Art is art. Good art is good art. Bad art is bad art. Those are the only two differentiators. There is no Christian art. There is no atheist art. There is no Muslim art. There is no white art. There is no black art. There is no gay art or straight art or skinny art or fat art. There are only two forms of art: good and bad.
Whether Jimi Hendrix knew this or not, we'll never know. He only knew the art he created was the art he loved, and he didn't seem too concerned with what other people thought of it.
Hendrix died of a drug overdose 47 years ago today (September 18). Perhaps it was accidental, perhaps not. It would be monotonous to sit here and lament at lives lost too young; at bright flames who were extinguished just as they were warming the hands of those that needed them.
Jimi Hendrix is an unmistakable icon. His music symbolized the era he lived in. He represented the youth of the times in more ways than one, yet he seemed useless without a guitar. He wasn't a public speaker. He wasn't much of a vocalist either, often forgetting lyrics to the song he was singing. But few painted the canvas of silence like Jimi. Few manipulated the guitar in a way that puzzled thousands who had always done it the same way. It was chaotic but melodic. Hendrix knew it. He once said "You have to go on and be crazy. Craziness is like heaven."
God loves art. He loves good art. We know this to be true because when God would create anything, He would always call it "very good." The weeping willow tree? Very good. The rainforests filled with boa constrictors and monkeys and hissing cockroaches and parakeets under a lush green canopy? Very good. The galaxies filled with darkness showing more stars than any brilliant mind can count? Very good. An introverted genius making sheer audio magic with a guitar? Very good. But is creation still "very good" if it completely ignores its Creator? Jimi Hendrix had a concept of God, but he viewed music as his religion. His upside-down restrung Fender Stratocaster serving as his cross to bear.
"I believed in myself more than anything. And, I suppose in a way, that’s also believing in God. If there is a God and He made you, then if you believe in yourself, you’re also believing in Him…That doesn’t mean you’ve got to believe in heaven and hell and all that stuff. But it does mean that what you are and what you do is your religion… When I get up on stage—well, that’s my whole life. That’s my religion. My music is electric church music if by ‘church’ you mean ‘religion’, I am electric religion." (Hollow Verse)
Jimi Hendrix might not have known God like we do. But He did something well so many of us fail to ever begin to do. Hendrix took the ordinary gift of music he had and transformed it. He pulled it and stretched it and stripped it down while also dressing it up in sequins and feather boas and trance-inducing guitar licks. Jimi Hendrix knew he was blessed with talent, and he soaked every bit of that talent up and blessed others with it. Michelangelo and Van Gogh and Salvador Dali were all artists. Hendrix falls right in line with them, his guitar a brush, the atmosphere his canvas. The real shame is that his talent was limited to a short life.
I don't know if Jimi Hendrix loved God. If he did, he wouldn’t have needed to find solace in recreational drug use. He would’ve understood the creativity bursting from his fingertips was not the result of any substance, but of a God who loved Jimi and wanted to see Jimi worship Him through music.
But every time I hear "Hey Joe" or "Castles in the Sand", I know God sure must have loved Jimi. And God must love us to bless us with a talented artist embracing the burden of artistic genius to rock our worlds.