Like most people, my initial thought the first time I heard this song was: “what the hell is this?” It’s there’s a song that captures everything that Jimi Hendrix did – it’s perfectly achieved on this wah-wah soaked masterpiece.
A friend of mine remarked that even 40 years later, “Voodoo Child” is among the heaviest things anyone’s ever put to record. What sets “Voodoo Child” apart though, is how Hendrix is able to play the blues to logical extreme, be heavy and funky all in the same song. There’s also a few occasions in the song where he does all three at the same time.
“Voodoo Child” is the song that is guitar heroism at its apex. No other human being has played better than this. A little over a year before he recorded “Voodoo Child” Hendrix famously lit his guitar on fire during his performance at Monterary Pop. “Voodoo Child” is creating the impossible with this song, and burning it down as he goes.
The song itself also deals with destruction and creation. “Well I stand up next to a mountain,” Hendrix begins. “And I chop it down with the edge of my hand.” But there’s beauty after the mess: “I pick up all the pieces and make an island. Maybe even raise a little sand.” He’s sorry for taking up sweet time, but don’t worry he’ll give it back to us, “one of these days.”
Near the end of the song, Hendrix offers a sort of goodbye: “If I don’t meet you no more in this world, I’ll meet ya in the next one.” It’s unclear whether he meant that sincerely, or as a threat to watch out for what he was up to next – Hendrix was said to be moving in a different musical direction around the time of his death. Either way, he wasn’t going to wait around. “Don’t be late!” He implores.
Check out “Voodoo Child (Slight Return”):