When Jimi Hendrix was exploring a more rock-oriented sound in New York City in 1966 with his group Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, “Hey Joe” was one of the first songs he performed regularly. His arrangement used a slower tempo reminiscent of Tim Rose’s recent single version, which he had heard on a juke box. Looking for musical acts to produce, Chas Chandler, the ex-bassist for the Animals, checked out Hendrix. By chance, the first song Hendrix performed during Chandler’s visit was “Hey Joe”, a song Chandler was interested in promoting. As a result, Chandler decided to take Hendrix with him to England in September 1966, where he would subsequently turn the guitarist into a star.
Released in December 1966, Hendrix’s version became a hit in the United Kingdom, entering the Top 10 of the UK Singles Chart in January 1967 and peaking at No. 6. The single was released in the United States on May 1, 1967 with the B-side “51st Anniversary”, but failed to chart. Nevertheless, it was listed at No. 201 on Rolling Stone magazine’s The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2010. In 2000, Total Guitar magazine ranked it as the 13th greatest cover version of all time. In 2009, it was named the 22nd greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1. Far Out and American Songwriter both named it Hendrix’s third-greatest song. In 2019, the British Phonographic Industry awarded “Hey Joe” its Silver certification, signifying sales of over 200,000. However, it is unknown whether this applies to the original recording or a subsequent live version.
“Hey Joe” was the last song Hendrix performed at the Woodstock festival in 1969 and as such, it was also the final song of the whole festival. The song was performed after the crowd, comprising the 80,000 who had not yet left the festival, cheered for an encore.
|Single by the Jimi Hendrix Experience|
|Released||December 16, 1966|
|Recorded||October 23, 1966|
|Studio||De Lane Lea, London|
|The Jimi Hendrix Experience singles chronology|