Music. History.
Jimi Hendrix - Tears of Rage
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"Tears of Rage" by Jimi Hendrix [1968]

Music historians have written so much about Bob Dylan that, nearly 50 years on, some might believe the myth of Dylan has grown bigger than the reality ever was. To many younger listeners, Dylan exists not as a living artist, but as a series of finite albums that fill rock and roll “best of” lists. While those albums alone place Dylan as a focal point of the ’60s experience for many Boomers, it isn’t always as clear to later fans why Dylan receives so many more accolades than other folk or rock stars of the era. 

The key difference lies in the interest of other musicians in Dylan’s songwriting. A significant number of artists—many still household names—made careers out of songs Dylan wrote. The Byrds were only the most obvious borrowers. The Basement Tapes era provides the best example of my point…

In 1967 and ‘68, the Bob Dylan vanished from pop culture. Since his July 1966 motorcycle crash, Dylan had been relatively reclusive, living at home in Woodstock, NY. He spent the summer of 1967 (the “Summer of Love”) there, writing dozens of songs, and recording demos to share with other artists. Peter, Paul and Mary; Manfred Mann (remember “Quinn the Eskimo”?); The Byrds; and Joan Baez–all had hit singles and albums in 1968 with songs Dylan wrote during this period. At the same time, he recorded many more songs with a band called The Hawks, the musicians who had helped him “go electric” in 1965 and who had effectively become his permanent live backing band. Some of those songs were eventually released in 1975 as The Basement Tapes. And of course, The Hawks soon became The Band. 

In the fall of 1967, Dylan went to Nashville to record his first official album in over a year and a half.  ”John Wesley Harding” was a return to the folk idiom, with his first pure country recordings thrown in at the end of the record. The album was released two days after Christmas in 1967 and sold well in 1968. It peaked at #1 in the UK and #2 in the States and spent most of spring 1968 in the Top Ten.

Two singles from the album were released in 1968: “Drifter’s Escape” and “All Along the Watchtower.” Neither single charted. Jimi Hendrix released his version of “All Along the Watchtower” as a single in September 1968 to critical and popular acclaim; even Dylan later admitted that Hendrix’s recording was special.

"Watchtower" was only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the guitarist’s interest in Dylan songs. Before Joan Baez, and even before The Band, Hendrix heard a demo tape of “Tears of Rage,” which he had picked up from Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman. After learning the song, in March of ‘68, in his hotel room in New York, he recorded the demo heard above. It, like many Henrdix demos, went unreleased until November 16, 2010. If you dig Jimi, the recent box set West Coast Seattle Boy is worth a look. 

(Some of this post taken from here—but it’s OK, because I more or less wrote that too!)