Woodstock '99 Report #4: Performers To Pay Tribute To Jimi Hendrix

Blues-rocker's rendition of 'The Star-Spangled Banner' was a highlight of 1969 festival.

The late Jimi Hendrix, whose searing, feedback-laced version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (RealAudio excerpt) was one of the most memorable moments at the original Woodstock, will be remembered with an all-star tribute at this year's 30th-anniversary festival.

Eddie Kramer, the engineer who recorded all of Hendrix's studio albums — and who also oversaw recording of the original Woodstock — is putting together the tribute, which is scheduled to close the three-day event in Rome, N.Y., on Sunday.

Kramer would not reveal which artists will fete the blues-rock guitar legend, who was 27 when he died the year after Woodstock. "Let's put it this way: very high-profile names," Kramer said. "A lot of people who are performing in the festival are hopefully going to do this.

"It's going to be quite spectacular."

Hendrix's performance at Woodstock was spectacular by most accounts. But by the time he took the stage on Aug. 18, 1969, most of the audience had gone home.

Starting just after 9 a.m. that Monday in front of ragged 25,000 stragglers, Hendrix proceeded to carve his name into music history. His guitar pyrotechnics on his instrumental version of the national anthem and the rest of his adventurous set pushed his band to the limit.

The performance can be heard on Live at Woodstock, a two-CD set released earlier this month. It includes five previously unreleased songs.

Kramer, who also has worked with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Kiss, supervised the album, which features a remixed and remastered version of the Hendrix show.

The set features such songs as "Red House," "Purple Haze" (RealAudio excerpt) and "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)."

By 1969, Hendrix had released the three seminal albums that formed the basis of his legend: Are You Experienced? (1967), Axis: Bold As Love (1968) and Electric Ladyland (1968). His performance with the Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967 had made him a major star.

By the summer of 1969, "Jimi was experimenting with a new band," Kramer said. "Some of it worked, some of it didn't. Jimi had a tendency to hire old friends and give them a chance."

Hendrix's Woodstock group, called Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, included Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell. Hendrix added his friend Billy Cox on bass, Larry Lee on rhythm guitar, and Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez on percussion.

"The extra musicians were not really necessary," Kramer said. "When you hear how he takes off and leaves everybody in the dust in the second half of the record, it's pretty amazing. Mitch and Billy did a fantastic job of staying with him, but the other guys were not quite up to par."

"Politically, the country was in upheaval," Kramer said, "and I think one of the reasons why Woodstock as a festival was so successful was because ... kids had something to protest about and [felt] like they wanted to be unified as one body — in a literal and a figurative sense. I think Jimi really captured that.

"People remember that one song from Woodstock — 'The Star-Spangled Banner' — it was just awesome."

"It's different these days," Kramer said. "I think people's values are different. I don't think kids have anything to protest about — maybe 'I don't have enough money' is the question, wouldn't you say?"