7 of Jimi Hendrix's Greatest Riffs

On this day in 1970 Jimi Hendrix  left Planet Earth at the young age of 27. After just about four years as a solo artist, Hendrix took rock 'n' roll and the world of popular music by storm. 

He innovated the electric guitar, the power trio and onstage pyrotechnics, and he left behind a discography of classic albums and hit songs.

Hendrix was a fashion icon, a brilliant songwriter and a wizard on the guitar. He consistently wowed peers like Jeff BeckEric Clapton and The Beatles, and he continues to inspire new generations of musicians. 

Here are just a few of his best riffs:

7. "Crosstown Traffic"

Hendrix was such a master, he could play a kazoo and make it sound as cool as the guitar. Legend has it that the kazoos featured in the chorus of "Crosstown Traffic" were makeshift ones Hendrix fashioned out of a comb and a piece of tissue paper.

6. "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)"

No one had ever heard a wah-wah pedal used so well before (and perhaps not since) "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)." It's pure swagger and it shreds!

5. "Purple Haze"

Perhaps no simple riff has confounded more young guitarists than the one from "Purple Haze." But in those guitarists' defense, Hendrix rarely played that riff the same way twice. The simplicity and sheer volume of "Purple Haze" is everything punk rock was built upon in the following decade.

4. "Foxey Lady"

There may be no other song that embodies Hendrix's raw sexiness than "Foxey Lady," and yet you don't even have to know what he looked like to understand it. That riff tells you all you need to know.

3. "All Along the Watchtower"

Hendrix was a massive Bob Dylan fan. So when he decided he was going to cover Dylan's "All Along the Watchtower" and put it on his forthcoming album, just six months after Dylan's own version was released, there was no stopping him. The true triumph of Hendrix's version of the song is the fact that within the first 4 seconds, everybody knows what song it is.

2. "Machine Gun"

This was probably Hendrix's most heavy-handed attempt at a protest song, but it also represents the peak of his ability to sing through his electric guitar, just like his blues heroes did before him.

1. "Little Wing"

While it's not Hendrix's best-known song, "Little Wing" might be his most enduring. This simple and shimmering electric guitar ballad has been covered by countless artists, including Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jeff Beck, Steve Vai, Skid Row and others...and counting. And we can understand why.

Photo: Getty Images

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