Purple Haze is one of Jimi Hendrix’s famous songs. This song inspired countless musicians, people are still enjoying this song 50 years later.
Hendrix changed the way people use electric guitar, this song is a great example for it. This song is considered one of the greatest songs of rock history.
Quotes from The Rolling Stones magazine about the song:
“unveiled a new guitar language charged with spiritual hunger and the poetry possible in electricity and studio technology”
“it launched not one but two revolutions: late-Sixties psychedelia and the unprecedented genius of Jimi Hendrix”
A video of Hendrix performing Purple Haze live at Atlanta pop festival
You can see Jimi’s playing is so effortless like the guitar is part of his body. If you can notice in the video Jimi was left handed and used to play with a right handed guitar. He restrung it and played upside down. The reason is that’s how he learned guitar.
Fun fact, the guitar strap that Hendrix use in the video is owned by David Gilmour since 2006 and he is playing with it in his performances.
The song was written on december 26th , 1966 in the dressing room of a club in London. It was released in the LP “Are You Experienced”. Hendrix says he wrote the song about a dream he had where he could walk underwater.
Hendrix was playing backstage in a club in London he was toying with the riff of “Purple Haze”. His manager heard it and mediately said “Write the rest of that. That’s the next single.”
Hendrix started working on it and soon he had 10 pages of lyrics. In a late 1960s interview, Hendrix remembered an early draft of the song:
“Oh, ooh, you should hear the real ‘Purple Haze,'” Hendrix said in a vintage interview. “It has about 10 verses. But it goes into different changes. You know, it isn’t just ‘Purple haze, all in my’ –you know, blah, blah, blah.”
Many belive this song is about a psychedelic experience although Hendrix described it as a love song.
The song begins with the bass playing low and high E and the electric guitar playing low and high B flats. In separate each are playing an octave which sound pleasant to the ear. But together it creates a tritone which is known as the devil’s interval.
Then he jumps to the chord E7#9 . This chord became to be known among guitarist as the “Hendrix Chord”. Before Hendrix made it popular it was used mostly in R&B and jazz
Hendrix was not very famous before forming the band, he didn’t get the recognition that he wanted in the US. He was struggling to make money for a living. During a performance he met Linda Keith, the girlfriend of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards and they became friends. She referred him to some managers and producers. After he got rejected couple times he met Chas Chandler.
Chas was impressed by Hendrix talent and he convinced him to move to the UK. There Hendrix formed “The Jimi Hendrix Experience”.
Hendrix quickly started to get recognized by fellow musicians, he performed in the Bag O’nails night club in London with Clapton, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Kevin Ayers in attendance.
The band released the singles “Hey Joe” and “Purple haze” which became quickly top charts in the UK. Then in May 12, 1967 the album “Are You Experienced” was released. The album was an immediate critical and commercial success. It spent 33 weeks on the charts peaking in number two, it was prevented from reaching the top by Beatles “Sgt.Pepper’s”.
Here is a video about the first time that Hendrix met Clapton
Here is a performance of “Killing floor” in 1969. The song
that he played in the previous video while jamming with Cream
In my opinion “Purple Haze” is one of the best songs of rock music and I see Hendrix as a pioneer in playing electric guitar. He really changed the way people view the electric guitar.
More than fifty years after his death He is still considered one of the greatest guitarist that ever lived. He inspired many great guitarist for example John Frusciante (RHCP) stated that Hendrix was his main influence in his style, also Slash (Guns & Roses) Lenny Kravitz, Joey Santiago (Pixies) and many others.
“When I die, I want people to play my music, go wild and freak out and do anything they want to do.” – Jimi Hendrix
I added some covers of the songs by great musicians
Here a video of Tommy Emmanuel playing the song on acoustic guitar
Ozzy Osbourne cover
For further reading:
A trailer to a movie about him