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Hey Joe

by

Jimi Hendrix



Songfacts®:  You can leave comments about the song at the bottom of the page.

This was originally recorded by Los Angeles band The Leaves in 1965. Their lead singer was bassist Jim Pons who joined the Turtles just before they recorded their Happy Together album. (thanks, Rick - Lafayette, NJ)
It is unclear who wrote this song. Many people believe it was written by Chester Powers (aka Dino Valenti of Quicksilver Messenger Service), but Hendrix himself - and also The Leaves - attribute it to William (Bobby) Roberts. No one has been able to copyright it, so the song is considered "traditional," meaning anyone can record it without paying royalties. (thanks, Gary - Thetford, England)
The version that inspired Hendrix to record this came from a Folk singer named Tim Rose, who played it in a slow arrangement on his 1967 debut album. Rose was a popular singer/songwriter for a short time in the Greenwich Village scene, but quickly faded into obscurity before a small comeback in the '90s. He died in 2002 at age 62.
In an early demo version, Hendrix is caught off guard by the sound of his voice in the headphones, and can be heard on the recording saying, "Oh, Goddamn!" Then telling Chas Chandler in the booth, "Hey, make the voice a little lower and the band a little louder." Hendrix was always insecure about his vocal talents, but thought if Dylan could swing it, so could he.
This was the first single for Jimi's newly formed group, The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Jimi played this for the first time at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. It was the first time the group performed in America.
This was released in Britain with the flip side "Stone Free," which was the first song Hendrix wrote for The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Dick Rowe of Decca Records turned down Hendrix for a record deal, unimpressed with both this and "Stone Free." Rowe also turned away the Beatles 4 years earlier.
Hendrix, performing under the name Jimmy James in the group Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, was seen playing this in a New York cafe by former Animals bass player Chas Chandler, who knew instantly that Hendrix was the man to record it. Chandler became a producer and manager for Hendrix.
A popular female trio, the Breakaways (Jean Hawker, Margot Newman, and Vicki Brown) were brought in by producer Chas Chandler for backup vocals.
This was one of 5 bonus tracks added to the album Are You Experienced? when it was re-released in 1997. The only song on the album not written by Hendrix, it is credited to Billy Roberts.
This was the last song performed at Woodstock in 1969. The festival was scheduled to end at midnight on Sunday, August 17 (the third day), but it ran long and Hendrix didn't go on until Monday around 9am. There weren't many attendees left, but Hendrix delivered a legendary performance.
While Jimi's version is the most famous, this has been recorded by over 400 artists. Before Hendrix cut his version in 1966, it was recorded by Love, The Byrds, Tim Rose, Leaves, Shadows of Knight and Music Machine. Since then it has been done by Mothers Of Invention (1967), Cher (1967), Deep Purple (1967), King Curtis (1968), Wilson Pickett (1969), Roy Buchanan (1973), Patti Smith (1974), Walter Trout (2000), Popa Chubby (2001), Robert Plant (2002). (thanks, Gary - Thetford, England)
The liner notes for Are You Experienced? say this song is "A blues arrangement of an old cowboy song that's about 100 years old." (thanks, tony - hackensack, NJ)
The phrase "Hey Joe" is something men in the Philippines often shout when they see an American. Ted Lerner wrote a book about his experiences there called Hey, Joe: A Slice Of The City-An American In Manilla.
There have been countless versions of this song, but the first is thought to have been performed by California-based folk singer, guitarist and harmonica player Billy Roberts in an Edinburgh folk club in around 1956.
6,346 guitarists played "Hey Joe" simultaneously in the town of Wroclaw, Poland on May 1, 2009, breaking a world record for most guitarists playing a single song.
The BBC apologized after "Hey Joe" was played following a report on the Oscar Pistorius trial, following the disabled athlete's shooting of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. (The song includes the lines: "Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand? I'm going out to shoot my old lady, you know I caught her messing around with another man.")
Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix Artistfacts
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Comments (50):

On July 9th 1966, the Leaves performed "Hey Joe!" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
It was the quintet's only Top 100 record.
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
On December 29th 1966, the Jimi Hendrix Experience performed "Hey Joe" on the BBC-TV program 'Top Of The Pops'...
And in that year it peaked at #6 on the United Kingdom's Singles chart...
In the U.S.A. it was released as the B-side of "Foxey Lady" ("Foxey Lady" entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart on December 17th, 1967 for a four week stay, peaking at #67)...
The first charted version was by the Leaves; their version entered the Top 100 on May 15th, 1966 and on July 3rd it peaked at #31...
Later in the 1960s two other covered versions charted; Cher (#94 in 1967) and Wilson Pickett (#59 in 1969)...
R.I.P. Mr. Hendrix, born Johnny Allen Hendrix, (1942 - 1970).
- Barry, Sauquoit, NY
Daniel, Genoa, OH, that's really creepy.

Willy DeVille's insane Mariachi version of this blows my mind! Of course that's taking Hendrix as the canonical version and reference point. As soon as I realized what he was doing I decided DeVille is a genius.
- Kirsten, New York, NY
In my opinion, The Leaves did it first and did it the best. You could hear the song being played by every garage band back in the late 60's!
- Richard Buck, Crystal Lake, IL
According to Keith Richards, in his autobiography 'Life' (which is excellent, btw), Keith introduced Jimi to this song.
- Rich, San Jose, CA
I really hate to break it to some of you guys but guitar players do not play with their teeth. It is hammers and pulloffs. Look up tabulature, for details. Playing with your teeth is something a ten year old would believe. This is a great song and I think it was done by love as some here have said before me.
- obe, Koln, Germany
during many live versions jimmi played the solo with his teeth
- ben, rohnert park, CA
Josh from NV: the Deep Durple version is on their first LP, "Shades of Deep Purple".
- kevin, los angeles, CA
Try and check out Roy Buchanan's cover of this song. Also try to catch Roy's version of Green Onions. But for some true guitar playing pleasure, listen to Roy's 'You're Not Alone' album. A guitar feast.
- Lester, New York City, NY
Plenty of violence here, belied by Jimi's dark, angry guitar.
Who else could have pulled it off so well?
- oldpink, New Castle, IN
Johnny Rivers recorded this song on his 1968 album "Realization". At the time, he was in his "hippie" phase. He rewrote the lyrics to set the theme of the album which was the search for realization of who we really are. River's version begins and ends with the sound of a circus calliope in the background.
- Bob, Southfield, MI
although many people did cover this song, and there is some speculation to who wrote it. It's a jimi classic and will be until the end of time.The song is so great thousands of people have become jimi fans just by hearing this song.
- blake, tahlequah, OK
Never mind who wrote it, "Hey Joe", is a good song. I was never a huge Hendrix fan but do like several of his songs.
- Lance, Malibu, CA
This song's about a guy who sees another guy named joe with a gun, and he's like "What you doin' with that gun?"
and the guy tells him he's gonna shoot his wife cos he caught her with another guy. Then he shhots her. Yah.........Its a good song
- Bianca Sanchez, Alburquerque, NM
hey joe is a good song about a man on the run
- Andrew, Bartlett, TN
Whoever wrote this song, and whoever else covered it, I always think of it as a Jimi Hendrix song. His guitar work gave the song conveyed the angry or depressed person's alienation from reality, which heightened both the bluesiness and tripiness (I can't think of better words)that makes this song so powerful. Picking a favorite Hendrix song is as difficult picking a favorite Beatles song (In both cases, there are so many great ones), but this is certainly up there.
- MusicMama, New York, NY
walter trout and body count have coverd this the later is just awesome and a young fella from tasmania pete cornelius and the devilles cuts a pretty mean version also
- brutus, wynyard, Australia
When I saw Tim Rose on stage, not long before he died, he claimed to have written it . He sang it "The way the writer intended" - whatever , it is a great song
- Daniel, Brighton , England
Another cool over the top Hendrix song . What a classic !
- Mike, Hueytown , AL
Hey Jimi! (haha! my name is Joe... i'm a loser)
- Joe, Bellingham, WA
Yea lot of people played it, Its a Jimi song, and he played it with his teeth!
- Cowticket, Indiana, IN
I love Jimi, however Roy Buchanon's version is the best there is. No doubt.
- Mike, Torrington, CT
I think it might be the Winterland recording where he adds a peice of a Beatles song into the main riff. This song was also recorded by Cryan Shames and also by the Human Beinz; a band who was majorly influenced by Hendrix and covered foxy lady as well. They had a #1 with Nobody but Me.
- Tin Ear, Fullerton, CA
What I meant to say, was that there is a story that David Crosby taught it to some of the artists mentioned in the songfacts, including the other members of the Byrds, of which he was a member at the time.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
Regarding the popularization of "Hey Joe" is that it was taught to David Crosby who taught it to some of the artists mentioned in the second songfact. The following passage from www.answers.com has this to say: "The song Hey Joe is widely credited as being popularized by David Crosby after he picked it up from Dino Valente. He taught the song to Bryan MacLean and Arthur Lee of Love, who then taught it to members of The Leaves. Since he felt responsible for having popularized the song, Crosby convinced the other members of The Byrds to cover it on Fifth Dimension." Has anyone else read this story. This same story also appears in an entry on David Crosby onthe wicapedia website.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
I always found this song incredibly compelling, but I also have a fond humorous memory of it. I was one of that generation who loved sixties rock music while my parents, fans of Bing and Glenn Miller, hated it. Well they put up with me playing Beatles records, and they could cope with Simon and Garfunkel, the Moody Blues or CSN, but when I put on my disc of Jimi's Greatest Hits, during this song my usually very sweet mother told me to turn it off or she'd break the record into a million pieces. Had to listen to this one while they weren't home.
- Dennis, Anchorage, AK
I agree with Linus and Juney. Before I looked at the credits and did some internet research, I didn't know that it was written by someone else.
- Stefanie, Rock Hill, SC
Back in 1992, I suspected my wife was having an affair. One day, while home alone, someone called and played this song over the phone to me. I listened until it was over...then they hung up. Every time I hear it, I am reminded of it. To this day I have no idea who called me.
- Daniel, Genoa, OH
I agree with Linus, Ask anyone who sang 'Hey Joe' and it was Jimi hendrix of course
- juney, Chattanooga, TN
Though 400 artists have covered it, I believe this song really belongs to Jimi.
- Linus, Hamilton, ON, Canada
the 1967 pop festival was not the first time this was performed. hendrix toured before his first album was released, all over europe and hey joe was one of the first songs the band put together. an old cowboy tune from about 100 years ago. simple repitive rythim but its just one of those songs you know? i love it
- Kyle, Redding, CA
A couple of other distinctive versions are by Spirit (on "Spirit of '76) and Black Uhuru (on "Now"). Body Count does a version on the 1993 Hendrix Tribute, "Stone Free". And the page http://www.heyjoe.org/perf.html shows about 1000 of them.
- Steve, Hamilton, Canada
hell i want to hear deep purple and zeppelin do this
- Josh, Las Vegas, NV
actually, I have a copy of Zeppelin playing this. If anybody wants it email me at njmunno@comcast.net
- Nick, Richmond, VA
Hey Joe was the final song Jimi played at Woodstock. By the way, Max Yasgur's farm and alfalfa field where the song was played is located at the intersection of Hurd Road and West Shore Road in Bethel New York. You have to take Route 17b which is the Montecello exit on Route 17 in New York. Pass the race track, go down about 10-12 miles. Hurd Road will be on your right, make the right, then make the left onto West Shore Road, and then you'll see the amazing bowl where 30,000 plus people camped out and waited 3 days to see Jimi do "Star Spangled Banner" and "Purple Haze."
- Barry, New York, NC
Life changing moment in the UK when the Experience perform 'Hey Joe' on music show 'Ready , Steady , Go'(December '66).
Choice of name for a band could not have been more apt.....nuthin' prepared us for Jimi.
Saw him twice before he died , once in Aylesbury(?!?) , once in Glasgow.
Rawk gawd pre-eminent!
- pete, aberdeen, Scotland
Actually Jordan the song is about a guy who's talking to the guy who caught hiw girlfriend cheating. jimi is singing it from that perspective.
- Stefanie magura, Rock Hill, SC
this song is about a guy who caught his girl cheating on him so he goes to shoot her. He says "where you goin with that gun in your hand. I'm goin down to shoot my old lady, i caught her messin around with another man."
- jordan, renton, WA
Deep Purple also covered this. I kind of like it better, but Jimi's version is still awesome.
- Allen, Bethel, AK
An initeresting version was done by Willy deVille.
- Martijn, Helmond, Netherlands
The band Type O Negative covered a slow, dark version of this song, but coined it "Hey Peter" after the band's singer, Peter Steele. It appears on their greatest hits compilation, "The Least Worst Of"
- Marc, Alameda, CA
"Hey Joe" was performed the first time by The Leaves. It's also the title of their debut album released in 1966.
- doc, amherst, NY
Sorry David, Zeppelin never did this song. It was The Band Of Joy. It was Robert Plant's band prior to Zeppelin and the amazing John Bonham was the drummer.
- Peter, Montrose, DC
It was also done by Seal on the "Set it Off" soundtrack in 1996.
- Rico, Kingston, Other
did some research, it was 1974
- David, Greensboro, NC
Led Zeppelin also covered this song, not sure what year, but Plant sounds very young in it so I guess it was "The Early Years."
- David, Greensboro, NC
This song, Hey Joe, was also covered by The Offspring in a gig in Baghdad a few years ago.
- Luke, worthing, England
A great old ballad that only jimi could make famous...what a remarkable piece of work.
- Evan, Acworh, GA
Frank Zappa and the Mothers recorded a song called "Flower Punk" for the album We're Only In It For The Money, it has the same tune as Hey Joe, and almost the same lyrics, but this song is a dig at hippies.
- kris, toronto, Canada
For a different approach to "Hey Joe" by Jimi, check out "Live at Winterland." A must have and a real treat for Hendrix fans. It was actually the first time I had heard the tune and I immediately went on a quest for any and all of Jimi's material. Needless to say, I've been a Hendrix fanatic since. Paul.
- Paul, Chicago, IL
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