Arguably the most well-known guitarist of the 20th century, Jimi Hendrix was much more than a musician. One of the greatest pioneers to revitalise rock, Hendrix’s unparalleled approach to the electric guitar changed the form forever. Although he tragically passed away at the terribly young age of 27, his invaluable contributions to music history continue to inspire countless aspiring musicians who decide to pick up a guitar after experiencing his magic.
Although his time as a mainstream icon was obviously cut short by his passing in 1970, Hendrix burned brighter than almost all of his contemporaries. His meteoric, trailblazing career has several milestones, but one of the defining moments of his life will always be his incredible appearance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969. A pivotal moment for the counterculture movement, it solidified Hendrix’s status as an authoritative voice in the artistic landscape.
Regularly cited by historians as one of the largest music festivals ever, Woodstock had a profound impact on the structures of American music. Featuring monumental acts ranging from the Grateful Dead and The Who to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Hendrix, the festival drew unimaginably vast crowds – estimated to be more than 400,000.
If you’re interested in rewinding time and revisiting Hendrix’s game-changing performance at Woodstock, we’ve got you. This is everything you need to know about Jimi Hendrix’s legendary appearance at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, based on the most-searched Google questions regarding the event.
Everything you need to know about Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock:
Did Jimi Hendrix play at Woodstock?
Jimi Hendrix’s appearance at Woodstock was one of the definitive segments of the festival, which was already teeming with historically significant acts. Instead of playing with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, which had broken up, the American musician put together a temporary outfit called the Gypsy Suns and Rainbows, who took to the stage.
Consisting of previous collaborators like drummer Mitch Mitchell, guitarist Larry Lee and bassist Billy Cox, along with percussionists, Hendrix performed with this group and made history. It was also a notable change from the Experience because the Gypsy Suns and Rainbows had more Black performers like Juma Sultan.
When did Jimi Hendrix play at Woodstock?
The Woodstock Festival started on Friday, August 15th, 1969, and continued till Monday, August 18th. Since there were many delays due to the weather conditions and technical interruptions, the organisers offered Hendrix the chance to go on at midnight. However, the iconic musician preferred to be the final act on Monday morning.
According to the people who witnessed Hendrix’s rehearsals with the Gypsy Suns and Rainbows, the group weren’t in sync at all. The outfit “simply could not play well together,” Hendrix scholar Joel Brattin noted. “After listening to those tapes, you would not have guessed that the Woodstock performance would be so good. The credit has to go to Jimi and the strength of his onstage presence.”
How old was Jimi Hendrix when he played at Woodstock?
Born on November 27th, 1942, Hendrix was 26 when he commanded a crowd of around 200,000 on the morning of August 18th, 1969. Unfortunately, he would pass away after a year on September 18th, 1970, due to complications caused by a drug overdose. His untimely death has also become a part of his extensive legacy, as he is one of the most prominent members of the so-called ’27 Club’.
The news of Hendrix’s sudden demise shocked the music world. At a press conference following the announcement, Robert Plan described Hendrix as “brilliant. He was completely fresh when he came along. ‘Hey Joe’ was the first record I ever heard, and the atmosphere on the record is something that you can rarely capture on wax. It was an incredible sound.”
What songs did Jimi Hendrix play at Woodstock?
Jimi Hendrix’s setlist at Woodstock is nothing short of legendary, including performances of classics like ‘Foxy Lady’. Although he was known for never acquiescing to the crowd’s requests for encores, the festival became a well-known exception since he decided to do a rare encore of ‘Hey Joe’, making the occasion truly special.
The standout performance of the set was an adaptation of the US national anthem. During an interview with Dick Cavett, he said: “I don’t know, man… I’m an American, so I played it. They made me sing it in school, so it was a flashback.”
When asked about the unorthodox nature of the adaptation, Hendrix responded: “It’s not unorthodox, I thought it was beautiful.”
Check out the setlist below.
Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock setlist:
- ‘Message To The Universe (Message To Love)’
- ‘Getting My Heart Back Together Again’
- ‘Spanish Castle Magic’
- ‘Red House’
- ‘Master Mind (feat. Larry Lee)’
- ‘Lover Man (feat. Larry Lee)
- ‘Foxy Lady’
- ‘Jam Back At The House (Beginning)’
- ‘Gypsy Woman’/’Aware Of Love’
- ‘Voodoo Child’ (slight return)/’Stepping Stone’
- ‘Star-Spangled Banner’
- ‘Purple Haze’
- ‘Woodstock Improvisation’/’Villanova Junction’
- ‘Hey Joe’
How much did Jimi Hendrix get paid for Woodstock?
According to the reports that emerged at the time, Hendrix received a payment of $18,000 for his appearance at Woodstock. When adjusting for inflation, the musician’s payout would be equivalent to around $148,714.54 today. While that amount might not have made a great difference to the value of his estate, it definitely forms a core part of his legacy.
When asked to speak about the experience, Cox told Guitarworld: “It was a wild scene up there, between trying to keep the groupies and other characters away. In truth, we all worked on music constantly, in spite of the ‘interruptions’ and the general madness. The downstairs living room was the main practice room, with all of our big amps and equipment, and upstairs was another practice room.”
What guitar did Jimi Hendrix use at Woodstock?
Throughout his career, the guitars championed by Jimi Hendrix have always drawn a lot of attention from his contemporaries as well as fans around the world. The hallowed instrument he used at Woodstock is not an exception. For this powerful performance, Hendrix opted to go with his 1968 Olympic White Fender Stratocaster.
In interviews, Hendrix had always noted that the guitar is a part of the larger ensemble: “You can’t just get stuck up on guitar. You have to use a little bit of imagination and break away. There are millions of other kinds of instruments. There’s horns, drums – everything.” However, this particular axe has become music royalty and is housed at the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle.
What made Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock so iconic?
Despite the fact that the entire performance is simply magical, the moment that made it a transcendental experience was when Hendrix made the sudden decision to whip out an improvised interpretation of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’. A potent, non-verbal protest against the atrocities of the Vietnam War, it was Hendrix’s version of the national anthem that showed the entire world what Woodstock represented.
When asked about Hendrix’s decision, Cox explained: “That was completely impromptu. I know Jimi had played it before on a few shows, but we hadn’t played it or discussed it. If you listen to the recording carefully, you will hear me start playing along with him; I was glued into where he was at – his posture, and where he was going mentally and physically.”
Watch the performance below.