“What’s your favorite song?”
I never liked that question. Why should I have to pick one?
My answer was always Layla because I am and have always been a big fan of Eric Clapton, and it was an easy answer to give. I mean, you can’t really argue with an answer like Layla, Stairway to Heaven, or Here Comes the Sun, right?
Over the last year or so I have been reflecting on that dumb question… what was my favorite song?
During one of these pointless mental wanderings I realized that the question wasn’t, “What’s your favorite recording,” or “What’s your favorite performance.” If I was looking for a favorite song, it would have to be a song that is performed brilliantly by at least two different artists.
That’s when it hit me. Little Wing, the Hendrix classic off of Axis: Bold as Love (1967).
(The pseudo artistic editor who defiled this video by layering surf over Jimi should suffer an eternity of punishment.)
My only complaint with this song is that there isn’t more of it.
Derek & the Dominos
It was covered by Eric Clapton and Duane Allman when Derek & the Dominos released Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970). Sadly Hendrix died before he could hear Clapton & Allman’s reinvention.
(The original studio recording.)
(In March of 2009, Clapton played two nights with the Allman Brothers Band at the Beacon Theatre. I would have traded important body parts to see one of these shows live.)
Stevie Ray Vaughan
Stevie Ray Vaughan created a new interpretation of the song without vocals on his 1985 album, Soul to Soul.
Tragically, of the four legendary guitarists who recorded the most well known versions of Little Wing, Clapton is the only one who survived.
There are literally hundreds of covers of Little Wing. They range from jazz odysseys, to shred metal, and everything in between. Some of the bands that have covered this song will shock you… but regardless of who is performing the song, it is almost always good.
These are some of the more interesting covers I uncovered:
This one stunned me for two reasons. 1 – Skid Row covered Little Wing. 2 – It’s actually pretty good (But is doesn’t really offer up anything original).
If it absolutely, positively, must be over done… choose Vai.
A magnificent acoustic, Celtic folk rock rendition. That was a mouthful.
Kirk Hammett (Metallica)
This one surprised me… but it also doesn’t do much for me.
The best versions of Little Wing leave room for the subtle details. There is a lot going on in this song that I don’t think most people hear. When I listen to it, it immediately makes my mind wander; I feel happy, sad and a sense of wonder all at the same time.
I hope you’ve enjoyed my little tour of Little Wing. I will leave you with one final recording of Eric Clapton, Sheryl Crow, and saxophonist David Sanborn.