It’s tempting to think that Jimi Hendrix was completely formed in pop culture, with giant afro guitars and acid rock guitars changing the world. But the truth is, if you paid attention to live performances or album credits, you might have seen a net young Hendrix performing with The Isley Brothers or Little Richard both on the road and in the studio.
Hendrix’s life would need a few strokes of luck for him to be successful. Although the Isleys and Richards are now legendary, their popularity by the mid-1960s was waning. They wouldn’t resurrect their careers until after Hendrix fled the nest. Hendrix himself was a bit lost in the mid-1960s, going from group to group while feeling confined to his limited abilities. He wanted to be bolder and more bombastic, and it wasn’t until he left for England in 1966 that he would truly become the Jimi Hendrix we all know today.
However, before crossing the Atlantic, Hendrix contributed a good number of recordings. Most are obscure and lost to history, but a few survive, especially those with its most prominent employers. Hendrix was a talented and versatile guitarist even though he didn’t use lots of distortion or play killer psychedelic riffs.
To call these songs “classics” is a bit of a stretch. Rather, they are “hidden gems,” songs that admittedly had hit potential but, for one reason or another, failed to make a strong impression on the charts or in the minds of the general public. Die-hard fans – both Hendrix and selected artists – may be familiar with the songs listed here, but the chances of a random listener recognizing the tunes, let alone Hendrix’s guitar, are slim.
Here are five songs you probably didn’t know from Jimi Hendrix.
Five classic songs with Jimi Hendrix:
The Isley Brothers – ‘Witness’
The Isley Brothers loved doing multi-part singles in the ’60s. Because they were a soul group and because their songs had a lot of interaction, the Isleys tended to record tunes that went beyond traditional length. singles at the time. The solution was simple: cut the song in half, put the front half on side A and the back half on side B.
‘Testify’ finds that the Isley retains its roots in the Southern Church, incorporating some rock and roll energy to merge the two worlds. The Isleys were perhaps better than anyone at the time at translating their electricity and excitement to record, and for all Hendrix fanatics, the young guitarist gets some awesome licks through the densely loaded air.
Little Richard – “I don’t know what you got (but it’s me)”
Hendrix’s brief membership in the Little Richards group was tenuous. Richard was wary of anyone taking his attention away from him, and this was the time when Hendrix was starting to understand what he wanted to look like and act on stage. The pairing would not be sustainable and Hendrix lasted less than a year in the group before being fired.
Around this time, Hendrix managed to record a single with Richard, “I Don’t Know What You Got (But It’s Got Me)”. Richard’s popularity was at an all-time low and the single barely scratched the Hot 100. Still, Hendrix’s blues intro is unequivocal, and it’s one of Richard’s most moving vocal performances, mostly forgoing the frantic screams and tearing throats of his most popular works.
Don Covay – ‘Mercy Mercy’
Don Covay’s “Mercy, Mercy” is perhaps the most responsible song in Jimi Hendrix’s career. Another song that comes from Hendrix’s days as a session player for hire, the song would be referenced by Stax guitarist Steve Cropper and future bandmates Hendrix Neil Redding and Mitch Mitchell as the songs on which they heard Hendrix for the first time.
‘Mercy Mercy’ didn’t quite survive in the public consciousness, but the song would be Hendrix’s first hit with mainstream success, as the song reached number 35 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1964. L tune would also get a boost after The Rolling Stones included a cover of it on their album Out of our heads.
The men of ice – ‘(My daughter) it’s a fox’
Richard and Bobby Poindexter were lifers in the ’60s soul circuit, singing and writing songs for a variety of acts throughout the decade, while later finding success writing the track for The Persuaders ” Thin Line Between Love and Hate “. In one of their many guises, known here as The Icemen, the brothers employed a couple of young musicians to record ‘(My Girl) She’s a Fox), including a young Hendrix.
It’s possible to hear some of Hendrix’s first forays into the wild six-string fireworks of his main career, but the most notable element of the track is how familiar it sounds. This is because the vocal intro and melody lines were then interpolated by Amy Winehouse for the song ‘He Can Only Hold Her’, the penultimate track of Back to black.
Jayne Mansfield – ‘Suey’
By far the most bizarre entry on this list, the existence of a collaboration between movie star Jayne Mansfield and rock ‘n’ roll wild man Jimi Hendrix was just a rumor at one point. . Mansfield, known for his publicity stunts, was on one cover proclaiming “Suey featuring Jimi Hendrix”, so most people took it that way: a publicity stunt.
Except it wasn’t. Hendrix actually contributed to the recording of ‘Suey’ and its A side ‘As The Clouds Drift By’, playing bass and lead guitar on both tracks. It would have been a perfectly indelible blow to Mansfield, but she was nothing there and never met Hendrix – she died in a car crash in 1967.