I wish I could say that I was a Flower Child during the Summer of Love, but I was busy working and getting ready for college. I did have a boyfriend, but he was in the Navy. Love may have been the last thing on a lot of people’s mind because we didn’t want to focus on the horrors of the Vietnam Conflict that the government didn’t want to call a war. I lived in the rarified environment of a small town that was miles away from the action in Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco where as many as 100,000 young people sported hippie fashions and engaged in experimentation with drugs and free love. Although hippies also gathered in many other places in the U.S., Canada and Europe, San Francisco the most publicized location for hippie subculture.
Hippies, sometimes called Flower Children, were an eclectic group. Many were suspicious of the government, rejected consumerist values and generally opposed the Vietnam War. A few were interested in politics while others were concerned with art, music, poetry or religious and meditative practices which were often enhanced by drugs and alcohol.
The 60s and 70s are remembered for liberal attitudes toward sex and society. It also saw the beginnings of the peace movement, LGBT rights, the birth of the British Invasion and the decriminalization of homosexuality in the UK. The U.S. didn’t decriminalize it until 2003.
The media’s fascination with the “counterculture” continued with the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, where approximately 30,000 people gathered for the first day of the music festival with the number swelling to 60,000 on the final day. The song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” written by John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas and sung by Scott McKenzie was initially designed to promote the Monterey Pop Festival. “San Francisco” became an instant hit reaching #4 in the U. S. and #1 in the UK. It transcended its original purpose by popularizing an idealized image of San Francisco. Large numbers of fledging hippies headed to the festival to hear their favorite bands, among them Jefferson Airplane, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Otis Redding, The Byrds, the Grateful Dead, The Who and Big Brother and the Holding Company with Janis Joplin.
However, values were not the same everywhere. The Rolling Stones still had to change their lyrics in order to be allowed on the Ed Sullivan Show. Legend has it that when the Stones were booked to play “Let’s Spend the Night Together” on his show in 1967, Sullivan announced, “Either the song goes, or you do.” They compromised by changing the lyrics to “Let’s spend some time together.”
The music of the summer of 1967 gave us wonderful songs.
The Soundtrack of the Summer of 1967 included:
San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) (Scott McKenzie)
All You Need Is Love (The Beatles)
Friday on My Mind (The Easy Beats)
Creeque Alley (The Mamas and The Papas)
Carrie Anne (The Hollies)
Let’s Live for Today (The Grass Roots)
She’d Rather Be With Me (The Turtles)
Groovin’ (The Rascals)
Brown Eyed Girl (Van Morrison)
Somebody to Love (Jefferson Airplane)
Mirage (Tommy James & The Shondells)
Sunday Will Never Be the Same (Spanky & Our Gang)
Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell)
Pleasant Valley Sunday (The Monkees)
Reflections (Diana Ross & the Supremes)
San Francisco Nights (Eric Burdon & the Animals)
Light My Fire (The Doors)
White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane)
Up, Up and Away (The Fifth Dimension)
Tracks of My Tears (Johnny Rivers)
I Was Made to Love Her (Stevie Wonder)
Respect (Aretha Franklin)
Little Bit O’ Soul (Music Explosion)
You’re My Everything (The Temptations)
The Letter (The Box Tops)
The expression Age of Aquarius in popular culture usually refers to the heyday of the hippie and New Age movements in the 1960s and 1970s. Although more rock than new-age in genre, the 1967 musical Hair, with its opening song “Aquarius” and the memorable line “This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius” brought the Aquarian Age concept to the attention of audiences worldwide.
When the newly recruited Flower Children returned home, they brought new ideas, ideals, behaviors, and styles of fashion to most major cities in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan. The closest I ever got to being a hippie was going braless, joining an anti-Vietnam group and wanting to wear flowers in my hair instead of a veil at my wedding, an idea that was quickly nixed by my mother. However, I enjoyed the fashions and the music. Janis Joplin was my favorite singer.
This was a peak moment of trippy rock posters and social activism. It was cut short by an influx of violent heroin dealers into the Haight, subsequent overdoses and tourist buses arriving to gawk at the hippies. By the autumn of 1967 many of the flower children had decamped to rural communes and the original pioneers and visionaries were gone. On October 6, 1967, those remaining in the Haight staged a mock funeral, “The Death of the Hippie” ceremony, to signal the end of the played-out scene.
During a time of war and hate the hippies gave us love and inclusion. Maybe we could strive for their vision and make the coming years the Years of Love.
Continue the adventure!