How Jimi Hendrix Wrote “Little Wing” In 145 Seconds

Jimi Hendrix’s song “Little Wing” may be evidence that he was in fact an alien.

Jimi Hendrix in Denmark on September 3, 1970 (photo by Jan Persson/Redferns)

Writing a song in 30 minutes feels really good, and this has happened to me maybe once or twice in my life.

But writing a song in just over two minutes is hard to wrap my brain around.

When Hendrix wrote “Little Wing,” he pulled from his experience at the Monterey Pop Festival, which was three days of music held in June of 1967. In addition to The Jimi Hendrix Experience, other acts that performed included The Who, Janis Joplin, and The Grateful Dead.

It sounds like it was an amazing event.

So when Hendrix went into the studio later that year to record the song, he channeled what he had found at that festival.

“[‘Little Wing’ is] based on a very, very simple Indian style,” Hendrix said, according to the book Jimi Hendrix: Electric Gypsy“So I figured I take everything I’d see around [at the festival] and put it maybe in the form of a girl … and call it ‘Little Wing,’ and then it will just fly away.”

And in a mere 145 seconds, he came up with what would be one of his biggest songs.

Hendrix’s biographer, Harry Shapiro, describes the shortness of the song perfectly in the book.

“The song fades on a magical solo after only two minutes and twenty-five seconds,” he writes. “Even live, ‘Little Wing’ was hardly any longer — [Hendrix] said what he wanted to say and stopped.”

Shapiro also describes the arrangement of the song beautifully.

“Musically, ‘Little Wing’ is structured to lay a gossamer touch across the whole song from the arresting opening statement and the haunting glockenspiel to the use of a Leslie speaker cabinet for the guitar,” he said.

Try doing this to test your songwriting skills: set a timer of 145 seconds and try to write a full, complete song. 

I first wrote a version of this article for Crazy4Rock