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?