Wednesday, January 6, 2016

The Breakaways

"Hey Joe" is a murder ballad written by Billy Roberts in the early 1960s and popularized by Jimi Hendrix in the mid-60s.

Like Pete Tosh's performance from yesterday's post ("Don't Look Back" was written by Smokey Robinson and Ronald White in 1965), "Hey Joe" includes a backing vocal track. Unlike yesterday's post, the names of its backing vocalists are readily available. They are Vicki Brown, Jean Hawker and Margot Newman (aka The Breakaways).

When I first heard "Hey Joe", what I heard more than its amazing guitar work and lead vocal, more than its bass (Noel Redding) and drums (Mitch Mitchell), was the voice (via the haunting backing vocals) of the nameless "woman" who is repeatedly shot over the course of its telling. More recently, the voices of those who go uncredited on performances like Tosh's.

The last time I read the lyrics to "Hey Joe", I thought of a song Herald Nix often performed in his electric sets. Not a murder ballad but a song where one man encounters another man, and asks that man a question. An excerpt of this song (whose name I don't know) can be found here (0:00-2:12).

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