Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ (or ‘Chile’ as per the English printing of the single record) was one of the most formative songs of my youth, and it remains to this day one of the most striking examples of what ‘rock guitar’ can mean and achieve. The five minute blast of unearthly feedback control and pure shreddary-before-shredding-was-even-really-a-thing (sorry, Alvin Lee) still sounds as fresh as ever, and like a blast from another reality. It typifies so well what most mere mortals famously thought of Hendrix when they first heard him play back in the day: ‘These sounds can’t possibly be emanating from this dimension!’ Sure, by the time Hendrix released ‘Electric Ladyland’ in late 1968—the album on which ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ serves as a closer (alongside his transcendent cover of Dylan’s ‘All Along The Watchtower’)—the public had had some time to catch a breath from the assault of innovation and raw power that Jimi had began to unleash upon them a year a bit prior to it, but still ‘Ladyland’ as a whole represented another leap in quality and ambition for Hendrix’s music, and ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ especially proved to be something that no-one could really be prepared for. Put simply, it sounds like the very soul of Hendrix, bottled and kept alive for eternity. As much as the essence of Hendrix’s music was in many ways his live shows, to listen to ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ five decades later is to feel the sheer kinetic electricity of the man, and to experience something that really does only come along once.
To cover ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ is in many ways an exercise in futility. Even if you could play the song exactly, note for note, wah blast for wah blast, as Hendrix plays it, it simply wouldn’t sound anything like the original, as the essence of the song exists between the lines, in the ghost notes, in the feel. It is the man’s soul, after all. How you gonna cover a soul?
That’s on guitar. I can’t even imagine transposing one of the most MOST GUITAR guitar songs ever to another instrument. Yet here is YouTuber Luna Lee not only covering it on a traditional Korean gayageum, but nailing it to a far greater degree than I would’ve thought possible:
Header Image Source: YouTube