"Little Wing" is a song written by Jimi Hendrix and recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1967. It is a slower tempo, rhythm and blues-inspired ballad featuring Hendrix's vocal and guitar with recording studio effects accompanied by bass, drums, and glockenspiel. Lyrically, it is one of several of his songs that reference an idealized feminine or guardian angel-like figure. At about two and a half minutes in length, it is one of his most concise and melodically-focused pieces.
The origins of "Little Wing" have been traced back to the 1966 recording of "(My Girl) She's a Fox", an R&B song which features Hendrix playing Curtis Mayfield-influenced guitar accompaniment. He developed the song while performing in New York City's Greenwich Village prior to his involvement with producer Chas Chandler. After being inspired by events at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, Hendrix completed the song in October 1967, when it was recorded by the Experience during the sessions for their second album Axis: Bold as Love.
"Little Wing" was released with the Axis album in December 1967 in the UK and the following month in the US. As one of only two songs from the album to become part of the Experience's concert repertoire, the Experience often performed it live and recordings were issued on early Hendrix posthumous albums Hendrix in the West in 1972 and The Jimi Hendrix Concerts in 1982. More recently, demo versions have been released as well as additional live renditions. "Little Wing" is one of Hendrix's most popular songs and has become a standard, with interpretations recorded by musicians in a variety of styles. It is ranked number 366 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
Jimi Hendrix began his career as a rhythm and blues guitarist and performed and recorded with several popular R&B artists, including the Isley Brothers, Don Covay, and Little Richard. He learned from other R&B guitarists, including Curtis Mayfield, who was known for his understated rhythmic fills and chording. Hendrix toured as a support act with Mayfield in 1963. He described the experience: "The best gig was with Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. Curtis was a really good guitarist ... I learned a lot in that short time. He probably influenced me more than anyone I'd ever played with up to that time, that sweet sound of his, you know". In 1966, Hendrix recorded a song titled "(My Girl) She's a Fox" with the Icemen, an R&B duo. Hendrix biographer Harry Shapiro has described it as "paced and phrased in the style of Curtis Mayfield, is virtually a blueprint for 'Little Wing'". Later Hendrix producer John McDermott called his contribution to "She's a Fox" (included on the 2010 West Coast Seattle Boy: The Jimi Hendrix Anthology) "perhaps the strongest of his pre-Experience career. Hendrix's Curtis Mayfield-influenced guitar styling is the song's strongest attribute".
According to Hendrix, "Little Wing" came from an idea he had originally developed while playing in Greenwich Village, when he was fronting his band Jimmy James and the Blue Flames in the summer of 1966. He later explained that he was further inspired during the Experience's performance at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival:
I got the idea like, when we were in Monterey and I was just looking at everything around. So I figured that I take everything I see around and put it maybe in the form of a girl maybe, somethin' like that, you know, and call it 'Little Wing', and then it will just fly away. Everybody's really flyin' and they're really in a nice mood, like the police and everybody was really, really great out there. So I just took all these things an put them in one very, very small little matchbox, you know, into a girl and then do it. It was very simple, but I like it though. File Hashes