Jimi Hendrix died nearly half a century ago, yet his name and music are still as marketable and relevant today as it was back in the late 1960s. The music of the famous left-handed guitarist impacted generations of musicians both in and outside of the blues/rock realms, and his loose, bohemian image mixed with his distortion and energy-driven playing certainly made Hendrix someone who countless guitarist have wanted to emulate ever since.
Over the years, numerous contemporary musicians have done their best to put a fresh, unique spin on Hendrix's most popular songs. Some have come up short, while others have given old tracks new life, but most impressive is so many were impacted by the artist who made a creative impact over such a short period of time. So as nostalgia reins supreme amongst today’s youth, let’s look back on some of the best Jimi Hendrix covers in hopes of discovering new ways to enjoy the music of arguably the most revered performer of the 20th century.
1. “Red House” by Aerosmith
The members of Aerosmith are no strangers to the world of Jimi Hendrix. The classic rock band was heavily influenced as teenagers when Hendrix was still alive and performing, and you can hear echoes of his bluesy-rock style all throughout those classic Aerosmith albums of the 1970s. The band has been covering the 12-bar-blues staple known as “Red House” in their own set for years, and was captured perfectly on their 1989 concert film, recorded during a show at Philadelphia’s old Spectrum Arena. Joe Perry’s deeper vocals mixed with trade-off solos between him and Brad Whitford show just how good of a blues song “Red House” really is.
2. “May This Be Love” by Michael Kiwanuka
Michael Kiwanuka arrived onto the mainstream scene over the past year, but the soulful British guitarist and singer has been around for a decade at this point. He recorded his own version of “May This Be Love” for a live “Spotify Sessions” EP back in 2012, and has also performed the song in his sets on occasion ever since. He may not have the complex and ferocious style of his guitar-playing predecessor, but his natural and organic style of performing certainly adds a beautiful touch to the original 1967 bluesy ballad.
3. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” by Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughan might be the only other guitarist (aside from maybe Eric Clapton) more famous for his use of the Fender Stratocaster than Jimi Hendrix. The career of the tremendously talented blues guitarist was also cut short, but not before he recorded a cover of Hendrix's “Voodoo Child” for his 1984 “Couldn't Stand the Weather” album. While keeping the erratic and wild spirt of the original intact, Vaughan also adds plenty of his own Texas-style blues flavor with those amazing abilities of his. If there’s anyone who was near the talent level of Hendrix to bring his music back to life, it’s SRV.
4. “Hey Joe” by Patti Smith
Patti Smith covered Hendrix's famous ballad and released it as a single in 1974. The poet and singer starts out her cover with a nearly a minute of spoken word, during which she references a guitarist who makes her “feel so masochistic.” Her rendition of the song is much more stripped down with just her vocals, a piano and some slight guitar parts in the background. Smith's version may be much darker than the original, but it certainly captures the song’s raw lyrical message.
5. “Bold As Love” by John Mayer
It’s no secret that John Mayer is a connoisseur of all things bluesy-rock. Mayer’s affection for classic rock guitar heroes, including Hendrix, is heard throughout his own albums including his 2006 "Continuum" LP, which included a tasteful cover of “Bold As Love.” Mayer’s fat and cleaner-sounding Stratocaster launches the song into the new millennium with a melodic flow of lyrics and blissful guitar lines that any Hendrix fan should enjoy and appreciate. If Mayer’s guitar solo doesn’t turn you on to blues-rock, then you should just give up hope and move on to another genre.
6. “Purple Haze” by The Cure
Veteran British rock group The Cure included a pretty heavy cover of the psychedelic anthem known as “Purple Haze” on the 1993 compilation tribute album, “Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix.” Their version was updated with a new rhythm section that feels much more like early-90s industrial rock than late-60s psychedelic, but its weird overall feel would hopefully make Hendrix proud. The track has plenty of ins and outs in terms of mixing and fading levels that would make any listening experience feel awfully trippy. Turn down the lights, turn up the neon and enjoy.
7. “Crosstown Traffic” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Jimi Hendrix's 1968 single from the "Electric Ladyland" LP may have one of the more familiar riffs in the Hendrix catalogue. Its heavy guitar work mixed with a proto-rap lyrical flow made it a perfect choice for the fellas of the Chili Peppers to cover back in their early days. The band put a live version of the song onto the 2003 remastered version their 1989 “Mother’s Milk” LP, along with a few other Hendrix covers in "Castles Made of Sand," and “Fire,” which had appeared on the album’s original release.