Saturday, 7 July 2012

Jimi Hendrix and the 60’s

I’m a BIG Hendrix fan and have been for many years.  As a Christian I believe God allows me to have normal interests as long as I put Him, God, first; I try to do this every day.  I don’t think Hendrix was a Christian, in fact I’m certain that he wasn’t, but  his talent was God-given; all our attributes are God-given, all our talents are God-given whatever they are, whether we acknowledge God or not or whether we believe in God or not.

I am a BIG 60’s fan too; there is something about that decade that I love; how do I square this with being a dyed-in-the-wool Christian?  I think that because I am honest with God, He allows me, as with many other people, to be an individual and to have likes and dislikes like anyone else.  The 60’s was, by all accounts, a magical time, a kind of dreamtime, when there was a flourishing of creativity, a flourishing of new ideas, a belief in change, a sense of positivity and the idea that if you had talent or a dream or drive anyone could get on.  Looking back, it seems that there was optimism and a belief that youth could change things just because they wanted to and because things simply needed changing.  This optimism didn’t last, but the 60’s casts a long shadow on Western culture, certainly British and American culture.  It was the British and Americans that rocked the world musically, and to a certain extent British and American youth culture that everyone wanted to copy and be part of.  Those heady and exciting days are gone now, part of history in fact, so where does that leave us?  What does the 60’s mean for Christians?

There is a kind of yearning among human beings for nostalgia, and certainly there is a yearning for something we may never have personally experienced.  I was born in the 60’s but I was only a nipper so don’t remember a thing about it one way or the other.

In Rock and Roll, Elvis, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and others were like Old Testament prophets, and the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and The Doors and others were like the New Testament apostles.  Elvis’ impact on popular 20th century culture is incalculable, the Beatles amazingly even more so.  Early Rock and Roll was earthy, revolutionary and unsophisticated while 60’s Rock and Roll was sophisticated, complex and more thoughtful; the audience had changed and were demanding more from performers and ‘pop music.’  Rock and Roll was honesty and truth, telling it ‘like it is’ and certainly the main topic of popular music is on the theme of love, much like Christianity itself.  Rock and Roll was also asking big questions, questions about life, love, art, what moves us and perhaps even questions about God Himself.

Rock and Roll is so important to many of us because it speaks to that often hidden part of us, a part of us that can’t be completely understood, that private part we rarely show to other people, the part of us that God often speaks to, in one way and another.

The 60’s, and magic times and moments in life, seem so brief and fleeting; is it why we yearn for such times?  I think we all need mundane moments and normality in life, lots of it in fact, life being found in many of those mundane moments, but we also need at times those magic moments and to feel that we are a part of something bigger, something beyond and above us, that makes us question, that fills us with awe and wonder and that lets us understand that life, although it can be mundane, is underpinned by something wondrous and miraculous; that it does all mean something and there is a purpose to it all.

So, when I listen to Hendrix at his most improvisational best, I am taken to places that little else can do, I am excited, thrilled, happy and taken out of myself; it’s almost a religious experience in fact.  So should a Christian be really interested in something so secular?  And why are Christians only supposed to like hymns anyway, or ‘Christian’ rock music?  Is God bigger than churches and organised Christianity?  Can we not see God in everything around us, like nature, or a rainbow, or a violent out-of-control storm or the purring of a kitten; even in a Hendrix solo?  Who can say?

The 60’s was a time of wonder, of excitement, of the new challenging the old, the old giving way to the young, and a decade where seemingly anything could happen, where outworn ways of living where being challenged on all sides, class and race barriers where giving way to more liberal ways of living and equality was coming into the fore; it seems a marvellous time all told.  Some people say that it was the beginning of all that is bad in life, too much freedom, too much too soon, and others see in it the renaissance of modern popular Western culture and the beginnings of fairness and justice for the ordinary person.  Whatever your opinion, the 60’s casts a long shadow over the world and its reverberations can still be felt in our culture today.

There is a kind of yearning in humanity, a yearning for peace in the midst of war, a yearning for knowledge in the midst of ignorance, a yearning for fair play in the midst of a deeply unfair world, a yearning for love in an often loveless world and a deep yearning for meaning in a world that often seems totally without meaning; we yearn because we are human.  The 60’s for me sums up all these sentiments and many more; even if it petered out to nothing, for a time people dreamt, and hoped for a better world; isn’t that what we all want?


  1. Dear Tim,

    As one born in the early 1950s, the sixties pop music world was the very life and soul of my youth. Great artists included the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Tremeloes, The Fortunes, The Searchers, The Shadows, Status Quo - as well as Dusty Springfield, Sandie Shaw, Cilla Black, Marianne Faithful and Tina Turner. In the early 1970s, Simon and Garfunkel dominated the pop world with their greatest hits: "The Boxer" and "Bridge Over Troubled Waters." The latter album I play frequently to this day.
    However, back in the late 1970s, I found myself listening to a cassette recording with a group of young Christians, "Why Not Rock?" by Winkey Pratney, who preached that all rock music was the hotline to Hell, with only Christian music, without the rock beat, being wholesome.
    Although this guy punched home a few points, and for a while, felt that it was wrong to enjoy Rock music, after being told to "Destroy all the records you have on your record player and give yourself, unconditionally and unreservely, to God, and he will then use you..." - I could see afterwards that rock and pop music was enjoyed by every Christian I met and came to know. Above all this, my enjoyment of rock and pop continues to this day. Nowadays, I tend to squirm when Christians say that I mustn't do this and I should do that. This sort of attitude, I have learned, has never edified me in the faith, but rather, gave me a guilt complex.
    A great blog, thankyou for posting.
    Also, I thank you for your comments on my blogs. They are very encouraging.
    God bless,

    1. Yes Frank; I don;t know whether to envy you growing up in that fantastic era; perhaps it's better jut to know that we can always listen to most of these artists for free on 'youtube'!

      I suppose rock music is an easy target after all; because of course all rock music is degenerate, right, and all pop musicians were drug abusers, right?! To me, the 60's was the time when working class people, people traditionally marginalised and left out of the good jobs, suddenly started challenging all these unfair notions and preconceptions and the idea that if you weren't posh or well-bred you should 'know your place'.

      When I listen to Hendrix or the Doors or Pink Floyd, I often get the same feelings as when I listen to Debussy or Beethoven or Erik Satie; why is the former Rock music attacked and the latter Classical music accepted? I truly don't understand this at all. I have then come to the conclusion that God is a whole lot bigger than our small prejudices and that if God created the whole universe, He can accept a rock tune or two.

      As you so perceptively write: 'Nowadays, I tend to squirm when Christians say that I mustn't do this and I should do that.' It stops being about love, and becomes an issue of control; and we should build each other up, not knock each other down.

      Both you and Brenda write brilliant posts on excellent blogs; it is my pleasure to read and comment on them.

  2. Hi Tim,
    both my husband and myself love 60's music, it was the music of our teens and brings happy memories. We play it now, my husband particularly likes Status Quo, I like all sorts of variations. God doesn't say 'Only like certain types of music or songs', and as far as 'the church' is concerned, He says 'I shall not live in a house made with hands' The word church simply means 'an assembly of people', a congregation. It does not matter whether christians gather in a 'church' building, a garage, a club or wherever, the Bible teaches us that 'where two or three are gathered in My name, there I am in the midst of them'. We learn to recognize what is of God and what is not. I remember someone saying to my husband that it was a sin to smoke a cigarette. I asked the Lord what He said about it and opened up my Bible straight to a page where a verse stood out like a neon sign. 'It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a person.' It is the words of a song that draw me, and some songs may not speak directly about God but they can have heartfelt messages that can be reflecting exactly how the hearer feels. I like a lot of the songs which are on the programme 'Heartbeat', they remind me of happy times.

    1. I love the whole thing about the 60's, the freedom, the idea of personal liberty, the music, the attitude, especially the music. I'm certain that a Christian can enjoy many different types of foods, so why not different types of music?

      And as you say, the 'church' is not the building but any group of believers getting together in Jesus' name. People can get so hung up on things can't they, that they forget that God wants us to live harmonious lives and abundant lives; certainly we must be obedient to God, but being obedient to God is not necessarily being obedient to another person's whims; there is a difference.

      You made a great point about smoking; I will use that myself because it's so true. I don't smoke personally but I think if I meet a Christian who does, I will try to use your wisdom and not judge; that seems to be the godly angle: not judging!

      I tend to like all kinds of music, Rock, Classical, Flamenco, loud stuff, gentle stuff, even sometimes alternative and avant-garde stuff. I can't see God having a problem with any of it because it all speaks of the wonder of Creation and it speaks of the creativity and originality He has placed in all humanity.

  3. Just reading your comments Tim, and the compliments. I have to say that I am not a person that flatters but your blog is lovely, and I have picked up so many tips from it. I love this writers' circle on line and thoroughly enjoy the diversity. As far as not judging is concerned we are told not to judge outsiders and that the word itself judges those inside the church. Both myself and my husband used to smoke, and both of us have given it up. Myself, long ago when we lived in Australia; because I used to swim underwater a lot and I was getting pains in my chest. So I gave it up. When I first became a christian I used to drink quite a lot, a bit too much really. Someone prayed for me because it was out of balance and I COULD NOT drink for eighteen years. Every time I tried to, I had a violent headache and was physically sick. Now I drink, but it is in balance and I enjoy it more. I should appologize really for talking too much. My husband always tells people 'If you see any two legged donkies around it's because Brenda's talked the hind legs off them.'

    1. I'm glad you like my blog Brenda; I like your blog too. Where kind of like a cyber-church online aren't we?!

      I used to smoke about 12 years ago or so; went on for a month or so and I found that it was literally making me feel sick, so I thought 'I'm paying good money to feel sick really!', so I either chucked them in the bin or gave them to someoone and I haven't smoked since and won't ever again.

      As for the drink, I am generally moderate but sometimes I can have one or two more than normal. I think I need to think about this but it's not a problem; I need to pray about it and let God help me. But, compared to what I used to drink; sheesh today doesn't come close to when I was between 20 and 30. I probably drank more in a day back then than I do in 2-3 weeks now! Really!

  4. Yes, Tim. The difference was that mine was a little bit of a problem Do you know I was actually thinking this morning. 'The blog is a bit like a church on line'.

    1. Yes, I think it's good to be honest. I think many people have a problem with drink, ciggies, drugs and the like but they often don't want to face the fact they have; they say 'I have it under control' and so on.

      Yes our blogs and the little community between us, and the encouragement we give and receive, is very edifying; I think it's a very good thing.

  5. I have played guitar for about 13 years now so of course, I love Hendrix. I think as ive gotten older at times ive taken for granted how awesome he is but then I listen to him or read about him and it reminds me, he really was untouchable. Great post keep up the hard work. Check these out IStillGotMyGuitar

    1. Hi Simon; I've been playing for years but if I don't practise I start to get rusty if you know what I mean?! Yeah, I have been a Hendrix fan for years now and love listening to him. Incidentally you can get lots of his stuff on youtube now, which is good.

      I just checked out your website; it looks really good! Thanks for the comment.

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  7. Hi Tim.. My comment didn't make sense so I am trying agin :)
    I was part of the sixties when it was in full bloom. Your post was really encouraging to me. We were all longing for the truth, freedom and release from materialism. All things that God wants to give us!
    The music was amazing and still is. God gives us the gift of creativity and nothing could be better.

    1. I was a mere nipper in the 60's although I remember the very early 70's; I suppose that was when it was all over really, but for a time it seems the 60's, right through, was a magical time. It seems that both America and Britain flowered during that time, and our youth culture was envied and admired throughout the world.

      You wrote: 'We were all longing for the truth, freedom and release from materialism. All things that God wants to give us!' This is what I was trying to get at in the post; sometimes even secular things and experiences can speak to us of God and his miraculous Creation. Longing for truth, freedom and the release from materialism; that sounds a pretty Christian response after all!

  8. Thank you for checking my blog out and following. Every time somebody follows it makes me think I'm not writing my blog in vain, there are people that know it exists. I love your blog too. Your not alone, I haven't figured this message thing out either. Thanks again.

  9. Your blog looks fantastic, I particularly love the historical ancient map of the world behind everything on your blog; that makes it look very interesting. I mean to have a good read of your blog when I have the spare time. You're welcome!