Analysis// Jimi Hendrix in pop culture

Which Jimi Hendrix songs have gone furthest in pop culture?

These days we take it for granted that Jimi Hendrix is an iconic name in rock ‘n’ roll history. He’s still known to most people as one of if not the greatest guitarist of all time, and even casual music fans can probably name a couple of songs. But what a lot of younger fans may not realize is just how quickly Hendrix’s career was cut short. Hendrix was only 27 years old when he died, having left behind a handful of albums and an undying influence on music.

One reason that it seems like Hendrix had to have been around longer than that is that his music has survived not only through albums and occasional radio play, but also in pop culture. There’s just something about the way he sang and played guitar that seems to make his best tracks ideal for movie soundtracks, games, and more. Sometimes that can make it feel like he left behind as much material as other classic rockers who were alive for much longer.

Let’s take a look at which of his songs have been the most influential across pop culture.

“The Wind Cries Mary”

While not necessarily as famous as “Purple Haze” or some of his other hits, “The Wind Cries Mary” is often included as one of the top few songs ever performed by Jimi Hendrix. It’s maybe for this reason that it was one of only a couple of tracks included when Hendrix’s likeness and music were added to Guitar Hero. It actually hasn’t had much to do with movies or television, like some of his other hits, but interestingly enough the title was used in an episode of the FX animated comedy Archer, during its fourth season.

“Purple Haze”

This might be the best-known track by Hendrix. It’s been referenced in The Simpsons, it’s been used as the title of a film, and it’s featured in soundtracks on countless films and TV episodes, from White Men Can’t Jump to Minions. More recently, the song has popped up again as part of the foundation for an online Jimi Hendrix slot game. Casino sites have started to use characters and stories from pop culture to provide players with familiar favorites, and there’s a game solely devoted to Hendrix, with its own Purple Haze bonus included.

“Fire”

“Fire” is a unique track in that the bulk of its exposure has been through TV. It’s been in some movies like Stuck On You and Lords Of Dogtown, but it’s also appeared in shows including (but not limited to) Entourage, Survivor, Australian Idol The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and on several occasions Late Show with David Letterman. It may be the easiest of the Hendrix hits to toss into a soundtrack for just 20 seconds or so, and it’s been used in this manner time and again.

“All Along The Watchtower”

If “Purple Haze” isn’t the most iconic Hendrix track, it’s undoubtedly “All Along The Watchtower” (even if he didn’t originally write the song). It may be the one that’s heard most frequently in modern entertainment. One of the most recent examples was its inclusion on the soundtrack for the video game Mafia 3, which made a point of including a bunch of songs, including some all-time hits. It’s also found a place in a lot of particularly noteworthy shows and movies, including a 2009 Battlestar Galactica episode, The Simpsons, and Forrest Gump.

This list could go on to include a few more examples, but these four songs alone account for a lot of people’s general understanding of Hendrix’s greatness. As often as they pop up it’s no wonder it’s so easy to feel like he left behind a full career’s worth of work.

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