“He was very self-effacing about his music but when he picked up that guitar he was just a monster.” – Paul McCartney on Jimi Hendrix.
Monsters by definition are hard to replicate, just look at the havoc old Doc Frankenstein wreaked when he attempted it—by right he should’ve had his license revoked. Jimi Hendrix remains the Amadeus Mozart of the six-string. In the repurposed words of Hunter S. Thompson, he was “one of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”
Hendrix survives not only through his music but through the legacy that he imparted. The old cliché of ‘often replicated but never bettered’ can’t even be applied to him, he stands alone as an incomparable pariah of unrivalled talent, many have admired the trail he left behind, but nobody has tried to follow it.
However, Hendrix himself had his own inspirations and he often wove these into his own psychedelic wilderness. As he said of Bob Dylan: All those people who don’t like Bob Dylan’s songs should read his lyrics. They are filled with the joys and sadness of life.” This was a depth that he tried to incorporate into his own work. Owing to the glaring surface of his guitar work, the lyrics and spiritualism are often forgotten, but they are undoubtedly in the brimming mix.
This entirely sui generis maelstrom of musical ability and artistic intent makes his work incredibly difficult to cover. Even the sort of covers whereby the transposition of the original piece results in a highly mutated beast are few and far between. That being said, enough brave fools have tried it. His nerve-wracking musicianship is indicative of the way Fiona Apple humbly introduced her classic cover.
“Okay so if you’re a fan of Jimi Hendrix, you’re either going to really like me or really, really not like me at the end of this.” She said before her live performance of Hendrix’s classic slowed introspective piece ‘Angel’. It’s certainly a good way to disarm the critics from the get-go and it sets up a homage that surely would leave most people liking her.
Hendrix’s original is one of those rare songs that seem to be plucked from the ether. It is a rare spiritual gem that can offer an emotional wallop if it catches you on the right whim. Thus, you could certainly say that it’s a brave song to take on. Fiona Apple clutches the same thistle that Hendrix’s was grabbing and uses the song as a chance to communicate a spiritual howl. As different as it is, it still proves very affecting.