In high school I was a big Jimi Hendrix fan. A bunch of his songs have stayed with me ever since. I was humming Hey Joe not too long ago and it occurred to me: the song’s chords are a cycle of major chords moving downward in fourths. The world is filled with songs whose chords move around the cycle in the standard direction… down fifths… but I had never noticed one that moved backwards, like Hey Joe. I wondered: are there others? Rapper TI has a song called What You Know that’s harmonically identical to Hey Joe, but it’s such a copy that it hardly counts as a separate example.
All I’ve come up with in jazz is one progression that I’ve noticed a couple times. It goes from a minor chord to the minor chord up a fifth, then again to the minor chord up another fifth from there:
Cm Cm/Bb | Am7b5 D7 | Gm Gm/F | Em7b5 A7 | Dm …
That’s the beginning of Benny Golson’s Whisper Not. He could have extended the cycle, but at that point the song instead remains in Dm, which is the main tonality of the song.
We find exactly the same progression in Green Dolphin Street, eight bars before the end. There, the sequence starts on the ii minor of the song’s key, and leads via the vi minor to the iii minor. That chord begins the iii-VI7-ii-V7 that leads back to the tonic chord.
Can you think of any other songs that use this progression? Or, more generally, songs whose chords move up in fifths?