Covered by artists like Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Sting, “Little Wing” is one of Jimi Hendrix’s most beautiful and enduring compositions. It’s easy to see why. The original is seductively warm, poignant and light as a feather. Engineer Eddie Kramer explains how Jimi achieved the song’s ethereal glow in the studio.
“One of my favorite touches on that track is the glockenspiel part, which was played by Jimi,” says Kramer. “Part of the beauty of recording at Olympic Studios in London was using instruments that had been left from previous sessions. The glockenspiel was just laying around, so Jimi used it.”
Hendrix’s rich and watery guitar solo was, says Kramer, in part the product of a secret weapon. “One of the engineers had built this miniature Leslie,” continues Kramer. “It was like it was built out of an Erector set and had a small 8-inch speaker that rotated. Believe it or not, the guitar solo was fed through this tiny thing, and that’s the lovely effect you hear on the lead.”
But for the true meaning of “Little Wing,” it’s best to go straight to the horse’s mouth. “ ‘Little Wing’ is like one of these beautiful girls that come around sometimes,” explained Jimi. “You ride into town for the drinks and parties and so forth. You play your gig; it’s the same thing as the olden days. And these beautiful girls come around and really entertain you. You do actually fall in love with them because that’s the only love you can have. It’s not always the physical thing of ‘Oh, there’s one over there…’ It’s not one of those scenes. They actually tell you something. They release different things inside themselves, and then you feel to yourself, ‘Damn, there’s really a responsibility to some of these girls, you know, because they’re the ones that are gonna get screwed.’
“ ‘Little Wing’ was a very sweet girl that came around that gave me her whole life and more if I wanted it. And me with my crazy ass couldn’t get it together, so I’m off here and there and off over there.”