Top 10 Jimi Hendrix Songs Of All Time
By Mike O’Cull
In honor of Jimi Hendrix’s 80th birthday on November 27th, I’ve created ‘The Top 10 Jimi Hendrix Songs Of All Time.’ Hendrix should have turned 80 this month. Here are ten reasons he’ll never be forgotten.
Jimi Hendrix changed rock music and electric guitar playing like few others ever have. His riffs, tones, and vision were unlike anyone else at the time he emerged, a time when players like Eric Clapton and George Harrison were considered the height of rock guitar talent. Jimi flew in the face of those more conventional players and threw the rule book in the trash can. His use of melody and dissonance, the way he used pedals, his songwriting ability, and general explosiveness were light years beyond what had been heard before he broke out and his ripples are still being felt today.
Picking the top ten Jimi Hendrix songs of all time is a challenging task. His recording career was tragically short, so it’s easy to make the case that anything he put to tape is an epic moment. We’re going to be a bit more selective, however, and bring you a list of Hendrix tunes that we feel represent and express his true greatness and impact.
If you have other favorites or your own list, be sure to share them in the Comments Section below!
1 – “Purple Haze”
This will always be the definitive Hendrix song. Recorded in early 1967, “Purple Haze” contains all the elements of Jimi that blew minds back in the day and it set rock music on a whole new path. The diminished intro riff, the heavy blues-informed licks, the octave pedal solo, and psychedelic lyrics are all hallmarks of Jimi’s style. Powered by the rhythm section of Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell, it became a game-changer for everyone who heard it.
Listen to “Purple Haze” here!
2 – “The Wind Cries Mary”
“The Wind Cries Mary” shows us a more delicate and soulful part of Jimi’s musicality. The chromatic intro figure built on inverted power and Major chords is sparse but unforgettable and the solo features Jimi phrasing like a Hammond organ player. His clean tone and lyrics about blue traffic lights and whispers give the song a trippy romanticism that help make this one of Jimi’s most sublime moments.
Listen to “The Wind Cries Mary” here!
3 – “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)”
This largely-improvised masterpiece is an amazing example of how Hendrix could blend the idea of the blues to his will and make something entirely new out of it. His wah pedal manipulations give his lines an almost vocal quality and his rhythm playing here is why E7#9 is now called “The Hendrix Chord.” Full of fire and brilliance, “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” is one of the most important tunes in Jimi’s body of work and still sounds as fresh as the day he put it down.
Listen to “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)” here!
4 – “Little Wing”
Another taste of Jimi’s mellow, poetic side, “Little Wing” has inspired millions of guitarists and has also become a standard that’s been covered by artists in many genres. The way he outlines and implies chords with single notes and double stops is the stuff of legend and the emotion he delivers them with is impossible to not feel.
Listen to “Little Wing” here!
5 – “If 6 Was 9”
“If 6 Was 9” is another psychedelic journey in Jimi’s mind. The song is a strong statement of the fierce individualism that was a Hendrix trademark as well as an indictment of the mainstream culture of the time. Hendrix also seemed to be trying to distance himself from the Hippie movement, though, singing about not caring if they cut off all their hair. Was he envisioning the musical future he wouldn’t live to see? We’ll never know but this is still one of Jimi’s peak moments.
Listen to “If 6 Was 9” here!
6 – “Red House”
Like Miles Davis, no matter what Hendrix played he was playing the blues. When he slowed down, showed his roots, and played an actual blues, however, it was always something special. “Red House” is the most famous Hendrix blues song and any version of it you encounter is worth contemplating and absorbing. His improvised solos show Jimi at his most pure and will always be worth learning.
Listen to “Red House” here!
7 – “Machine Gun”
To many fans, this later-period Hendrix track is the greatest electric guitar performance ever recorded. “Machine Gun” is Jimi at his most expansive moment, free-styling guitar gold and social commentary all at once. The Band of Gypsys record was recorded live at the Fillmore East in 1970 with backing from bassist Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles, a rhythm section with an entirely different sound than Redding and Mitchell. Cox and Miles brought more jazz, fusion, funk, and soul qualities to Jimi’s sound. Nothing could be better.
Listen to “Machine Gun” here!
8 – “All Along The Watchtower”
This cover of a Bob Dylan folk song has far surpassed the original version in terms of fame and influence. It contains some of the most melodic guitar lines Hendrix ever recorded as well as his completely non-traditional slide parts allegedly executed with a Zippo lighter. Every band plays it sooner or later and it will always be playing on classic rock stations everywhere.
Listen to “All Along The Watchtower” here!
9 – “Foxey Lady”
Hendrix touched eternity once again with the timeless “Foxey Lady.” It’s one of those rare songs that remains fresh-sounding for each new generation that hears it. His playing is vital and flawless and the riff will never grow old. Play this for your kids so they play it for theirs someday.
Listen to “Foxey Lady” here!
10 – “Stone Free”
“Stone Free” is one of the most exciting uptempo Hendrix songs and contains more statements of his lifestyle and identity. Of course, the guitar playing slays but the song truly lets us all feel the hard-won freedom that Jimi carried in his heart. This will never not sound good.
Listen to “Stone Free” here!
Jimi Hendrix website