And yes, it is quite mundane reading sentences such as these that grandiloquently expresses the ubiquitous praise that Jimi regularly receives from pretty much everybody. Whether it be us at ClassicRockHistory, other music journalism outlets, ordinary people, fellow musicians, or even the inhabitants from the faraway planet Hendrix crash-landed from when he came to Earth, the constant acclamation is all but necessary and something one tends to get use to when the conversation of guitarists comes into play; however, that doesn’t mean it can’t get a tad bit tedious at times. It’s great to honor an artist’s talent and legacy, but it’s even better to actually talk about what makes their work so special; that’s the case here.
Let’s just skip over this boring old introduction and immediately submerge ourselves in what this article is about: Jimi Hendrix guitar solos. It’s going to be insanely toilsome picking out his best work, so we’ll just look at this article from the perspective of a guide; a guide to lead one onto the path of Jimi’s greatness if they haven’t already. Plus it’s great compiling lists such as this, for there may be some songs fans may not have known about. Something that’s worth noting when it comes to the guitar work of Hendrix: he never played the same solo twice; everything he ever did, especially during his live shows, was spontaneous and off the cuff. So most of the solos on this list are going to be exclusively live performances. We hope you all enjoy yet another fitting tribute to the wonderfully gifted human that is Jimi Hendrix.
16.) Purple Haze (Winterland version)
Perhaps his most well-known song and the one that brought all kinds of commercial success for him, Noel Redding, and Mitch Mitchell, is the one that will open up our Top 16 Jimi Hendrix Guitar Solos list. We couldn’t possibly overlook the impact of his studio guitar solo, but it’s worth noting that the crushing Purple Haze he played on October 11, 1968 at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, which appeared on disc four of the 2011 live box set, features one hell of a guitar solo at the end that’s sure to send goosebumps up your spine.
15.) Killing Floor (Monterey Pop Festival version)
The history book of music most definitely has a chapter dedicated to this monumental concert where Hendrix famously placed his guitar on the floor of the stage, pulled out a can of gasoline, lit a match, and commenced to setting his instrument on fire in front of thousands of people, before smashing it into a million pieces; this would garner him the mainstream attention he deserved. But it was his electrifying interpretation of Howlin’ Wolf’s Killing Floor that let the world know that this magic boy couldn’t be stopped; the manic licks he fires from his fingertips were enough to make Eric Clapton jealous…..literally!
14.) Foxy Lady (Isle of Wight version)
This legendary Jimi Hendrix Experience concert which was held at the music festival on at the Isle of Wight, the largest island of England. It’s 1970 lineup featured the likes of not only Hendrix, but The Who, The Doors, Miles Davis, Jon Mitchell, Ten Years After, The Moody Blues, Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, Chicago, and Donvan; it’s attendance number was over 700, 000 people, which eclipsed that of Woodstock’s number.
This nine minute fistful of pounding distortion, fire-breathing penatonics, and nauseating amplifier feedback is but an aferthought of the kind of wonderful sounds he emitted from his guitar.
13.) Spanish Castle Magic (Winterland version)
Originally released on the groundbreaking record, Axis: Bold As Love, Spanish Castle Magic became a live staple for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. And while the guitar solos he ripped to shreds in the studio were nothing to sneeze at, the guitar solo he pulled from his soul’s hat on the stage during his Winterland gig is pure fantastical ferocity.
12.) Burning Desire (Fillmore East version)
This funk-laden jam number features quite a nice, fast-paced solo. The performance, part of their Fillmore East repertoire, was first released on the 1974 record, Loose Ends, which was comprised of studio outtakes and various other recordings. This is the live version that should be heard. The guitar solo is so eclectic and truly fit the caliber of Jimi’s wild and free persona.
11.) The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam’s Dice
This underrated tune was released as the B-side to one of their Electric Ladyland singles, Burning of the Midnight Lamp. It’s quite an LSD-drenched flurry of outer space sound waves; all thanks to his three minute guitar solo. The Stars That Play with Laughing Sam’s Dice was later included on the 1968 compilation Smash Hits, and the posthumous records Loose Ends and South Saturn Delta, which were also compilations that featured other unreleased material.
10.) Red House (Live versions)
This tasteful, twelve-bar blues song was developed during the earlier stages of Jimi’s career before he formed the Hendrix Experience. Red House was birthed through several other blues songs Jimi performed while he was with Curtis Knight and the Squires. The UK release of Are You Experienced featured this classic tune, and while his sloppy runs are just as gritty and potent, it was the way he translated the modernity of his blues musings to the stage with his prolonged performance of Red House; one can definitely hear where Stevie Ray Vaughan got his inspiration from when listening to these solos.
9.) Tax Free (Winterland version)
This was originally an instrumental piece by a very obscure Swedish prog rock duo, Hansson & Karlsson; they also played with Hendrix while he was in Stockholm at the time. But when it came to Jimi and covering other peoples’ songs, of course he made it an extension of his own style. He took this jazz fusion number and layered it with two thousand pounds worth of distortion, turning this elongated live staple into one big guitar solo that need not be overlooked.
8.) Are You Experienced? (Winterland version)
Nothing beats the backwards guitar solo that graced the midsection of this experimental heavy-hitter, but it’s the 12 minute improvisational jam he performed at Winterland on October 11, 1968 that deserves all kinds of attention; about 85 % of the song is dedicated solely to the spectacular guitar solo he unleashes without warning to every lucky human being who was in the audience that night.
If there’s one thing worth noting about the immensive puissance of Jimi’s talent as a musician, it’s that he could play his songs different each time and still make them as fresh and invigorating as the album counterparts.
7.) Stone Free (Fillmore East version)
His live rendition of this seminal counterculture anthem is nothing short of top notch musicianship between him and his fellow band members; in this case, drummer Buddy Miles and bassist Billy Cox of the epic supergroup, Band of Gypsys. The kind of guitar passages and whammy bar nuances he conveyed during this onstage performance are greased up with so much character, and it’s all due in part because of the reticent rhythm section of Miles and Cox. And the last few minutes of resolution makes for quite the fitting finale. This is one of his greatest guitar moments.
6.) Star Spangled Banner (Woodstock version)
Everybody is fully aware of Jimi’s volatile yet exciting rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, and it of course all started with his insanely iconic performance during Woodstock of ’69. Jimi was drafted into the army in 1961, so he knew what it meant to serve this great country, and that patriotism made this instrumental jam shine on levels that still can’t be attained even to this day; when other rock guitarists play the Star Spangled Banner, it just doesn’t have that same spark as Jimi’s version.
5.) Little Wing (Album version)
Little Wing’s not only his most beautiful composition, but it’s also home to one of his most gorgeous guitar solos. This complex ballad that was inspired by his experience at Monterey is a true testament to just how incredible Jimi was as an artist. His prodigious knowledge and understated theory when it came to the approach of the instrument is best summed up in this song, and this guitar solo was the perfect way to end it; every time you listen to it, you can just hear its wings extending outward, soaring freely into ones soul.
4.) Hear My Train A Comin’ (Berkeley Community Theatre)
Jimi’s improvisational skills and his modern take on the electric blues was in full form here. He performed various interpretations of this song live, and he even recorded an 12-string acoustic version which showed the depth of his understanding of the blues, but the version he brought to life at the Berkeley Community Theatre during the 1970 Cry of Love tour has to be felt to be believed. Here he substitutes technicality with rugged feeling, and those extended solos are a fine example of such.
3.) All Along the Watchtower (Album version)
Here’s the Bob Dylan song Hendrix made his own; Dylan even stated before that he could never play the song live without playing it the way Jimi did. This iconic tune is one of the few recordings where Jimi sounded gracefully proficient, as opposed to his typical unkempt style of playing, and it’s the three guitar solos here that are evident of such; especially the third solo where he begins by playing Hawaiian-style slide with a cigarette lighter before unleashing some of the best wah-wah pedal work of his career.
All Along the Watchtower was released as a single for the 1968 opus, Electric Ladyland, and became the Jimmy Hendrix Experiences’ highest charting single.
2.) Voodoo Child (A Slight Return) (Album version)
When discussing songs that best summarize the foundation of what an electric guitar should sound like, Voodoo Child remains the Holy Bible for every guitarist. Jimi utilized every technique known to mankind within this song, further sealing his legacy as the pinnacle of rock and roll greatness, and most of this was the result of his disgustingly brilliant guitar licks deep-fried in gut-churning distortion that just doesn’t sound right when not played at extreme volumes.
This is a truly timeless song that will always be synonymous with Jimi’s genius.
1.) Machine Gun (Fillmore East version):
When it comes to the greatest guitar work ever recorded by Mr. Hendrix, Machine Gun holds a slight edge over Voodoo Child. The version that the Band of Gypsys played during their 1970 concert at the Fillmore East, which ultimately turned into their self-titled live album, is a performance like no other. This anti-war anthem is Jimi’s darkest and most emotionally investing song he ever wrote, and the potent combination of Buddy Miles’ sinister croons and buttoned-up percussion only adds to it.
But the real highlight is Jimi’s explosive guitar improvisation that hits the four minute mark. That, dare I say, orgasmic note he sustains for a good ten seconds, is perhaps the single greatest note in all of rock. And the way he reaches transcendental enlightenment on that stage with his guitar, just pouring every ounce of his heart and soul into each passage, is pure perfection; especially the way he created all of these terrifying effects with the guitar that mimicked the horrors of war, such as helicopter sounds, machine guns firing off, and bombs being dropped.
Machine Gun is Jimi’s magnum opus. It’s the kind of guitar song that should be studied in music schools. This guitar solo is living proof that Jimi Hendrix was not human; he was sent here by a higher power to show us mere mortals what it was like to set eyes upon the greatest guitarist ever.