It's hard to wrap your head around the acid-inflected, flower powered “Summer of Love,” unless you were a full blown hippie freak yourself back then, or otherwise a part of the counter culture of the 1960s. It could best be described as a full blown Age of Aquarius.
So, what was that all about you might ask?
The “Summer of Love” began on June 1, 1967, when 100,000 young people from across the country converged on San Francisco's Haight Ashbury district in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge, which became ground zero. It was initially conceived as a brilliant marketing scheme. It was intended to be a convulsion of music, sex, and radical non conformism. “Come to the Haight to turn on, tune in, and drop out.”
So, early that spring the missing persons departments all across the country were swamped with missing children reports by the thousands, even mothers and fathers disappeared. Basically, the baby boomers broke free of the establishment and headed for the City by the Bay. Scads of anti-war protesters, peace advocates, long-haired, pot smoking hippies arrived in mass.
The young people’s rejection of their parent’s standard norm ruled that summer. Some even say that the underlying theme of that summer was not free love, LSD, or rebellion against the Vietnam War. It was, fundamentally, a simple sense of community – like minded people getting it together – way out man!
“Good Vibrations,” “Like a Rolling Stone,” “White Rabbit,” “Bad Moon Rising,” “Light My Fire” and “Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band,” ruled the nights.
In the brief span of that summer, an effervescent cultural revolution based on sex, drugs, rock and roll, and pure love has left a lasting influence on not only America, but around the world.
As the summer wore on it became a media circus, tourist attraction, and worse yet, a hot bed for thieves who preyed on the “magic.”
Fifty years ago this Friday, Oct. 6, 1967, the magic seemed to be gone – it was time to bring it to a close. Exactly one year after California lawmakers voted to ban the drug LSD – several hundred young bohemians gathered for what had been advertised as a funeral they called “Death of the Hippie.”
Surprisingly enough, it had a carnival like atmosphere with singing, dancing in the streets, and someone played “Taps.” Sullen pallbearers carried aloft a large coffin that bore a single inscription: “Hippie, Son of Media.”
In part, because the hallucinogens raised consciousness, hippies left us other gifts besides their remarkable music. The notion of recycling – the idea of recycling garbage came from the Summer of Love. The hippies were always concerned about sustainable living. The whole organic food movement, and we can credit the hippies for yogurts success, because they popularized it.
Vivian Murray, a high school hippie who reportedly hung with singer Janis Joplin, said the summer was driven not so much by utopian ideals, but rather by the urgency to break away from the “man.” Murray went on to say that she doesn't think the spirit of that summer will ever be resurrected. “We were into peace and love. Today's kids are into video games, action and violence.”
Some people I've talked to from that era and that mindset still hang onto the principles of that summer, and still hold on to their love beads, dress like 1967 in their recycled clothing and wear the long hair. Some even disagree with Murray saying a resurgence of that summer could happen as they still feel the same way. Old hippies never die.
As the Youngbloods sang it – “Come on people now, smile on your brother. Everybody get together; try to love one another right now.”
Reference: “Saturday Evening Post.”
-- To reach Ted W. Stillwell, send an email to Ted@blueandgrey.com or call him at 816-896-3592.