There aren’t many people who can take a Bob Dylan song to brand new places. It’s safe to say that Jimi Hendrix is one of the few who have tried and succeeded to make Dylan sound like something else entirely.
We’re looking back at the guitarist’s wonderful cover of ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ from his iconic performance at Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.
Now Hendrix is no first-timer when it comes to covering Bob Dylan. His version of Bob’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’ is widely regarded as Hendrix’s finest work and possibly even better than the original. Likely buoyed by the reaction, and also likely just a massive fan, Hendrix picked another Dylan song to cover for his appearance at the legendary festival in 1967.
At the festival Hendrix would kick off his first US tour in style, delivering a seminal performance that still shines in the annals of rock history as one of the greatest guitar performances of all time. The festival would also see performances from Janis Joplin, The Who (with whom he had a rather frank discussion), and the Grateful Dead to kick off the Summer of Love in style.
While much of Hendrix’s performance is to be rightly lauded, this, after all, was the stage he chose to set his guitar ablaze and feed off the spiritual, and possibly toxic, fumes it produced. Following the conclusion of ‘Wild Thing,’ Hendrix would (not for the first time) pour lighter fluid on his guitar and drop a match to make musical history.
Before all that happened, Hendrix would take on the simple task of changing rock and roll guitar forever. From the first scratching and electric notes of ‘Purple Haze,’ Hendrix had seemingly sent the perfect chords of the past to the doldrums of history. Such was the majestic power with his instrument he inspired countless artists and musicians following this very performance. Hendrix was a virtuoso with the axe.
Much of the legacy of Hendrix was not just that he was an expert player, nor that he had a fair few decent tunes up his sleeve. No much of the legacy surrounding Jimi was how he could interpret others’ music, others’ expression and make it not only his own but transcend it into a public space – where it suddenly became ours.
In this clip of Jimi Hendrix covering Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone,’ that notion is perfectly displayed. Through a steel-string Hendrix manages to not only convey the message of Dylan’s often covered but never mastered 1965 hit but wiht it he also adds the perfumed beauty of his instrumentals without compromising the track.
Hendrix plies ample amounts of his personality in the performance chuckling, smiling and adding a lick or two from his guitar, which adds the cherry on top of an already delicious cake. Although you wouldn’t like to say whose version of the song is better, Hendrix’s or Dylan’s, it’s fair to say that Jimi at least gives him a run for his money.
Watch below as Jimi Hendrix covers Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’