It was 50 years ago Friday that Jimi Hendrix died in London, a bit shy of his 28th birthday. Jimi’s rapid rise from obscurity to stardom spanned little more than a year. He had moved to New York in 1966 where Chas Chandler, bass player for The Animals looking for new artists to produce, saw Hendrix playing in a club with his band Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Chandler brought Hendrix to London in September of that year. Chas was especially taken with Hendrix’s cover of “Hey Joe”, and in December 1966 the song was released as the first single by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, reaching #6 on the UK charts. While Jimi’s fame in Europe was exploding in early 1967, his reputation had not reached the States, that is until he played the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967. Here is a clip of The Jimi Hendrix Experience playing “Hey Joe” at Monterey.
The Experience’s set at Monterey is one of the most mesmerizing rock and roll performances ever given. I highly recommend tracking down the documentary by D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hedges that includes the entire set. Here’s the trailer to whet your musical appetite.
A couple of months after Jimi’s death, Yusuf Islam, then known as Cat Stevens, released his breakthrough album Tea for the Tillerman. This past Friday Yusuf released Tea for the Tillerman 2, on which he gives some of the original tracks fresh treatments for their 50th anniversaries. Thanks for the tip, Helga!
One of the most interesting updates is “On the Road to Find Out”. It is not one of his better known songs, so the arrangement and video allow you to approach it as a brand new piece of music. Check out the Tillerman 2 version and a live performance of the original from 1971.
As we step back from our usual flag-waving, fireworks-filled celebrations of America, this year’s subdued Fourth of July feels appropriate as we question the functioning of our nation and how its promise has gone unfulfilled for so many after twelve score and four years. The tension between America’s promise and reality has been explored in some great music.
Of his song “American Tune”, Paul Simon said, “I don’t write overtly political songs, although ‘American Tune’ comes pretty close.” Still, when I think of the road we’re traveling on, I wonder what’s gone wrong.I can’t help but wonder, what’s gone wrong. Here’s a live performance recorded a couple of years after the song’s 1973 release.
An iconic song about the reality of America, in this case from the perspective of Vietnam veterans, is Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.”. The anthemic chorus contrasted with the story line reminds you of why Springsteen is for many of us, America’s true poet laureate.
Jimi Hendrix was the final performer at Woodstock on the morning of August 18, 1969. His set included a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” which drew controversy, as it wove sounds of sirens, explosions, wails of pain and a few bars of “Taps” into the national anthem. Performed during one of the most turbulent eras in America’ history, it’s hard to imagine an instrumental performance delivering more complex meaning.
A more recent take on America’s promise vs. reality is Rihanna’s 2015 “American Oxygen”. Written by an international collaboration of artists from the U.S., Great Britain, and South Africa, along with Barbadian Rihanna, it is regarded that she brought to the song a mix of hurt and hope from the perspective of a black woman come to America. Here she is performing it on Saturday Night Live.
A friend just returned from a trip to Stockholm and sent a photo of this poster featuring upcoming acts for, as best we can tell, a series of boat cruises around Stockholm Harbor. Thanks, Rainer!
The first act to catch our eye was “Chris Hiatt Band (US), Stevie Ray Vaughn Comes Alive”. A solid singer and guitarist (check out this video that starts off with a couple of original compositions), Chris usually plays with his band in and around Daytona Beach, Florida. Somewhere along the line his more than faint resemblance to Stevie Ray Vaughn was noticed, as was his ability to throw down a pretty fair imitation of Stevie Ray both as a singer and guitarist. Over the years Hiatt’s tribute concerts to Stevie Ray have become popular in Sweden where he is about to complete his 16th tour.
Here is Chris, dressed a la mode, covering Stevie Ray covering Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Chile”. Check out the behind the back playing at 7:30. As good as Chris is, certainly check out the real McCoy in an amazing Austin City Limits performance (and if you want to see Stevie Ray play behind his back, watch this video beginning at about 3:20).
Here’s an interesting coincidence: the YouTube video with the most views of Jimi himself playing Voodoo Chile is from a 1969 concert in … Stockholm!
Not only is Seattle home to the 2014 Super Bowl champion Seahawks, but it’s also home to one of the most prolific music scenes in the U.S. The list of Seattle musicians spans many genres and many eras, and an interesting music / Super Bowl connection is that the owner of the Seahawks, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, also financed Seattle’s EMP Museum originally known as Experience Music Project.
Bing Crosby was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1923, and Quincy Jones moved to Seattle as a young boy in the 1940s. But perhaps Seattle is most identified with Jimi Hendrix. Here is a mash-up video of Jimi’s best charting single, his cover of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”.
Hendrix is a tough act to follow, but Seattle also gave birth to Grunge, and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana was born not far away in Aberdeen, Washington. Nirvana was chosen for the 2014 class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility, and this is the song that began an era.
A Seattle oddity of the 1990’s was The Presidents of the United States of America. Their biggest hit was “Peaches”, but it’s hard to beat “Lump” for a great hook. After watching the original, check out Weird Al’s “Gump”.
A current Seattle favorite, and feature of an earlier blog post, is blue-eyed soul singer Allen Stone, but at the recent Grammy Awards a big winner was rapper Macklemore. Pardon the language in this video, but nearly a half-billion people have viewed the unpretentious sense of humor of this new phenom.