Five great cover songs performed by Jimi Hendrix

Despite a mainstream career of only four years, Jimi Hendrix dazzled fans and fellow musicians alike: from his signature right-handed strats re-strung and played upside down to the iconic "wah wah" pedal sound effect he made famous, some of Hendrix's most impressive and memorable performances were that of songs written by others. He possessed a unique ability to take a song and put his own twist on it.

Here are five of my favorites:

1. "Like A Rolling Stone" - originally written & performed by Bob Dylan

Hendrix admired Dylan, both for his prolific songwriting ability and unique finger-picking guitar playing style. Perhaps the most memorable rendition of "Like A Rolling Stone" was at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967. Hendrix dazzles with a brief impromptu jam before launching into the iconic ballad. Despite flubbing the lyrics mid-song ("Yes I missed some words, don't worry"), the recording is immortalized on the Historic Recordings album. Other Dylan tunes recorded by Hendrix include "All Along The Watchtower," "Drifter's Escape," and "Tears of Rage."


2. "Sunshine of Your Love" - originally written by Pete Brown, Jack Bruce & Eric Clapton - Recorded by Cream

Hendrix first met Clapton and Cream in 1966, at the London Polytechnic. The band was performing that night, and Hendrix joined them on stage to perform the Howlin' Wolf song "Killin' Floor." Clapton later recalled he knew he was "going to be a huge star" from that night forward. Hendrix, perhaps saluting this chance meeting, included "Sunshine of Your Love" in the Experience's live performances. Curiously, the upbeat renditions were always instrumental, never including Pete Brown's lyrics.


3. "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" - written by Lenon-McCartney & recorded by The Beatles

According to Paul McCartney himself, "Sgt. Pepper's" was released on a Friday and Hendrix opened a show of his two days later on a Sunday with the Beatles tune. Apparently Hendrix had sent his guitar "wildly out of tune" while playing the song and was seeking out Eric Clapton in the audience to help re-tune his guitar. Luckily, by the time he was performing the song with his band, he figured out how to keep his guitar mostly in tune. 


4. "Johnny B. Goode" - originally written & recorded by Chuck Berry

Hendrix was known for performing old blues and rock & roll standards and "Johnny B. Goode" was no exception. What's notable to me is, unlike his other covers, how close to the original this one was. Sure, the last 45 seconds are jam-packed with some epic improvisation and teeth plucking, but for the most part it is in the original spirit of Berry's original recording.


5. "Wild Thing" - written by Chip Taylor & popularized by The Troggs

Perhaps the most famous cover performance, Hendrix's rendition of "Wild Thing" begins with a glorious feedback drone and kicks off with him compelling the audience to sing a long. After two verses, the Experience kicks it into a high gear jam which brings Hendrix to his knees before reeling it back in for another refrian. At the conclusion of the performance, Hendrix is again brought to his knees and subsequently dowses his strat in lighter fluid and sets it on fire as an ode to fellow rocker Pete Townsend of The Who (who was of course famous for smashing his axes to bits).


Happy listening! What are some your favorite cover songs performed by Hendrix?

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