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Certain songs stand out not only for their musical impact but also for the captivating narratives that gave them life. Jimi Hendrix’s “The Wind Cries Mary” is a prime example, unfolding a story that reaches well beyond the boundaries of its musical arrangement. At its core is an unexpected source of inspiration: a heated disagreement revolving around mashed potatoes.

 

Food Fight and the Birth of Jimi Hendrix “The Wind Cries Mary”

The story begins in 1967 when Jimi Hendrix, in a passionate yet turbulent romance with Kathy Etchingham, found himself embroiled in a quarrel that would fuel creative brilliance. As Etchingham recalls in a revealing interview on BBC Sounds in 2005, most of their arguments stemmed from her cooking or, more precisely, her inability to cook. On a fateful day, the battleground shifted to the state of her mashed potatoes.

The mashed potatoes were lumpy, and he made some cutting remark“, Etchingham recounts. The dispute escalated into a chaotic scene, with plates, pots, and pans strewn about Jimi Hendrix’s apartment. “He was very upset,” she admits, painting a vivid picture of the aftermath of their culinary clash.

Years later, Etchingham still interprets “The Wind Cries Mary” as a lyrical documentation of that turbulent day. “‘All the jacks are in their boxes’ probably relates to during the argument when he said, ‘You play games, you’re always playing games,'” she explains. The broom, “drearily sweeping up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life,” becomes a symbolic stand-in for Jimi Hendrix himself, cleaning up the shattered remnants of their relationship as she leaves the apartment, crying.

When Etchingham returned the next day, Jimi Hendrix handed her the lyrics, marking the completion of the song. “It actually documents, in a poetic way, the events of that day,” she concludes. Etchingham even speculates about other famous lines, connecting them to Jimi Hendrix’s late-night writing habits.

 

Recording “The Wind Cries Mary”: The Winter Session of 1967

 

“The Wind Cries Mary” wasn’t just born out of chaos; it was also a product of spontaneity. Recorded in the winter of 1967 as a last-minute addition to the session for “Fire,” the song emerged in just twenty minutes. The Experience’s drummer, Mitch Mitchell, and bassist, Noel Redding, had not heard the piece. Yet, after playing it through once, Jimi Hendrix suggested a few overdubs, and that was it. The song’s rapid creation mirrored its chart success — it went on to become the third hit single from the Jimi Hendrix Experience in the U.K., following “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze.”

When questioned about the song’s origins in 1969, Jimi Hendrix confirmed Etchingham as the inspiration, stating, “Kathy is my past girlfriend, my present girlfriend and probably my future girlfriend; my mother, my sister and all that bit. My Yoko Ono from Chester.” The word “Mary” seems derived from Etchingham’s middle name, though there’s a layer of ambiguity. In her BBC interview, Etchingham called it a “tongue-in-cheek” reference by her former boyfriend. However, music journalist David Stubbs suggests a different muse — Mary Washington, based on poetry written to another lover.

 

Enduring Legacy

As “The Wind Cries Mary” reverberated through the years, its legacy only solidified. The song was released in the U.K. on May 5, 1967, swiftly becoming a hit and adding another accolade to the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s repertoire. Jimi Hendrix’s foresight about the enduring nature of the song became evident, as it transcended its tumultuous origins to become a timeless piece in the rock canon.

Charts bowed to the power of Jimi Hendrix’s creation, with “The Wind Cries Mary” standing tall as the third successful single from the Experience. Its impact on the music landscape is undeniable, as it carved a distinctive space alongside other iconic tracks from the band.

In 1998, Etchingham provided a deeper dive into her time with Jimi Hendrix through her memoir, “Through Gypsy Eyes,” borrowing its title from another of Jimi Hendrix’s songs supposedly inspired by her. The legacy of “The Wind Cries Mary” extends beyond the realms of music, intertwining with personal narratives and cultural nuances.

As we peel back the layers of this rock classic, from mashed potato melees to late-night musings, “The Wind Cries Mary” remains a testament to the complexities of creativity, love, and the enduring power of a song born from an unexpected clash in the kitchen.

 

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What Key is “The Wind Cries Mary” in?

“The Wind Cries Mary” is a soulful power ballad penned by Jimi Hendrix, making its debut in 1967 on his groundbreaking album, “Are You Experienced”. The melancholic melody unfolds in the key of F major, with the guitar elegantly tuned half a step-down.

 

What is the Meaning Behind “The Wind Cries Mary”?

The third Jimi Hendrix single is believed to have found its inspiration in a domestic dispute between Jimi Hendrix and his then-girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham. Legend has it that their disagreement, sparked by a critique of Etchingham’s cooking, led to her storming out of their apartment. In the wake of this emotional turmoil, Jimi Hendrix penned the timeless “The Wind Cries Mary,” as a poignant ode to Etchingham, whose middle name happened to be Mary.

 

What Are Some Notable ‘Power Ballads’ by Jimi Hendrix?

Here are some examples of the soulful and reflective side of Jimi Hendrix’s discography with several notable power ballads. “Little Wing,” a masterpiece from “Axis: Bold as Love,” mesmerizes with intricate guitar work and a soul-stirring melody. “Angel,” a posthumously released gem, captures Jimi Hendrix’s signature style and emotional depth.

Dive into the lesser-known but equally enchanting “Drifting,” an instrumental piece that showcases Jimi Hendrix’s finesse in creating atmospheric and introspective music. “May This Be Love,” featured in the iconic “Are You Experienced” album, unveils a softer side with dreamy guitar passages. Concluding the collection is “Bold as Love,” a lyrical and versatile track from the second album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience, further highlighting his ability to blend rock with a melodic approach.

Did Jimi Hendrix Wrote Any Songs About Women?

Absolutely! Jimi Hendrix was in love with two things: his guitar and…many women! The electrifying anthem “Foxy Lady” has long been celebrated for its iconic riffs and soul-stirring energy. While assumptions often point to Kathy Etchingham as the inspiration, the true muse behind this legendary track lies in the enigmatic figure of Lithofayne “Faye” Pridgon.

Additionally, “Dolly Dagger” reportedly pays homage to Jimi Hendrix’s girlfriend Devon Wilson, entangled in a complex romance with Mick Jagger, and “Wind Cries Mary” offers a poignant glimpse into his relationship with Kathy Mary Etchingham.

Two of our favorites, “Little Wing” and “Angel”, tenderly reflect on his mother, Lucille Jeter, revealing a more intimate and personal connection. Through these songs, Jimi Hendrix not only showcased his musical vocabulary but also captured the diverse nuances of his relationships with the women who left an indelible mark on his life. Each composition is a testament to the multifaceted nature of his inspirations and the women who played pivotal roles in shaping his artistic journey.

 

What Type of Personality Did Jimi Hendrix Have?

 

Jimi Hendrix, often shy and soft-spoken, displayed a gentle nature, yet his expressive mannerisms in interviews hinted at challenges in coherent communication beyond music. Despite his documented relationship with drugs and controversies regarding alleged violent incidents, particularly under the influence of alcohol, close associates like Kathy Etchingham dispute these portrayals.

Delving into speculation, some suggest Hendrix might have shown signs of undiagnosed Autism Spectrum Disorder, evident in his obsessive musical pursuits. His profound connection to music, akin to a lover, drove him to unparalleled achievements but also fueled a tragic internal struggle. Hendrix’s relentless pursuit of unattainable musical perfection, coupled with dissatisfaction with audience expectations, led to a turbulent life. This struggle, reflected in poignant lyrics like “Manic Depression,” eventually contributed to his accidental overdose at age twenty-seven, leaving behind an enduring legacy in rock history.

The portrayal of Jimi Hendrix engaging in domestic violence in the film “Jimi: All is By My Side” has stirred controversy. Charles R. Cross, author of the Jimi Hendrix biography “Room Full of Mirrors,” vehemently opposes this depiction. Cross, who extensively researched Jimi Hendrix’s life and interviewed over 300 people, states that he never encountered any credible accounts of Jimi Hendrix perpetrating domestic violence. The film’s portrayal of Hendrix’s alleged violent behavior towards his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham is particularly disputed. Cross deems it offensive and potentially libelous, arguing that it diverges from the documented history of Jimi Hendrix, misrepresenting a crucial aspect of his legacy.

However Jimi Hendrix’s history with violence, particularly when under the influence of alcohol and drugs, remains a contentious aspect of his life. Hendrix’s behavior escalated to physical harm. In one documented case, he accused a friend of theft, engaging in a violent confrontation that involved throwing punches and stones.

Another distressing episode occurred in 1969 when, in a drunken and jealous rage, Jimi Hendrix hit his girlfriend, Carmen Borrero, with a vodka bottle, causing an injury that required stitches. These specific instances of aggression contribute to a more nuanced understanding of Hendrix’s actions, highlighting moments when substance use may have intensified his propensity for violent behavior.

 

 

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