I’ve decided this is my new favorite version of this song.
This is not to knock the original version by the incomparable Muddy Waters. His will always be the definitive version of “Mannish Boy.” But it’s formidable. It’s heavy, both literally and figuratively. The drums and bass pound into your skull like a sledgehammer. Waters voice calls out like a preacher from his pulpit, and there are very few listeners who are not converted by the end. But all his boasting and bragging is kind of off-putting; if I met a man like him, I wouldn’t give him a second glance.
But Jimi Hendrix’s version is, well, fun. He tones down the heavy rhythm, and speeds it up just a little, and naturally makes the guitar the foremost instrument. He makes it swing. This guy sounds like he’s playful and sexy. I’d at least let this guy buy me a drink, trade a few jokes with him. This version is from the posthumous release Blues, which helps paint a fuller picture of both Hendrix’s musical roots and his spectacular ability to innovate and create new sounds. I hate that his star burned out too soon, but we’re still getting light from it many years later.