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January 10th, 2014 - 10:41 pm

Jimi Hendrix got one of rock’n'roll’s prettiest lyrics when Christopher Young wrote “Little Wing” for 1967′s Axis: Bold As Love. The album version is only a couple minutes long, but back during Napster’s heyday, I found a long version with what must be three extra minutes of Jimi’s guitar work. That’s one of my favorite records of all time, and if I could find a legit copy, I’d be happy to pony up the money for it.

It’s a simple lyric, spare really, but when I say it’s pretty, I mean that in a devastating way. This, my friends, is love:

When I’m sad, she comes to me
With a thousand smiles, she gives to me free
It’s alright she says it’s alright
Take anything you want from me,

It’s one of those songs pretty much everybody has taken a whack at, too. Clapton recorded it with Derek and the Dominos, and there’s a live version with Steve Winwood from a few years ago which I just now learned of and which I’m going to buy just as soon as I’m done with tonight’s FNV. Stevie Ray Vaughn, Concrete Blonde, Santana — some of my favorite acts, and each has done something to make the song their own.

But I didn’t become aware of “Little Wing” (my entire Hendrix collection at the time was a really bad Greatest Hits on cassette) until 1987 and Sting’s second solo album, …Nothing Like The Sun. It’s easy to make fun of Sting now, or really any time since about 1990, which is when he forgot about little things like how to be entertaining. His first two solo albums though contained some fine work, some of which has withstood the test of time.

And he did up “Little Wing” right.

Sting never had very much of a voice — it’s wispier than his hair was when I saw him on TV not long ago. So instead of trying to match Jimi’s epic guitar and bluesy delivery, he took the song in a different direction. It’s breezy, jazzy, and instrumentally maybe sort-of nearly the equal of the original. If so, that’s because Sting brought cool jazz legend Gil Evan and his orchestra on board for this record.

The result is maybe a fuller sound than such a simple song requires, but it works and it works beautifully.

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Yes, the Police and "Der Stingle" were a breath of fresh air when they hit the scene. Several good albums and a couple of solo works by sting rounded out a solid body of work. But like most artists, see Bono, Neal Young, etc., they become enamored with their own myth and pomposity ensues. But yes Little Wing is a great song that even redos have a hard time ruining.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Try the live version from (initially) In the West, but later released remastered in the four disc MCA box, The Jimi Hendrix Experience (currently out of print). In that box set is also the great Berkley show version of Johnny B Good and, IMO, the best, by far, version of Red House, again originally released on In the West. And, bonus, an amazing version of Voodoo Child in that same box. All originally produced by Alan West, the great curator of all things Hendrix until he was forced out by the Jimi Hendrix estate.
1 year ago
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