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The hit single “Hey Joe” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience holds a fascinating story behind its creation and popularity. Written by Billy Roberts, an American folk singer, the song gained immense fame through the iconic rendition by Jimi Hendrix.

Who originally wrote the song “Hey Joe”?

The song’s origins can be traced back to the early 1960s, when Roberts wrote “Hey Joe” based on a traditional folk song structure. “Hey Joe” is a traditional American folk song that has been covered and adapted by numerous artists over the years. It’s difficult to pinpoint a single original version or definitive creator. The song gained attention in the Greenwich Village folk scene in New York City, where Billy Roberts was performing. Various folk artists began covering the song, each bringing their own interpretation to it. One of the earliest recorded versions was by folk singer Tim Rose in 1966.

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When was the song “Hey Joe” popularized by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

At that time, in later of 1966, the band consisted of Jimi Hendrix on vocals and guitar, Noel Redding on bass, and Mitch Mitchell on drums, released “Hey Joe” as their debut single in the UK. This was a strategic decision, as Jimi Hendrix was exploring a more rock-oriented sound in New York City with his past group Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, and “Hey Joe” was one of the first songs he performed regularly. Chas Chandler, who was managing The Jimi Hendrix Experience, played a crucial role in shaping the band’s sound and image. He recognized the potential of “Hey Joe” as a vehicle to introduce Hendrix’s talent to a wider audience.

The release of “Hey Joe” proved to be a wise decision. The single quickly gained traction and climbed the UK charts. It eventually reached the sixth position on the UK Singles Chart, solidifying the band’s presence in the British music scene.

Did The Jimi Hendrix Experience frequently perform “Hey Joe” during their shows?

The Jimi Hendrix Experience frequently included performances of “Hey Joe”, and along with “Foxey Lady” and “Fire”, were songs played many times until the last concerts in 1970. Despite Jimi being worn out by these songs, he always found a way to improvise on stage to make them more motivating, even for himself. Many times, he didn’t want to play them in concerts because he felt they limited him in artistic terms. He wanted to evolve and introduce the audience to new sounds and songs he was creating in the studio. However, due to financial pressures and the popularity he had to maintain, he was ‘forced’ to play them over and over again… but of course, always with a lot of improvisation.

Interesting facts about “Hey Joe” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

  • Listed at No. 201 on Rolling Stone magazine’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2010.
  • Ranked as the 13th greatest cover version of all time by Total Guitar magazine in 2000.
  • Named the 22nd greatest hard rock song of all time by VH1 in 2009.
  • Far Out and American Songwriter both ranked it as Hendrix’s third-greatest song.
  • “Hey Joe” was the last song performed by Hendrix at the Woodstock festival in 1969, making it the final song of the entire event.

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Hey Joe single by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, 1966
Credit: BorntoListen
Is just a guy who got tired of bothering his friends talking about music, and decided to create a blog to write about what he loves the most.
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