful and “insanely jealous.”

Among her maximum loved possessions was once a collection of handwritten letters and notes Hendrix wrote to her, in florid script, that include poetic however pained expressions of each his excessive devotion to her and enormous annoyance that she wouldn’t decide to him completely. The similar sentiment drives “Cunning Woman.” (The music’s identify alludes to a kitten he gave Pridgon, and afterwards a poodle, the 2 named “Cunning.”)

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Pridgon’s have tracks, rooted within the blues and brimming with perspective and sardonic humor, with titles like “Low Down Alley Girl,” rankled Hendrix of their birthday celebration of her no cost-dwelling, freed from charge-loving strategies, however won her a cope with Atlantic Information from the label’s founder, Ahmet Ertegun, who signed her himself in 1972, growing sessions for an unreleased album in Muscle Shoals, with guitarist Shuggie Otis.

“She was once completely a Jimi cheerleader,“ defined Collins, who recalled Pridgon seeking to dealer a gathering for him and his brother, Catfish Collins, with Hendrix, angling to again him in a brand new crew pursuing the release of “Band of Gypsys,” Hendrix’s reside album with Billy Cox and Pal Miles.

The evening time Hendrix died in London, Pridgon was once recording within the guitarist’s freshly opened Electrical Girl studio in Greenwich Village. She gave tiny credence to conspiracy theories that however swirl throughout Hendrix’s death at age 27 — a coroner known he choked to loss of life on his non-public vomit — basically given that she was once aware of knowledge about him that would handiest happen from an intimate.

Hendrix, she defined, persevered from a nap apnea. “I utilised to need to wake him up, and make him transfer round on his aspect in his snooze, because of the reality he was once choking.” This was once a factor, she discussed, that German resolve skater Monika Dannemann, with whom Hendrix spent his fateful evening, was once possible unaware.

Some of the Hendrix fans, specifically fellow musicians, Pridgon got an just about talismanic very good as the foundation who nurtured and inspired him from daring sideman to innovative artist. She was once courted via Sly Stone, who introduced her to Los Angeles in 1971, ostensibly to supply her songs, and lived in his Bel-Air mansion. There, she connected with a unique very good guitarist and Hendrix acolyte, Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic, who was once so enamored of Pridgon he wrote her a experience follow in his personal blood.

“She simply had a life, a selected electric energy that will arrive over you,” suggests Collins. “She was once an astounding guy or girl, one in every of a type.”

Pridgon is survived via two daughters, Vyki Z. Partitions and Litho Fayne Ramsey a son, Quinn Pridgon two granddaughters, Kharisma and Fantasi Pridgon and a fantastic-grandson.

Campion is a Cases distinctive correspondent.