Six months after Bob Dylan released “All Along the Watchtower,” Jimi Hendrix recorded a version that would became one of his biggest songs. Just days after The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Hendrix covered the album’s title track during a show attended by Paul McCartney and George Harrison. And lest we forget what may be the greatest interpretation of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Despite an early death in 1970, Hendrix covered many of his peers and influences, from Van Morrison and the Troggs to Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry. Now many of these covers will be re-recorded for use in the upcoming Hendrix biopic in lieu of original tracks. But what if Jimi hadn’t died? What songs would he have put his signature stamp on? Here are five songs we would have loved to hear Hendrix cover had he not fallen victim to the “27 Club.”
“Eruption,” Van Halen
Eddie Van Halen and Hendrix both regularly make the top 10 on greatest guitarists lists, but besides their mutual love of the wah-wah pedal, their styles vary greatly. Van Halen’s technical dominance has never been in greater form than on 1978’s “Eruption,” a two-minute shred-fest sans lyrics. It’d be a treat to hear Hendrix take on the hard rock instrumental, infusing psychedelic distortion into it. Listen to it here.
“War Pigs,” Black Sabbath
Hendrix is often credited as one of several ’60s guitarists who helped pave the way for the early heavy metal of the 1970s. Having him cover the era’s biggest heavy metal band – Black Sabbath – on their trippiest jam session would bring it all full circle. (Even more full circle: Sabbath’s Paranoid album, which features “War Pigs,” was released the day Hendrix died.) On “War Pigs,” Sabbath guitarist Tony Iommi goes to town for minutes on end with his shredding, changing tempos and styles several times. Imagine the Hendrix take on those twists and turns. Listen to it here.
“Seven Nation Army,” The White Stripes
Jack White carries the guitar god torch for the modern generation – a claim supported by the White Stripes’ hard-rocking 2003 single “Seven Nation Army.” With White’s deep appreciation for the blues, humble beginnings and funky style, we have a feeling he and Hendrix would have gotten along A-OK. Hendrix would have found a way to top even White’s distortion.
“Stairway to Heaven,” Led Zeppelin
Several years ago, a so-called Hendrix cover of the Zeppelin classic hit the web – an impossibility considering Hendrix died weeks before the 1971 song was reportedly written. The “cover” – and the prospect of Jimi covering Jimmy – whet appetites nonetheless. Would he have to get one of Page’s famous double-neck Gibson guitars? We can only hope. Listen to it here.
“Beat It,” Michael Jackson
Hendrix wasn’t above covering songs outside of his niche, and his take on The Beatles showed his ability to take pop music and make it his own. While most of Jackson’s hits wouldn’t exactly work with a Hendrix redux, 1983’s “Beat It” definitely would, thanks to Eddie Van Halen’s solo. We envision Jimi slowing it down, making a chilled-out take on the dancey hit. Still, we have to wonder what would Hendrix would have thought of the cheesy guitar stylings of ’80s pop.
– Jillian Mapes, CBS Local