Viral Video: YouTube's best of Jimi Hendrix

Producers of the new Hendrix biopic couldn't use any of his music, but YouTube clips capture the power and artistry of Hendrix on stage.

Crosscut archive image.

Jimi Hendrix and Linda Keith, who discovered him.

Producers of the new Hendrix biopic couldn't use any of his music, but YouTube clips capture the power and artistry of Hendrix on stage.

The new film Jimi: All is by My Side is brilliantly made, but it has two unfortunate strikes against it. One is the title, which I’m still trying to wrap my lips around. The other is the fact that the filmmakers were forbidden by the Hendrix estate to use any of his music. This seems rather strange (and a little selfish) in light of the fact that there are so many clips to be found on YouTube of the Jimi Hendrix Experience performing live in various venues in the late 1960s.

I won’t even pretend to think these are somehow definitive. I trust Hendrix scholars and aficionados have bookmarked their own library of favorites, but for the uninitiated (like me) the following excerpts helped to paint at least a partial picture of what Hendrix looked and sounded like while performing.

Here is the Jimi Hendrix Experience (Mitch Mitchell on drums, Noel Redding on bass) performing Voodoo Child in Stockholm in 1969.

This is a classically shot black-and-white live performance, peppered with extreme close-ups of his guitar work and expressive zooms into his face. About halfway through the song Hendrix drifts away to the back of the stage to fiddle with some knobs and the camera locks in on his band mates, including the inevitable and manically mesmerizingdrum solo. The camera then pulls back for a wide shot, Jimi’s guitar slowly fades in, and we see that Redding has now donned a jaunty hat. Hendrix introduced “Voodoo Child” by first saying he’d planned on playing Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” until he forgot the words. 

You eventually catch Hendrix playing that Dylan song in this 1968 U.K. performance, which he somehow manages to do while chewing gum. The masticating seems to hamper the vocals a bit but it’s still a great example of Hendrix’s penchant for taking a song known in one context and adapting it to another. A bonus in this clip is Jimi’s outfit, a stunning, liquid orange fantasia suggesting an acid-enhanced African safari.

This 1969 clip from the Dick Cavett Show has Hendrix performing a short medley (“Izabella” and “Machine Gun”) dressed in a pastel blue kimono and pajama bottoms. It looks like he just emerged from his bedroom, but there’s nothing sleepy about his performance. He had been scheduled on Cavett a few weeks earlier but missed the gig because the night before he had played Woodstock.

You can see the excerpt from that classic film here, with Jimi’s festival-closing version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” followed by “Purple Haze”, set to a montage of bedraggled trash collectors and departing concert-goers.

Reach back to 1967 for this slow burn version of “Hey Joe”, in which Jimi first performs oral sex on his guitar and then plays it behind his neck. This time drummer Mitchell wins the fashion award for his ruffly, court jester get-up.

And then there’s this energetic performance from Hawaii, with Jimi in gunslinger mode doing a rendition of "Foxy Lady", complete with time capsule cutaways to golden-locked, suntanned flower children — and a killer finishing riff.

For more Viral Video nuggets, go here.


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About the Authors & Contributors

Rustin Thompson

Rustin Thompson

Rustin Thompson is a filmmaker, film critic and indie radio deejay. He enjoys strong coffee, red wine, IPAs and his wife and grown children. He is comfortable with the fact he will never be rich, but grows petulant if he thinks too much about it.