Hey Joe The Unauthorized Biography of a Rock Classic

HEY JOE                                                           MARC SHAPIRO

The song Hey Joe was a momentary blip on the pop music scene in 1965 courtesy of a Southern California band called The Leaves. It would be their only hit. But over the next 50 plus years, the quirky song about premeditated murder went on to become something special, a musical rite of passage for the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Patti Smith, Led Zeppelin, and countless others. It was a perennial that any teen band worth their limited chops coveted and recorded and finally it was an entry in The Guinness Book of World Records when thousands of people got together to play the song as the ultimate jam. 

Part, history, part mystery and part memoir, the book Hey Joe: The Unauthorized Biography of a Rock Classic by New York Times bestselling author Marc Shapiro is, through extensive and exhaustive research that included the memories of countless well known musicians who were part of the Hey Joe odyssey, a detailed look at the history of Hey Joe, the song that few have ever thought to think deeply about and the rumors, legends and outlandish tales surrounding the song that ultimately culminate in the ultimate question…

Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand?

In Hey Joe: The Unauthorized Biography of a Rock Classic readers will learn…

The family tree of songs that spanned decades and finally spawned Hey Joe.

Who actually wrote the song?

How close Hendrix came to not recording Hey Joe.

The mystery of who actually recorded the first version of Hey Joe. No, it was not The Leaves. Would you believe Kim Fowley? Or The Surfaris? 

What a very young Bruce Springsteen had to do with the song.

Nearly 3000 versions of Hey Joe, familiar, obscure and, in many cases, downright impossible to find, have been recorded and released.


A book that deals with the Rock song Hey Joe, the author will take you through the words and how and when the song first came about. How it started out as a folk song in either the late fifties or early sixties and then became a subject of legal battles over who wrote it, and how it may have been settled in court still not a real definition. Now for me, I remember the song from Jimi Hendrix and though there were many people before and after his was the one that change it. He took his Marshall amp and turned the levels up to ten and then went for it. The author still being able to speak to a few people that were in the room that day when he played that song were still blown away all of these years later at what he did and how that day and recording in London changed them and music. For me, a kid in the middle of the Mojave Desert hearing his music was totally refreshing and now in my late fifties, I still enjoy listening to his music and can still hear his influence, to think this song for Hendrix had just one of helping hands was amazing. Months later he would be in the U.S. playing in the Monterey festival and well you all know the rest. This song goes on being recorded by many people in the 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and into the 2000’s. The author will go over artists and the different ways it was sung. Overall a good book about just one song. I received this book from Netgalley.com I gave it 4 stars. Follow us at www.1rad-readerreviews.com

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