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Jimi Hendrix is widely know as the greatest guitar player of all time. However, he is underrated as a songwriter. His combination of psychedelic rock, blues, and whimsical pop was unmatched.
Where should you start when delving into Jimi Hendrix‘s music? Begin here, with the 15 best Jimi Hendrix songs.
15. “Stepping Stone”
What was Jimi Hendrix last song before he died? As far as released material goes, that’d be “Stepping Stone,” the final single that came out before his death.
Hendrix stepped away from his Jimi Hendrix Experience band in late 1969, instead working with old army buddy bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles.
Tracks from the series of shows they did in late 1969 and early 1970 at the Fillmore East were compiled for Hendrix’s last album, Band of Gypsys.
Around the same time, the Band of Gypsys band recorded a handful of studio tracks, among them were “Stepping Stone” and “Izabella,” which were released on Hendrix’s last single.
“Stepping Stone” is one of the funkiest Jimi Hendrix songs. While perhaps not as catchy as “Purple Haze” or “Foxey Lady,” it’s still pretty poppy as well.
14. “Hear My Train A Comin’”
Although he never created a definitive version, Jimi Hendrix clearly loved “Hear My Train A-Comin’,” as he recorded it several different times and often performed it live.
Hendrix played this song in varied arrangements, including in a country blues style and in a longer, more expansive electric guitar version.
This straight-up blues track is based on many different traditional spirituals and gospel songs.
Popular studio iterations of “Hear My Train A-Comin’” have appeared on Hendrix compilations Valleys of Neptune (2010), People, Hell, and Angels (2013), and Both Sides of the Sky (2018).
13. “Red House”
Hendrix’s first studio foray into the blues was “Red House.” It appeared on his 1967 debut album Are You Experienced in England and on the 1969 Smash Hits compilation in America.
The studio version is a paltry 3:45 seconds, but Hendrix often stretched it out well over 10 minutes live, including at Woodstock, the Atlanta International Pop Festival, and the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival.
Fans of the blues always point to “Red House” as one of their favorite Jimi Hendrix songs. As usual, the best way to experience Hendrix is to check out live versions.
12. “Star Spangled Banner”
When Jimi Hendrix played the “Star Spangled Banner” at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in August, 1969, the entire country took notice. His Stratocaster seemed to be speaking a new language.
The subversive take, filled with feedback and a cacophony of sound from the band behind him, made a statement about how the youth of America viewed their war-torn country.
Though he played it at a handful of shows, it’s the Woodstock version that towers above them all. It’s one of the biggest statements of the 60s generation.
Fun fact: Jimi Hendrix often played a similarly epic instrumental take on Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.”
Perhaps the most consequential of the Jimi Hendrix songs that were unreleased during his lifetime, gorgeous ballad “Angel” first appeared on the 1971 posthumous album The Cry of Love.
It was also placed on 1997’s First Rays of the New Rising Sun, the most accurate and complete attempt to re-create the double album Hendrix was working on before he died.
Other classics that appear on that compilation include “Hey Baby (New Rising Sun),” “Ezy Rider,” and “Night Bird Flying.”
Demos of “Angel” appear on Hendrix tapes dating as far back as 1967, but he didn’t complete a studio version until September 1970, a mere few months before his untimely death.
“Angel” is generally considered one of the best Jimi Hendrix songs, up there with other big hits on this list like “Purple Haze and “Foxy Lady.”
Interestingly, “Angel” was inspired by a childhood dream of Hendrix’s about his mother, Lucille Hendrix.
A concert and fan favorite, 2:30 time bomb “Fire” is among the punchiest, most rocking Jimi Hendrix songs.
Highlighted by Jimi Hendrix Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell’s ferocious performance, it features a typically mind-blowing Hendrix solo.
Though the lyrics have relatively explicit sexual overtones, their inspiration was actually pretty innocent.
The “Purple Haze” singer spent a cold New Year’s Eve at Jimi Hendrix Experience bassist Noel Redding’s mother’s house. He asked if he could warm himself by the fire and, while approaching it, her dog got in the way.
How the simplest things can inspire the most classic songs.
9. “Castles Made of Sand”
If you’re looking for profound Jimi Hendrix songs, look no further than “Castles Made of Sand.”
Taken from Hendrix’s second album, 1967’s Axis: Bold As Love, “Castles Made of Sand” packs three tragic stories into a whirlwind 2:49.
The first verse touches on domestic abuse, the second a child who wants to be a war hero, and the third a crippled person who wants their life to end.
It begins and ends with some smooth-yet-abrasive psychedelic guitar, putting a fine point on the idea that life is a cycle of birth, death, and castles made of sand eventually slipping into the sea.
Hendrix had definitely come a long way from his early days playing straight R&B and rock with Little Richard and the Isley Brothers.
8. “Crosstown Traffic”
Expansive album Electric Ladyland is filled with an array of sounds, from the dreamy blues of “Rainy Day, Dream Away” to the hardcore psychedelia of “1983….(A Merman I Should Turn to Be).”
Amidst some of its excesses are a handful of pure pop rock gems, among them “Gypsy Eyes,” “Long Hot Summer Night,” and “Crosstown Traffic.”
This single, which has been unfairly buried on classic rock radio, is one the catchiest, most fun Jimi Hendrix songs.
The kazoo sound, which was created by Hendrix using tissue paper and a comb, is a nice touch.
Fun fact: that’s Traffic member Dave Mason singing harmonies with Jimi Hendrix Experience bassist Noel Redding. He was one of Hendrix’s many famous musician friends.
7. “Foxey Lady”
Yes, we can never play this song without thinking of the scene in Wayne’s World either. Party on, Garth.
One of the most popular Jimi Hendrix songs, somewhat surprisingly it only hit #67 on the Billboard Hot 100 when it was released as a single from Are You Experienced in 1967.
Fittingly, the groove of “Foxey Lady” is pulsating and, like the lyrics, overtly sexual. It makes sense that it was used the way it was in Wayne’s World.
Paul McCartney has been known to jam on “Foxey Lady” at his concerts over the last decade or so.
6. “The Wind Cries Mary”
Animals bassist Chas Chandler, who discovered Hendrix, spotted his potential from the very start, both as a guitarist and a songwriter.
Among the best early Jimi Hendrix songs, “The Wind Cries Mary” is yet another iconic track from the guitar god’s 1967 debut Are You Experienced? (at least in America).
The smooth ballad is the perfect example of how underrated of a songwriter Hendrix is. It transcends the category of ballad in a way only Hendrix could do.
He’s better known for the way he attacked a Strat than his songwriting prowess, but tracks like this and “Burning of the Midnight Lamp” prove this conventional wisdom to be off base.
5. “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)”
“Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” has shown up in a lot of places, from Hulk Hogan’s entrance in his nWo days to car commercials. It’s versatile, I guess.
A highlight of 1968’s Electric Ladyland, “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” is one of Hendrix’s most heavy-hitting blues tracks. Muddy Waters would be proud.
Famously, Hendrix disciple Stevie Ray Vaughan covered “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” in his singular way. It appears on Couldn’t Stand the Weather, his second album, released in 1984.
Fun fact: Steve Winwood plays organ on the 14+ minute “Voodoo Chile” from earlier on Electric Ladyland.
4. “Little Wing”
There are many beautiful Jimi Hendrix songs, but perhaps none more so than “Little Wing.”
Plus it features some of his coolest psychedelic lyrics: “well she’s walking through the clouds/with a circus mind that’s running wild/butterflies and zebras/and fairy tales/are all she ever thinks about.”
Popular covers of “Little Wing” include Clapton doing his thing on Derek and the Dominoes version and a length instrumental take by, you guessed it, Stevie Ray Vaughan.
3. “Hey Joe”
What was Jimi Hendrix first hit? The honor goes to “Hey Joe,” the debut single that helped launch his career.
The Billy Roberts song was usually played in an upbeat arrangement. Hendrix slowed it down, making it bluesy and almost sexy, completely transforming it into his own.
Listening to Hendrix’s version, it’s difficult to understand how it could have been played in a fast arrangement. He gets to the heart of the lyrics of the murder ballad with his darker, slower arrangement.
It was one of the tracks Hendrix played at his breakthrough gig in the U.S. at the Monterey Pop Festival.
2. “Purple Haze”
“Purple Haze” is one of Jimi Hendrix’s definitive statements. It’s deceptively simple but iconic guitar riff are as legendary as its perfectly psychedelic lyrics.
“‘Scuse me while I kiss the sky” is one of the definitive lines both of Hendrix’s career and of the 1960s itself.
Many incorrectly think “Purple Haze” is about drugs, but its author always claimed that it had a deeper, more spiritual significance.
Crank it up, if only for its amazing intro.
“Purple Haze” is also certainly one of the best Jimi Hendrix songs to learn. Go to any Guitar Center and find out for yourself.
1. “All Along the Watchtower”
What is Jimi Hendrix biggest song? His cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” is the clear choice.
Hendrix so thoroughly transformed Dylan’s stark, biblical parable that even Dylan uses his arrangement when playing the song, and it’s his song.
One of the best cover songs of all time, and one of the most inventive, Hendrix filters “All Along the Watchtower” through his inimitably unique approach to rock music.
As on many of the best Jimi Hendrix songs, he combines a heavy and lyrical approach to create something completely unique.
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