When you first hear Doriella Du Fontaine, it sounds like a run-of-the-mill jam session: first, Jimi sets up a funk groove on his guitar, then as Buddy sets up the beat on the drums, the listener is launched into the tale of Miss Fontaine, told by Lightnin’ Rod in a typical raunchy, vernacular New York style. The song tells a tale of manipulation and fate in a proto-rap spoken word format.
The track was recorded at the Electric Ladyland, Jimi’s New York studio, in November 1969. While the track was recorded at a time when New York was the beating heart of hip-hop culture, it wasn’t released until years later. Yet, this coincidental jam session went on to influence hip-hop greatly, forming a bridge between the vernacular culture of “toasts” and “dozens” and the modern music industry’s hip-hop. To that end, this piece was so ahead of its time, that writer Gene Santoro described the song as “foreshadow[ing] the rap-meets-metal crossover”1. It is also notable that the artists assembled at this jam (Buddy Miles, Billy Cox and Larry Young) later became Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys2, whose work established the early P-funk scene.
While the standalone track Doriella Du Fontaine (DDF) may seem vanilla compared to the rest of Jalal’s and Hendrix’s discography, which contains countless billboard hits, the historical significance of this piece makes it a gem worth examining.