Machine Gun – Jimi Hendrix

Machine Gun is one of the masterpieces of the great rock guitar legend Jimi Hendrix. It is a song that beautifully demonstrates how art can be used to express...

Machine Gun is one of the masterpieces of the great rock guitar legend Jimi Hendrix. It is a song that beautifully demonstrates how art can be used to express the spoils of war.

Machine Gun exhibits Hendrix’s disapproval regarding the Vietnam War. It was never fully recorded on studio, however, it is part of the Band of Gypsys live album. There are also other recordings of live performances. Additionally, there is the edited version (featured on the video on top), part of the posthumous album Midnight Lightning released in 1975, made from an audio recording that Hendrix was working on before his death, for what would have been his fourth studio album.

Going back in history, the Vietnam War was fought between North and South Vietnam, with the United States supporting the Southern government with the intent to prevent the spreading of Communism that ruled in the Northern side of the country. This war, a.k.a Second Indochina War began in 1955 and lasted for twenty years.

Unfortunately, Hendrix did not live to see the war coming to an end as he died five years earlier, in September of 1970, at the age of 27. However, despite his relatively short career, Hendrix is still one of the most influential electric guitar players and widely acclaimed as one of the most exceptional instrumentalist in the history of rock.

During his career, Hendrix made sure to consecutively release songs that transmitted messages of spirituality and love. In this context, Machine Gun marked a twist in his repertoire. Nonetheless, the emotional aspect of this song is clearly expressed by the deep and complex guitar sounds that mimic machine guns, explosions, helicopters, among others, with some performances lasting up to twenty minutes of spectacular resonance.

On the other hand, the lyrics express Hendrix’s criticism against the death and suffering brought by the Vietnam War – “Tearing my body all apart […] Evil man make you kill me; Evil man make me kill you; Even though we’re only families apart; […]Yeah, machine gun; Tearing my family apart.“

Moreover, during concerts, while performing Machine Gun, he yelled “Well maybe I’ll pick up my axe and fight like a farmer”. For him, his weapon was his guitar, and he was fighting the way he knew and could – through the spectacular sound of his guitar.

As the renowned guitarist and musicologist Andy Aledort put it Machine Gun is the climax of Hendrix’s career and “the premiere example of [his] unparalleled genius as a rock guitarist … In this performance, Jimi transcended the medium of rock music, and set an entirely new standard for the potential of electric guitar.

 

Machine gun

Tearing my body all apart

Machine gun

Tearing my body all apart

Evil man make me kill you

Evil man make you kill me

Evil man make me kill you

Even though we’re only families apart

Well I pick up my axe and fight like a farmer

You know what I mean?

Hey, and your bullets keep knocking me down

Hey, I pick up my axe and fight like a farmer now

Yeah, but you still blast me down, to the ground

The same way you shoot me down, baby

You’ll be going just the same

Three times the pain

And your own self to blame

Hey, machine gun

I ain’t afraid of your mess no more, babe

I ain’t afraid no more

After a while your, your cheap talk won’t even cause me pain

So let your bullets fly like rain

Because I know all the time you’re wrong baby

And you’ll be going just the same

Yeah, machine gun

Tearing my family apart

Yeah, yeah, alright

Tearing my family apart

Don’t you shoot him down

He’s about to leave here

Don’t you shoot him down

He’s got to stay here

He isn’t going nowhere

He’s been shot down to the ground

Oh where he can’t survive no, no

Yeah, that’s what we don’t want to hear anymore, alright

(No bullets)

At least here, huh huh

(No guns, no bombs)

Huh huh

No nothing, just let’s all live and live

You know instead of killing

Categories
Sounds from the Bucket
Silvie Vale

Passionate about LGBT issues and human rights, Silvie Vale has recently graduated in Development and International Relations from Aalborg University, Denmark. She is specialized in Global Gender Studies and is particularly interested in creating awareness about matters of social justice. She loves travelling, researching and learning new things.
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