When I’m getting my head in the game for a big meeting, when I need to suit up, when I need to kick the tires and light the fires, I turn to this song. Hendrix’s version is very sexy – that naked, shimmering guitar riff, the thumb of the bass drum, the crash of the chord at the entrance. It has real swagger. But after I heard Kidjo’s version, it sounds…vaguely pompous. Like there wasn’t any doubt that the protagonist could make an island out of the pieces of the mountain. Like he could always just do that. Kidjo sings it like this comes from experience, from hard work, practice, and struggle. That’s why this version gives me that extra boost – it’s a song of strength learned from difficulty. It’s a “oh, you don’t even know what I can do” kind of song. A “you think this is difficult?” song. It’s a very human sort of voodoo.
Hendrix’s original version: