I knew that the anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death was coming up, but somehow the actual date eluded me. To that end, this week I’m going to devote my list to Hendrix.
I grew out of being blown away by guitar pyrotechnics when I was a late teenager -this was back when I thought Led Zeppelin was actually pretty cool. Yet even as my tastes drifted from the guitar gods, I’ve always liked Jimi Hendrix. I view Hendrix as a songwriter first and then a radical interpreter of the blues.
So much has been written about him, that it would probably be superfluous to add to here.
So I’ll start with my favorite Hendrix song – “The Wind Cries Mary”
As I stated above, I view Hendrix as a songwriter, and “The Wind Cries Mary” was the first song where I really saw his talent as a songwriter. It’s been said that Hendrix was insecure about his voice. Obviously this isn’t true, but he let his feet and hands hide his voice behind the walls of wah-wah and distortion. “The Wind Cries Mary” is probably the first time Hendrix let down the wall, and delivered one of his most tender ballads. Even the solo that comes in the middle of the song, is remarkably restrained for Hendrix.
Supposedly written about written one of his girlfriends after an argument, Hendrix isn’t just letting down his guitar-wall, he’s also truly revealing himself. If Bob Dylan had famously said that the answer was “blowin’ in the wind”, Hendrix is seeing his life by taken by it – he wants his girl back, but his cries just drift out into the air.
“A broom is drearily sweeping up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life,” He laments. Is he the broom? Useless in a corner, until there’s a mess to be cleaned, trying to clean up the damage he made?
Even the things that are part of everyday life sense his unease – “The traffic lights they turn blue tomorrow, and shine their emptiness down on my bed.” “Will the wind ever remember the names it has blown in the past?” He wonders later. “No, this will be the last,” the wind whispers back to him.
Without a doubt, “The Wind Cries Mary” is a heartfelt song and one of Hendrix’s best.