Today would have been Jimi Hendrix’s 74th birthday. Widely considered to be the greatest guitarist of all-time, Hendrix’s unique style of playing has had a profound effect on music for the past five decades. While he was brilliant in the studio, his electric live performances often defied description. Let’s look at some of his most memorable stage performances.
1. The Star-Spangled Banner – (Woodstock)
The national anthem has been played on guitar hundreds of times, but Hendrix’s version is still easily the best. Turning “The Star Spangled Banner” into a rebellious statement is not an easy task, but Hendrix was more than up to the challenge.
2. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” – 1969
Arguably the most impressive display of guitar virtuosity on any Hendrix composition, this 14-minute take on the song from a 1969 show features some thrilling interplay between Jimi and fellow Experience members Noel Redding and Mitch Mtchell. Also, check out what Hendrix’s says to the crowd before playing: he was going to do “All Along The Watchtower,” but he forgot the words! Well, he’s nothing if not honest.
3. “Like A Rolling Stone” (Monterrey Pop Festival)
While “All Along The Watchtower” is Hendrix’s best known Dylan cover, he also frequently included “Like A Rolling Stone” in his live sets. The song’s venomous lyrics are a perfect match for Hendrix’s intense style of playing, and Hendrix does a great job of keeping the vibe of the original intact.
4. “Hear My Train-A-Comin'” (Rainbow Brdge – 1970)
Hendrix had a great love of the blues, and recorded many classic blues songs — some of the best were collected on the 1994 release Blues. In this clip, he gives a killer 10-minute version of Hear My Train-A-Comin’,” complete with a blistering solo at about the three-minute mark. While Hendrix’s guitar is the featured instrument as always, Redding’s thumping bass cannot be ignored on this one.
5. “Foxy Lady” (Miami Pop Festival – 1968)
“Foxy Lady” is probably the sexiest song Hendrix ever recorded (although “Fire” wouldn’t be far behind), and this version capture the raw power of the song and Jimi himself in all of their respective glory. When he says “aww, shucks” after the first verse, the irony is not lost on anyone in the audience.
6. “Purple Haze” (Stockholm – 1967)
When considering this performance, you really have to take into account the context. It was 1967, and the world was just beginning to become aware of Jimi Hendrix. Imagine being a Swedish teenager at this show, and being absolutely blown away as a new world is revealed to you. Hendrix shocked the world by simply existing in 1967, and no song does a better ob of explaining why than “Purple Haze.”
7. “Wild Thing” (Blackpool Opera House)
When The Troggs originally recorded “Wild Thing,” it was more or less the platonic ideal of a primitive rock ‘n roll song — not too complex musically or lyrically, but great to rock out to. As you might guess, it sounds a bit different in the hands of a guitar genius like Jimi. But while he adds plenty of flourishes, and a few wicked solos, he keeps the song’s essential rawness firmly intact.
This is an updated version of a post that was published on November 27, 2014