2014 marks the 45th anniversary of Woodstock and the release in March of Hendrix’s U.S. postage stamp, the Forever Stamp. It is now time to pay tribute to five of his greatest songs ever
In mid-March 2010 Jimi Hendrix made music history from his latest posthumous release, his 34th album, “Valleys of Neptune,” with an amazing debut at #4 on the Billboard 200. Hendrix has now beat Elvis Presley’s Top 5 posthumous album debut after a forty year period. Elvis had the longest streak going with his “Elvis: 2nd to None” 26 years after his death.
On September 18 will be the 44th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death. This legendary electric guitarist was influenced by the great blues artists such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf and Albert King. Jimi would then later revolutionize rock music. His innovative wah-wah pedal he created, exaggerated pitches in his electric guitar solos, is now standard use in rock music. He burst onto the music scene first in England and throughout Europe.
It wasn’t until he made his American debut at the Monterey Pop festival in 1967. This is where he set his electric guitar on fire playing “Wild Thing.” It was his playing that got everyone’s attention. If that wasn’t enough, Hendrix took it to another level by closing out the famed Woodstock with some extraordinary performances that are still played today.
To pay homage to Jimi’s memory, here are his top five songs that are still staples on classic rock radio stations. Four of these songs have charted on the Billboard Hot 100, while the fifth one is an album track (“Woodstock” soundtrack). You’ve heard these songs no doubt featured in films and television. They will certainly be familiar to you.
“All Along the Watchtower”
Bob Dylan sang this originally, but it is Hendrix’s cover that is more familiar to rock fans. You’ve probably heard this song in many films including “Forrest Gump.” It features an incredible “attention-getting” guitar solo in the introduction. Whenever one hears it on the radio or on YouTube, you get the feeling of being transported back to the psychedelic era. “All Along the Watchtower” is sure to be a favorite song by Hendrix. One never gets tired hearing it.
This one is famous for its guitar riffs. I always felt it was a wild song, but in a good way. Rolling Stone magazine has listed “Foxy Lady,” or “Foxey Lady” as it is sometimes known, as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. There’s a part of the song when Hendrix says “Here I come…..I’m comin’ to getcha.”
Here’s the B-side of “Foxy Lady” that’s another cover song for Hendrix. Tim Rose had recorded it and Hendrix really enjoyed it. This became the first single for The Jimi Hendrix Experience in the UK. The music is excellent, though the lyrics depict domestic violence very clearly. Even though the song was released during the Vietnam War era it isn’t about the war. “Hey Joe” has been featured in a number of soundtracks including “Forrest Gump.” It’s also been sampled in a number of rap and hip hop songs. Jimi Hendrix closed out the Woodstock music festival as its encore.
It is one of Hendrix’s greatest hits. “Purple Haze” has become strongly associated as a psychedelic drug song personifying the 1960’s. He claimed the song is not about drugs. This is definitely his signature song. It has a unique stepping/marching introduction beat. Hendrix wrote the song after having a dream of walking under the sea. The term “purple haze” has several meanings in terms of drug use. The first being a form of LSD in a purple capsule, while the other is a strand of marijuana that’s purple in appearance. “Purple Haze” also features the famous lyric “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”
“The Star-Spangled Banner” (Woodstock)
If “Purple Haze” epitomized the drug culture of the ’60’s, this National Anthem performed by Jimi Hendrix at the Woodstock music festival has become a symbol of the late ’60’s era of cultural rebellion and anti-war protest. His iconic solo improvisation was part of his set list from August 1968 to August 1970. One may get the impression Hendrix performed “The Star-Spangled Banner” exclusively at Woodstock. His performance at the festival features sounds he created with his electric guitar that were eerily reminiscent of the Vietnam War.
You can hear gunfire, explosions, dropping of napalm, screaming victims and other sounds of war. There was a comment on YouTube saying, “This should be our national anthem.” The Tampa Bay classic rock radio station, 107.3 The Eagle, uses part of Hendrix’s performance as its bumper for station identification. Hearing the anthem played this way may be a bit shocking at first, though it tends to get better each time. The Hendrix rendition of the National Anthem is without question pure genius.
Hendrix has been inducted into the U.S. and UK Rock and Roll Hall of Fames, even the Native American Music Hall of Fame. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine named Hendrix the top guitarist, out of 100, of the greatest guitarists of all time. Someone commented on YouTube how it’s a crying shame Hendrix has about a million views on his live Woodstock performance. Then take into consideration the likes of pop tart wannabes, Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber, having well over one-hundred million views on YouTube. Something is certainly not right with this picture. This is the way real rock music is meant to be; innovative, inspiring and electric.