In 1967, Jimi Hendrix wrote a song called “Little Wing”. Now, there are several different ideas on and interpretations of the song’s meaning. When originally interviewed about it after the album Axis: Bold as Love was released, Jimi claimed the lyrics to “Little Wing” were a metaphor for the Monterey Pop Music Festival, summer of 1967 – which was The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s first major show after returning to the states following two years, and a slew of success in the U.K. This show, and Jimi’s performance in particular, gained a ton of recognition (both positive and negative) among music journalists all over the country – spreading the word like wild fire (pun intended) about Jimi, his band, and his “pyrotechnics”.
“I got the idea like, when we was in Monterey, and I just happened to…just looking at everything around. So I figured that I take everything I see around and put it maybe in the form of a girl maybe, something like that, you know, and call it ‘Little Wing’, in other words, just fly away. Everybody really flying and they’s really in a nice mood, like the police and everybody was really great out there. So I just took all these things an put them in one very, very small little matchbox, you know, into a girl and then do it. It was very simple, you know. That’s one of the very few ones I like.”
To the contrary, however, Charles R. Cross’ biography “Room Full of Mirrors”, states that Jimi later told his brother Leon that the song was about their mother, Lucille, who had passed away when he was a teenager. Other songs about his mom include “Castles Made of Sand” and “Angel” (which, of course, are both amazing.) Some claim that Little Wing was Jimi’s guardian angel, while others claim Little Wing was Jimi’s personification of LSD. Regardless of whatever the truth may be, the song is perfection.
I wish I could remember the first time I heard “Little Wing”. I don’t. But what I do know is that it is, by far, one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever created. And aside from the instrumentals (specifically Jimi’s guitar work – which is particularly extraordinary and other worldly, even for him), I love the fact that the lyrics leave so much room for interpretation. Each individual listener can decide for themselves not only what Jimi meant, but what it means to them on a personal level… Because isn’t that what music is all about?
“When I’m sad, she comes to me
With a thousand smiles, she gives to me free.
It’s alright, she says, it’s alright
Take anything you want from me.
To me, she is music.
To me, music is one of, if not the most important thing in the world. It changes everything, it affects everyone – whether they know it or not. Jimi Hendrix is a legend because he influenced everything we now know about rock’n'roll and the blues. He took an instrument, which was already technically mastered by many, but he made it talk. Literally. The guitar was Jimi’s voice in a very complex world.
For Jimi, for my Grandma (and guardian angel) Rosalind, for me, for letting go of the past, for looking fear in the eye, for going with the flow, and for rock ‘n’roll.
fly on, little wing.