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February is African American Heritage Month and WERS AT NIGHT is honoring one artist or one song every day this month that helped contribute to social consciousness, political responsibility, or civil rights. At WERS, we believe that these songs are always bigger than just entertainment; music can be used to drive a movement or even motivate a nation.
“Hey Joe” is one of Jimi Hendrix’s best known songs from the album Are You Experienced released in 1967. He first debuted this song at the infamous Monterrey Pop Festival in 1967 where he displayed memorable stage antics such as the burning of his guitar and playing with his teeth.
He grew throughout the 60’s as a symbol of Rock, provocative showmanship, and also as a musician who was able to transcend racism the second he picked up his guitar. Though he did face oppression, he was viewed mostly by his talent rather than skin color. Hendrix is known as being a pioneer of experimental music and exploring the capabilities of his guitar and amplification.
As an exemplary Hendrix song “Hey Joe,” showcases that versatility, sheer emotion and soul he was able to capture in his recordings. The song is simply interpreted as a man Joe, who is faced with his “woman’s” infidelity and sets out to “shoot her down,” then after the fact, seeks to run away. With issues of his time such as the war in Vietnam, Hendrix used drugs as an escape, making me think that this song implies Hendrix’s underlying desire to leave behind life’s problems. Despite this possibility, through this song he proves that you can’t easily escape anything because more problems arise from abandoned ones.
Unfortunately, due to drug related complications, Hendrix passed away in 1970. However, he left behind the legacy as a legendary guitarist, and forever-timeless music.