It’s hard to overstate the importance and legacy of Jimi Hendrix. Though his band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, only released three albums before his death, he undeniably influenced so many with his natural talent and powerful, enthralling take on American blues and psychedelic rock music. His debut single, “Hey Joe,” a cover of the rock standard originally released by Los Angeles garage band, The Leaves, was recorded 52 years ago today. The seven-inch single was backed by the B-side, “Stone Free.” It was released in December 1966 and became a hit in the U.K., entering the Top 10 of the U.K. Singles Chart in January 1967. The single was released in the U.S. in May the following year with a different B-side, “51st Anniversary,” but it failed to chart. The song was also famously the closing number of his 1969 Woodstock set and the last song of that year’s festival.
On May 10, 1968, The Jimi Hendrix Experience performed the track at the Fillmore East in New York City. The trio headlined the venue at a time when Hendrix hadn’t yet succumbed to the pressure of success and as a result, it’s one of his most natural and playful performances. That night, they played an extended version of “Hey Joe” before diving into a cover of Cream’s hit, “Sunshine Of Your Love,” which morphed into “Hear My Train A Comin.” Later on in the set, he pulls out a Bob Dylan deep cut, “Please Crawl Out Your Window,” which demonstrates his admiration for the fellow singer/songwriter. Finally, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ended the show with a down and dirty performance of one of their most celebrated songs, “Purple Haze.”
Listen to The Jimi Hendrix Experience perform “Hey Joe” in 1968 below.