There are moments when it all comes together, when an artist appears who is so reflective of the times that he or she is timeless. Questions of good or bad, like or dislike cease to matter, only that the artist walked among us for a time. There are moments, but they are rare.
The Jimi Hendrix who exists in our collective imagination was only with us for four years and four albums, but in that short time he embodied his era: the look, the sound, the drugs and the sex; the blues revival and the psychedelic explosion. It’s all there — hope, anger, intensity, love, the search for self. “I am what I am, thank God,” Jimi sang that Monday morning at Woodstock. Yes indeed.
What’s most remarkable about Hendrix was his lack of self-confidence. He never liked his singing voice, always claimed other guitarists were better. Jimi wasn’t even sure that he was black enough.
But when that man performed magic happened. Musicians spend their entire lives trying to be as interconnected with their instruments as Hendrix. Sometimes listening to him play one senses that he’s more comfortable speaking through the guitar than in his shy voice. Even on the world’s biggest stage the world’s biggest star at one point tells the audience that they’re free to leave if they want because “we’re just jamming up here.”
Woodstock isn’t Hendrix’s best performance, but that’s like saying “this free pizza, sex, and beer aren’t the best.” Jimi’s worst day was most artist’s best day. Woodstock also captures him in transition, away from the Experience and moving forward with Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, but they “ain’t nothing but a Band Of Gypsys” he tells the crowd.
The new Hendrix was shifting toward his blues and R&B roots. What would’ve happened if he wasn’t found dead a year later? I like to think that his genius would have continued to grow, that like his father Al he’d be bald and pot-bellied, but still where he belonged — on stage, guitar in hand, conjuring magic.
Here’s Hendrix’s full Woodstock set list, all of which is available on the Jimi Hendrix – Live At Woodstock CD and DVD except where indicated.
1. Message To Love
2. Getting My Heart Back Together Again
3. Spanish Castle Magic
4. Red House
5. Master Mind (available on Youtube or bootleg. Woodstock Nation is one example)
6. Here Comes Your Lover Man
7. Foxy Lady
10. Gypsy Woman (available on Youtube or bootleg. Woodstock Nation is one example)
12. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) / Stepping Stone
13. Star Spangled Banner
14. Purple Haze
15. Woodstock Improvisation / Villanova Junction
16. Hey Joe
Your official (and bootleg) Woodstock soundtrack song count to date: 217