Johnny Allen Hendrix may have been the most influential and skilled guitarist ever. He revolutionized the electric guitar, being the first to reach its full potential. ÃÂAll Along the Watchtower,ÃÂ HendrixÃÂs best selling single, was a song originally written by Bob Dylan. Many believe this song was a defining point in HendrixÃÂs career showing another element in his ability to jam. Some songs just past through the history books and will never be remembered, but this song was one that could not be forgotten, described as ÃÂan enduring work in rockÃÂs historical canonÃÂ (Zak 600).
A Seattle native, born with the name Johnny Allen Hendrix, later had his name changed to James Marshall Hendrix by his father. Hendrix was a self-taught musician. He spent many hours with his fatherÃÂs collection of recorded southern-blues artists, learning everything from Robert Johnson to B.B. King. Bob Dylan wrote ÃÂAll Along the WatchtowerÃÂ with a slow and subtle approach to the song, performing it with a harmonica.
Hendrix covered the song and transformed it into something special for all to hear, easily considered one of the best covers in the history of Rock nÃÂ Roll. It was such a great cover of DylanÃÂs original version that ÃÂDylan acknowledged HendrixÃÂs masterstroke: Playing his own future versions of ÃÂAll Along the Watchtower,ÃÂ including The fact that Bob Dylan adopted playing habits from one of his original songs from another artist shows how truly remarkable this cover was. Hendrix lived a short life to the age of twenty-seven, with an even shorter career of four years (Stone 23). It is shocking to see what all he accomplished in such small amount of time, and the statements he made with songs such as this one.
During both versions of the song, HendrixÃÂs and DylanÃÂs, there is two main characters involved, a joker and a thief. ÃÂInternal DialogueÃÂ of the artist is what some think is the point of the song while others think since it was involved in psychedelic rock that it did not contain much meaning (Zac 624). Although, Hendrix was also said to have ÃÂsituated himself firmly in the center of the song.ÃÂ (Zak 632). The song beginsThere must be some kind of wayOut of hereSaid the joker to the thiefThereÃÂs too much confusionI canÃÂt get no reliefThe lyrics state that there is too much confusion and that he canÃÂt get any relief, unclearly corresponding to the confusion about the Vietnam War. Arousing the thought of questions such as, should the troops have been there, were we accomplishing what we originally intended to when we set out, and were we making any meaningful progress.
Outside in the cold distanceA wild cat did growlTwo riders were approachingAnd the wind began to howlHendrix was also believed by some to cover the song to reiterate the point of comparing these two riders in the lyrics to our two leaders, being the president and the vice-president. Once again coming back to the point of the Vietnam War and if we were making the right decisions. Hendrix had strong beliefs about the war as one could easily see. Hendrix had been discharged from the army after faking homosexuality, and possibly an ankle injury (Whiteley 42). Was covering this song and faking injuries his way of getting his message across about his beliefs on Vietnam? Many think so. Although all this ties in together very well, most of the believers of these theories were Vietnam survivors.
Rolling Stones forty-eighth greatest song ever, ÃÂAll Along the WatchtowerÃÂ is a recording that will not ever be overlooked. To have the ability to cover a song and rework it in such a way that the original performer feels like he is playing a tribute to that artist is a talent that will never be matched. Jimi Hendrix was considered to have an extremely strong opinion on the Vietnam War, obviously in disgust, and he expressed it by covering this song. Although pre-existent, Hendrix is the one the man who made ÃÂAll Along the WatchtowerÃÂ a song known to all, a song especially meaningful to that day and age, and a song the will forever be involved in the discussion of the greatest songs in the history of rock nÃÂ roll.
Works citedAll Along the Watchtower. Feb. 15, 2008. Rolling Stone 21 July. 2004: 23-25.
Sheila Whiteley Popular Music, Vol. 9, No. 1. (Jan., 1990), pp. 37-60.
Stable URL: http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0261-1430%28199001%299%3A1%3C37%3APRAPCI%3E2.0.CO%3B2-LZak, Albin J. ÃÂBob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix: Juxtapoistion and Transformation ÃÂAll Along the WatchtowerÃÂ,ÃÂ Journal of the American Musicological Society 57:3 (Fall 2004) p. 599-644