What happened when Jimi Hendrix met Bob Dylan for the first and only time
We’re dipping into the Far Out Magazine vault to look back at a very special moment in musical history. The one and only moment Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix crossed paths and shared a few words—a meeting of mercurial musical minds we wished had happened a few more times.
When Hendrix arrived in London in 1966 and was invited to a jam session at Regent Street Polytechnic, despite the reservations of some of those up on stage, the guitarist was beckoned into the heart of the swinging scene and often asked to perform off the cuff. One performance, in particular, would win the respect of guitar god Eric Clapton and, afterwards, more of Britain’s music elite would fall in line to pay their respects to Hendrix.
As well as Clapton and the rest of Cream who were performing that night at Regent Street Polytechnic, Paul McCartney would soon become a huge fan of the guitarist and even secured him his now-iconic spot at Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Despite struggling to crack America on any commercial front, Hendrix clearly picked up a lot of admirers. One of those quiet admirers was the freewheelin’ troubadour Bob Dylan.
There was a heavy dose of respect between Dylan and Hendrix. The singer-songwriter has often been quoted as a fan of genre-challenging guitarist, calling his version of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ the definitive rendition of the song. In fact, after receiving his Person of the Year award in 2015 for MusiCares, he said: “We can’t forget Jimi Hendrix,” with a beaming smile on his face.
It may seem a silly notion but Dylan struggled to find commercial success with his songs initially and relied on Hendrix and Peter, Paul and Mary to get his tracks on the radio. Dylan added: “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.”
Equally, Jimi had a lot to thank Dylan for. It was Hendrix’s version of the song on his double album Electric Ladyland which finally put the guitarist on the map outside of the swinging sets that resided in New York and London. But that didn’t stop the guitarist initially finding Dylan a little tough to negotiate, “Before I came to England I was digging a lot of the things Bob Dylan was doing,” he said.
Hendrix continued: “When I first heard him I thought, ‘You must admire that guy for having that much nerve to sing so out of key,’” he told biographer Chris Welch with a wry smile on his face. But as with most first time Dylan listeners he admitted, “Then I listened to the words.” While the two shared a deep admiration for one another they only happened to meet once.
Dylan remembers the only meeting he shared with the artist when he was “just the guitar player,” in a band and despite being more than a little drunk, recalls it fondly. In 1969, it was a sentiment that Hendrix reciprocated saying, “I only met him once, about three years ago… before I went to England. I think both of us were pretty drunk at the time, so he probably doesn’t remember it.”
Hendrix covered not only ‘All Along The Watchtower’ but ‘Like A Rolling Stone’ during his iconic live sets and although the pair only met once, something about their friendship, however distant it may have been, speaks highly of the respect they had for one another.