Detail from inside gatefold of Electric Ladyland record sleeve
Lithofayne Pridgon has led a truly extraordinary life. She was the lover and muse of some of the greatest musical icons of our time – Jimi Hendrix, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, “Fever” singer Little Willie John and Eddie Hazel, visionary guitarist of George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic family tree; she was the best friend of Etta James, hung out with James Brown and Ike Turner and lived with Sly Stone in Bel Air at the height of his There’s a Riot Going On drugs-and-guns craziness. She was also signed on the spot to Atlantic Records by Ahmet Ertegun for an album that was recorded with Shuggie Otis, but never released. But it’s Hendrix with whom she is inextricably tied, becoming his lover in 1963 in his pre-fame Harlem years through till his death in 1970.
Dangerous Minds pal Chris Campion met Lithofayne Pridgon for a very rare interview and argues in the Guardian that, she was the inspiration for not only “Foxy Lady,” but a number of other of songs on Are You Experienced:
The profound influence she had on his life has been so sorely overlooked, it’s likely his love for Lithofayne inspired other songs, too. Certainly, a number of cuts on his debut album, Are You Experienced, seem to have been written with her in mind: the love he clearly felt was written in the stars, destined to last for eternity, of which he sings in “Love or Confusion”; the desperate plea for his devotion to be recognised in “Can You See Me” in which he wails, “Can you hear me cryin’ all over town?” (“If he couldn’t find me,” Lithofayne recalls, “everybody in Harlem knew he was looking for me.” She would visit her usual haunts and people would tell her, “Girl, Jimi, was by here, you better go.”) “And ‘Fire’, in which he determinedly edges every rival suitor for the subject of his affections out of the way.
Lithofayne and Jimi experience the food at Wells Chicken and Waffles in Harlem with Albert and Arthur Allen
The piece includes not only the revelation that she first met Hendrix at an orgy:
That day, she had gone out to run an errand for her mother and, on her way back home with the change, had stopped by one of Fat Jack’s apartments. She asked one of his men who was inside.“This little musician cat,” he told her. “I said, ‘Is he a virgin?’ He said, ‘No, but you’ll like him. He’s your type.’ He just knew what I liked.
“I liked skinny, raw-boned, over-fucked, underfed-looking guys,” she laughs. Hendrix, she says, was “my type.”
... but also that she may in fact be the great granddaughter of Henry Ford:
She was raised, for the most part, in a more well-to-do section of the city called Crosstown, by her paternal grandmother, said to be the illegitimate child of Henry Ford who kept a winter home in Georgia, several counties north. “Old man Henry Ford is supposed to have been my great granddaddy,” Lithofayne says. Although the Ford lineage was never definitely proven, her grandmother had a sizeable portfolio of land in Moultrie for reasons that couldn’t be explained — she earned money by taking in washing at a dollar a load.
With James Brown
Lithofayne Pridgon is said to be writing a memoir of her life in Harlem during the fifties and sixties. You can see her starting just before the one-minute mark in the trailer for the 1973 Jimi Hendrix documentary (look out for a pre-glam early 70s Lou Reed):