"Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" is a song recorded by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1968 and appears on the Electric Ladyland album also released that year. It is an improvisational guitar piece, with Hendrix's vocal and guitar backed by Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell on drums. The song is one of Hendrix's best known; it was a feature of his concert performances throughout his career and several live renditions were recorded and released on later albums.
After his death in 1970, "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)", using the title "Voodoo Chile" was released in the UK and became Hendrix's only number one single in the British record charts. Several artists have performed or recorded versions of the song. Rolling Stone magazine included it at number 102 on their list of the "500 Greatest Songs of All Time".
- 2 Lyrics and Interpretation
- 3 Personnel
- 4 Live recordings
- 5 Critical reception and recognition
- 6 Recordings by other artists
- 7 Notes
- 8 References
- 9 External links
"Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" was developed from "Voodoo Chile", recorded May 2, 1968 during a studio jam with Steve Winwood on organ and Jack Casady on bass.The next day, Hendrix returned to the studio with Redding and Mitchell for the filming on a short documentary by ABC television. Noel Redding explained, "We learned that song in the studio ... They had the cameras rolling on us as we played it". Hendrix added,
[S]omeone was filming when we started doing [Voodoo Child]. We did that about three times because they wanted to film us in the studio, to make us—'Make it look like you're recording, boys'—one of them scenes, you know, so, 'OK, let's play this in E, a-one, a-two, a-three', and then we went into 'Voodoo Child'.
According to Hendrix biographer Steven Roby, eight takes of the song were recorded by Hendrix, Redding, and Mitchell; the final one was chosen as the master which appeared on Electric Ladyland.
Author Charles Shaar Murray examines Hendrix's use of the term "Voodoo Child" in his book Crosstown Traffic. He notes that "Voodoo symbolism and reference resound through the country blues, and through the urbanized electric county blues of the Chicago school ... In Hendrix’s case, this is pure metaphor. He certainly was not a Voodoo inititate in any formal sense ... Both with ‘Voodoo Chile’—and, most specifically, with the West African even-before-Bo-Diddley beat he percussively scratches from his guitar and wah-wah pedal at the beginning of ‘Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)’ [sic]—he is announcing as explicitly as possible that he is a man of the blues, and one who honours, respects and understands its deepest and most profound traditions". Except for the chorus, the lyrics of "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" are different than "Voodoo Chile":
- Well I stand up next to a mountain, and I chop it down with the edge of my hand (2×)
- Well I pick up all the pieces and make an island, might even raise just a little sand
- 'Cause I'm a voodoo child, Lord knows I'm a voodoo child
During a January 1, 1970 performance with the Band of Gypsys, Hendrix introduces the song as the "Black Panther's national anthem" (included on the album Live at the Fillmore East). At the time, he was being pressured to make a statement about racial issues in the U.S.
"Voodoo Child (Slight Return)" became a staple of Hendrix's concert performances and would vary in length from seven to eighteen minutes. Recordings from the Winterland Ballroom, Royal Albert Hall, Woodstock, and the Fillmore East were later released on The Jimi Hendrix Concerts, Hendrix in the West, Woodstock, and Live at the Fillmore East. Many more recordings have also appeared.
In an AllMusic song review, "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)" was described as "a perfect example of how Hendrix took the Delta blues form and not only psychedelicized it, but cast an even more powerful spell by delivering the lyric in the voice of a voodoo priest".  Also noted is Hendrix's guitar work: "Opening with a simple riff on the wah-wah pedal, the song explodes into full sonic force, the guitarist hitting the crunching chords and taking the astral-inspired leads for which he became infamous. The real guitar explorations happen midway through the song, while the basic, thundering riff is unrelenting". Rolling Stone magazine included the song at number 102 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
A variety of musicians have recorded "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)", sometimes using the shortened title "Voodoo Child"; some of these include:
- Stevie Ray Vaughan on the album Couldn't Stand the Weather (1984) and Live Alive (1986). His version received a nomination for Grammy Award for Best Rock Instrumental Performance (1985).
- Divididos on Acariciando lo Áspero (1991).
- Kenny Wayne Shepherd as a bonus track on his "Blue on Black" single (1997).
- Angélique Kidjo on Oremi (1998).
- Yngwie Malmsteen on The Genesis (2002).
- Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen on G3: Live in Denver (2003).
- John Mayer at SPAC in Saratoga Springs, New York, on August 8, 2010; at First Midwest Bank Amphitheater in Tinley Park, Illinois, on August 14, 2010; at USANA Amphitheatre in West Valley City, Utah, on August 31, 2010; and at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, Colorado, on September 1, 2010.
- Gary Moore on Blues for Jimi (2012).
- Luna on Luna (2014).