Kenny Wayne Shepherd's top 10 Jimi Hendrix songs of all time
"Jimi Hendrix was instrumental in making me refuse to see any boundaries in my music. He gave me permission to try anything I wanted to try. Because that's what he did: there was no limit to his inventiveness. His canvas stretched across the sky.
"As a performer, he got me out of my little box on stage. When I started doing shows, I used to burn a hole on stage - that's how much I didn't move around. But then I watched Jimi and I realized that the stage was another part of the art. Jimi got me to move on stage, probably much in the same way that Prince or Michael Jackson learned their moves from James Brown.
“Above all, the man was a masterful songwriter. So here they are, in descending order, my 10 favorites. If you check these out, you’ll definitely want to listen to the rest.”
First up: Catfish Blues
“Muddy Waters wrote Catfish Blues, but Jimi put his own spin on it. He brought an intensity and a certain kind of sexuality that wasn’t there before. Nothing against Muddy Waters, but I would say that Hendrix definitely made the song his own.
“I always like when artists cover their heroes, particularly blues players. When somebody like Jimi Hendrix covers Muddy Waters, he’s keeping the blues alive and exposing so many people to something they might never have heard of. That’s the tradition of the blues, and something that has to be upheld.”
Listen: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Catfish Blues
I Don't Live Today
“This has always been one of my favorites, so much so that I recorded it on my second album [1997’s Trouble Is…]. I love the whole song, but one thing that’s so interesting about it is how the tempo is consistent, but the drum pattern seems to change up a lot.
“Jimi’s use of feedback is revolutionary - it's almost like a second wave of the rhythm. The guy definitely knew what he was doing. His lyrics really reflect the rebellious nature of what was going on in the ‘60s. A very important song, in my opinion."
Listen: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - I Don't Live Today
Voodoo Chile Blues
“When you want Hendrix blues, most guys gravitate towards Red House, which is a great cut, no doubt. But it’s a little too ‘studio’ for me, too mapped out; whereas Voodoo Chile Blues, while they recorded it in a studio, it’s more free-form and spirited.
“I think a bunch of Jimi’s friends were hanging out while the band laid this down, which added to the cool vibe. It’s a fantastic, full-on jam. The Hammond B3 sounds great, the people in the studio are into it, and Hendrix is on fire! He plays these huge bends, too, like three or four strings at once. Absolutely smokin’!”
Listen: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Voodoo Chile Blues
“The groove is killer, it’s uptempo, it’s a real feel-good kind of song. Talk about something that’s appropriately named, too: whenever I put this song on in my car, I just want to put the hammer down!
“The song sounds very youthful, and I would imagine that using a kazoo on the track contributed to such a fun vibe in the studio. That’s freakin’ crazy! Who else would do such a thing? You couldn’t get away with something like that today - a producer would laugh you out into the next room.”
Listen: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Crosstown Traffic
The Wind Cries Mary
“Only Jimi Hendrix could create something that’s so light and gentle, and yet it carries such weight and conveys so many things.
“I love the clean tones he gets on his guitar here. Anybody who thinks he just played heavy, feedback stuff has to check this out. Lyrically, he’s at the top of his game. Every time I listen to this song, I can literally picture that woman in a wheelchair going up to the beach. Sheer poetry.”
Listen: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - The Wind Cries Mary
Castles Made Of Sand
“Somebody like Joe Satriani could probably explain these songs and get into their modes and structures. I’m more of a from-the-gut feel player. But I admit, I must have absorbed some sort of musical knowledge from Castles Made Of Sand. It’s hard to play right, but when you do, man, you’re on top of the world.
“The melody is gorgeous. This is one of those songs that only an artist with tremendous feeling and vision could have composed. Ordinary people can’t come up with stuff like this.”
Listen: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Castles Made Of Sand
“This is a beautiful song that, like The Wind Cries Mary, shows off a more tender side of Jimi. But even when he was writing a love song, he could still take you other places lyrically. His mind must have been moving 100 miles per hour all the time.
“Musically, this one is kind of tricky. The riff and the way he sings over it - I’m like, How does he do that? It’s not as easy as it sounds. You really have to have your rhythm chops together. The guy could do everything."
Listen: Jimi Hendrix - Angel
“From his songs to his stage performance to his lifestyle, Jimi was a very sexually charged individual. This song flaunts that, but not in an offensive way. That's pretty important to point out, I think, how he could put all of that raw passion into a song without coming off as gratuitous.
“The guitar playing is, of course, enormous. He’s working that feedback, and then he breaks into that killer opening riff. What can I say? It’s spellbinding rock of the highest order.”
Listen: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Foxy Lady
Are You Experienced?
“For me, it’s all about the intro, and let me tell you, this song sucks me in the second I hit play. When I hear the backwards drums doing that kind of psychedelic military march, I’m hooked!
“Jimi Hendrix wasn’t the first artist to utilize backwards recording, but he was certainly revolutionary in his approach. And the message here is awesome: ‘Are you experienced? ’Cause I am!’ Too cool.”
Listen: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Are You Experienced?
Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
“Since I was 15 and had my first band, I’ve ended every show with this song. I think it’s one of the greatest guitar anthems of all time. There’s just so many elements to it that make it untouchable.
“It’s the ultimate jam song. Not that you’d want three guitarists going off on it, but as a one-guitar performance piece, it’s the best. And the intro? Forget about it. It’s probably the most effective use of a wah-wah pedal ever recorded. Lots of people use a wah, but Jimi made it say something.”
Listen: The Jimi Hendrix Experience - Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Liked this? Then check out Joe Satriani's top 10 Jimi Hendrix songs of all time
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