Very few instrumentalists in the history of music can hold a candle to Jimi Hendrix. His combination of intense virtuosity and blues-rock improvisation made sure that the world would never hear the electric guitar in the same way ever again. He pioneered the now-mainstream use of fluidly controlled feedback, distortion, and other effects derived from experimenting with the electric blues guitar. The result is organized and harmonic disorder. And although his mainstream career spanned a mere four years, it was enough to make him arguably the greatest guitarist to ever live. Here’s the proof:
It’s been more than 50 years since Jimi Hendrix first set his guitar on fire back in 1967. That was how the Jimi Hendrix Experience introduced this song to the world. The idea was concocted by Hendrix, band manager Chas Chandler, and rock journalist Keith Altham, after Hendrix accidentally cracked his instrument onstage and decided to break it entirely a la Pete Townshend. Ultimate Classic Rock reports that the stunt left both Hendrix and the event emcee who extinguished the fire with minor burns, which were later treated at the hospital. A worthy sacrifice for the onstage birth of a song with one of the most memorable first chords in all of rock ‘n’ roll.
Castles Made of Sand
Not many people remember that Hendrix was also a deep and thoughtful songwriter. Rolling Stone explores the stories he told in the song Castles Made of Sand. A couple who used to love each other only to end up as an, angry, screaming mess. An Indian chief is assassinated in his sleep on the night before a big battle. The song’s heavy, psychedelic lyrics are juxtaposed with upbeat instrumentals in a strange mix of pop and psychedelia.
If 6 Was 9
This song is a hyper-charged tribute to Hendrix’s electric blues roots. It also features some of the most creative drumming from the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Mitch Mitchell, easily one of the most underrated drummers in rock ‘n’ roll. The song’s catchy blues-rock feel made it the perfect song to score the 1969 independent road drama film, Easy Rider.
In Little Wing, Hendrix uses an ethereal arrangement that is uncharacteristically devoid of his signature wild and aggressive use of effects. The poignant guitar and lyrics are a seductively short two and a half minutes of Hendrix’s watery guitar movements, brilliantly accented by the sound of the glockenspiel – which was mistakenly left at Olympic Studios from a previous recording session. The result is one of the warmest, most succinct songs in psychedelic rock.
The perfect introduction and climax to any Jimi Hendrix listening experience, no discussion about the legendary guitarist is complete without at least mentioning Voodoo Child. Hendrix waxes poetic as he exhibits the power of his most famous invention: improvisational electric forays in pure psychedelic blues-rock. In reality, it’s near impossible to rate the best Jimi Hendrix songs because he peaked in several styles. Every fan has their own favorite Hendrix song, inevitably influenced by that fan’s personal tastes.
Those who love old school RnB are fondest of Little Wing, while anyone who loves 90s alternative rock (which Hendrix accidentally fathered) has a soft spot for Fire. And like the legendary musicians before him, his name and sound extends beyond just music. While he didn’t invent the hippie fashion of the late 60s, his sheer onstage presence was part of what gave it global appeal. His most popular songs Purple Haze, Little Wing and Foxy Lady still play in modern series, films, and even games. Online, Hendrix’s fan base continues to grow as new fans find ways to listen to his music and learn about him. FoxyCasino pays homage to the star in their Jimi Hendrix slot game by introducing him with an animation of the musician playing his guitar. These iterations of Hendrix on multiple entertainment platforms show how much of an impact he made, not just in the music industry, but on pop culture. He is part of a select group of artists that have become timeless icons.
Here at Movieclips we’ve previously written about the 2014 autobiographical film All is By My Side, based on the years before Hendrix became famous. The man is proof that boldness combined with virtuoso-level skill can cement a decades-long artistic legacy.
What’s your favorite Jimi Hendrix song?