Top 10 Jimi Hendrix Songs
Consistently named the greatest guitar player of all time by pretty much every publication that has ever compiled such a list, Jimi Hendrix combined untouchable virtuosity, an improvisational spirit and poignant soul every time he picked up the instrument. But Hendrix was more than just a badass axeman: He combined undeniable songwriting talent, a great ear for melody and a love of music rooted in tradition but with a definite slant towards experimentation and desire to break new ground in the studio. With that in mind, we present to Ultimate Classic Rock's list of the Top 10 Jimi Hendrix Songs.
Widely considered a classic example of acid-fueled blues, this song showcases Hendrix's developing use of studio wizardry to help accomplish his artistic vision, with stereo panning, echo, fuzzbox distortion and reverb all doing their part to create a distinct sound. "If 6 Was 9" was on the soundtrack to the 1969 cult classic flick Easy Rider and has been covered numerous times, by artists as varied as Bootsy Collins, Tori Amos and David Lee Roth.
Blues was a posthumous release that collected 13 – you guessed it – blues-styled numbers, although for the most part they're studio outtakes that probably were never intended for release. That said, "Hear My Train a Comin'" is featured twice, the closing number being a recording of an electric version he frequently played live. On the opening number, the keeper, Hendrix lets loose on the 12-string acoustic, showing off his skill as an unplugged player with a song that sounds very much like a timeless blues standard but is in fact an Hendrix original.
Hendrix's post-Experience trio Band of Gypsys, featuring a new rhythm section of bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles, was captured on just one album. This self-titled live offering was recorded during four legendary shows over two nights (New Year's Eve 1969 and New Year's Day 1970) at New York's Fillmore East. "Who Knows" showcases an organic, earthy side of Hendrix, with his virtuoso guitar jamming carrying a fantastically funky jam.
Inspired by the movie Easy Rider, this tune initially appeared on Cry of Love – the first posthumous release of Hendrix studio recordings and a collection of basically what was intended to be his next album. It seems to point in the direction that Jimi's music was headed at the time: less sprawling and trippy, more straightforward and funky. It appeared on two more attempts to complete Hendrix's fourth studio album: 1995's Voodoo Soup and 1997's First Rays of the New Rising Sun.
A rock standard previously played by Hendrix with his former band the Blue Flame, "Hey Joe" was the first single the Jimi Hendrix Experience released and became a Top 10 single in the U.K., although it failed to chart in America. It was also his closing number at Woodstock in 1969, and thus the last song performed at the legendary festival. Numerous other bands have also covered "Hey Joe," but Hendrix's version remains the most famous of the bunch.
Electric Ladyland's "Voodoo Chile" is 15 minutes of laid-back, down-and-dirty psychedelic blues. The reprise, "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)," is the last track on his final studio album and, with its relentless assault of feedback-laden guitar leads, definitely one of Hendrix's signature songs. Released as a single at the end of 1970, it's also the final single to surface from one of the only three proper studio albums Jimi finished before his death.
With its unforgettable harpischord intro, wah-wah guitar effects and studio trickery, "Midnight Lamp" hints at the elaborate production methods Hendrix would later use on his Axis: Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland albums. (The song was featured on Ladyland but the single preceded both.) It's also notable for being his first tune to feature wah-wah guitar effects, which later became a staple of his live performances.
This compact ditty is known for its gorgeous guitar solo, which inspired a slew of covers from a wide swath of famous musicians – and an endless stream of wannabe imitators sloppily jamming away at Guitar Center across the country. "Little Wing" was also the first time Hendrix recorded his guitar through a Leslie speaker, creating the wave-like echo sounds that makes its guitar parts so distinct.
Hendrix's take on a song originally penned and recorded by Bob Dylan for 1967's John Wesley Harding showed up less than a year later and quickly become the de facto version – even for Dylan. "It overwhelmed me, really," Dylan said of Hendrix's cover, which added a haunting sense of urgency to what was once a bare-bones, folky jam. Dylan later added: "Ever since he died I've been doing it [his] way/ Strange how when I sing it, I always feel it's a tribute to him in some kind of way."
The opening track on the U.S. version of his debut LP, "Purple Haze" introduced Hendrix and his backing band with 2:50 of scorching, fuzzed-out and psychedelic glory. It never charted in America, yet nevertheless became part of our cultural lexicon, inspiring everything from a brand of LSD to an unforgettable scene in the cult classic flick Apocalypse Now.