Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan are the two men who define Greenwich Village. They both arrived at the same location with the same dream, one which was for world-dominance — the only difference was time-spans, which meant that these two behemoths of music only shared each other’s company on one occasion. Still, the mutual respect held spoke for itself.
Hendrix famously handed Dylan’s baby, ‘All Along The Watchtower’, the ultimate justice and provided a guide to the art of covering, one that would outshine the original. Hendrix took Dylan’s words and reimagined the song in a way only he could. “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,” Hendrix once proclaimed.
“It overwhelmed me, really,” Dylan later said about his reaction to the cover. “He had such talent, he could find things inside a song and vigorously develop them. He found things that other people wouldn’t think of finding in there. He probably improved upon it by the spaces he was using. I took license with the song from his version, actually, and continue to do it to this day.”
When Dylan was named the Person of the Year award in 2015 for MusiCares, he took his time to pay tribute to Hendrix: “We can’t forget Jimi Hendrix,” with a beaming smile painted across his face. “He took some small songs of mine that nobody paid any attention to and brought them up into the outer limits of the stratosphere, turned them all into classics… I have to thank Jimi. I wish he was here.”
While Dylan was full of admiration and love for Jimi, the respect was a two-way street. A few years previous to him storming the world, Dylan had never made Greenwich Village an internationally revered hotbed for emerging talent, and this would be where Hendrix was discovered before getting whisked off to London to start his whirlwind rise.
Although they shared a stomping ground, they would only cross paths on one hazy occasion. “I saw him one time, but both of us were stoned out of our minds,” Hendrix told Steve Barker in 1967. “I remember it vaguely. It was at this place called The Kettle of Fish in the Village. We were both stoned there, and we just hung around laughing – yeah, we just laughed. People have always got to put him down.
“I really dig him, though. I like that Highway 61 Revisited album and especially ‘Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues‘! He doesn’t inspire me actually, because I could never write the kind of words he does. But he’s helped me out in trying to write about two or three words ’cause I got a thousand songs that will never be finished. I just lie around and write about two or three words, but now I have a little more confidence in trying to finish one.”
Hendrix added: “When I was down in the Village, Dylan was starving down there. I hear he used to have a pad with him all the time to put down what he sees around him. But he doesn’t have to be stoned when he writes. Although he probably is a cat like that – he just doesn’t have to be.”
The two titans followed a similar path to the top, with both Dylan and Hendrix cutting their teeth the hard way before their eventual rise to stardom. The talent that Dylan possesses with words is unmatched, and nobody will surpass him on that skill, but Hendrix’s guitar wizardry is the six-string equivalent of Dylan’s lyricism. Both men wish they had the other’s ability when it came to their star-attribute, which were just as startling as each other.