Jimi Hendrix and Woodstock, 1969.
Jimi Hendrix and the “Woodstock” documentary film, 1970.
Jimi Hendrix and the movie’s triple-LP soundtrack, 1970.
And now Jimi Hendrix and the “Woodstock” song.
The latest posthumous Hendrix album, “Both Sides of the Sky,” came out in March and it has 13 studio recordings made between 1968 and 1970, the year Hendrix died at the age of 27.
It took decades for 10 of the tracks to be released, and one of them is a take on “Woodstock,” a song I’ve always enjoyed, the one Joni Mitchell wrote in 1969 and recorded in 1970 for her album “Ladies of the Canyon.”
Hendrix doesn’t play guitar and doesn’t sing on his version. He’s listed as playing bass.
So who sings the song?
It’s Stephen Stills, who helped make the song famous when Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young made it for their 1970 album “Deja Vu.”
Stills’ vocal is raw and soulful on the electronic keyboard-driven Hendrix track and his voice soars on the CSN&Y hard-rock rendition, which also features the harmonies of David Crosby, Graham Nash and Neil Young.
Mitchell’s electric-piano version is soft, slow, jazzy, beautiful and inspirational.
Of these three versions, Mitchell’s was the last to be recorded, even though she wrote the song after watching news coverage of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, where the festival’s headliners included Hendrix and CSN&Y. Mitchell could have been there. She wasn’t.
Stills and Hendrix were the first to record the song, playing it in a session in September 1969, the month after Woodstock.
I’d like to say the nearly 50-year wait was worth it, but I never waited at all because I never knew the collaboration existed until “Both Sides of the Sky.”
Since the release, I’ve played the song multiple times on my Spotify.
The only problem I have is that every time I play it, I also hear a version of Allen Iverson’s 2002 rant, “We’re talking about practice.”
In this case, it’s “Hendrix is one of the greatest guitarists of all time and we’re talking about bass.”