Hey, ex-hippies! It’s time to take a trip down memory lane and celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Summer of Love. Yes, 40 years ago we put on our cowboy boots and vests, put a flower in our hair, and trekked to San Francisco and the Haight-Ashbury district to celebrate sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, at Human Be-ins in the Golden Gate Park or the Panhandle.
I remember several times that summer either hopping a Midnight Special cheapo flight from LAX to San Francisco (those were PSA midnight mail flights, and the airline made $10 seats available on standby) or hitching a ride up the Pacific Coast Highway to check out the Summer of Love scene – either by myself or with my buddy Bobby Suberi. There were plenty of adventures to be had, wandering the festive streets of Haight-Ashbury, crashing at strange pads, meeting very interesting people. Once Bobby and I were stuck in San Jose, failing to get a ride back to Los Angeles — when an out-of service Greyhound Bus pulled over and picked us up. Seems the driver was taking the bus back to L.A. for some servicing, and didn’t want to drive alone at night; he needed us for conversation. Psychedelic!! He even dropped us off on the freeway off-ramp near my apartment.
The beginning of the Summer of Love has popularly been attributed to the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park on January 14, 1967. The size of that event awakened mass media to the hippie counterculture that was blossoming in the Haight-Ashbury. College and high school students began streaming into the Haight on their spring break of 1967. City government leaders, determined to stop the influx of young people once schools let out for summer, brought added attention to the scene. That spring, Haight community leaders responded by forming the Council of the Summer of Love, giving the word-of-mouth event an official-sounding name.
The Summer of Love attracted a wide range of people of various ages: teenagers and college students drawn by their peers and the allure of joining a cultural utopia, middle-class vacationers who came to gawk like tourists, and even partying military personnel from bases within an easy drive’s distance. But hippie ideals could not sustain the crowds, and the Haight-Ashbury scene deteriorated rapidly. Overcrowding, homelessness, hunger, drug problems, and crime afflicted the neighborhood. Many people simply left in the fall to resume their college studies. But when the newly recruited Flower Children returned home, they brought with them new ideas, ideals, behaviors, and styles of fashion.
On October 7, 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.
To celebrate the anniversary, the Council of Light, a non-profit organization, has announced a free musical event — The Summer of Love 2007 — at Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, on September 2, featuring “world-class musical acts and entertainment that will represent the spirit and energy of the 1967 Summer of Love.” Confirmed acts include Ray Manzarek (the Doors), Country Joe McDonald (Country Joe and the Fish), Canned Heat, Michael McClure (Beat poet), New Riders of the Purple Sage, Nick Gravenites, David Laflamme (It’s a Beautiful Day), Alameda All Stars (Gregg Allman), Merl Saunders, Terry Haggarty (Sons of Champlin), Dan Hicks, The Charlatans, Essra Mohawk (Mothers of Invention), Barry Melton, Jim Post (Friends and Lovers, Siegel-Schwall Blues Band), Paul “Lobster” Wells , Chief Sunny Ray, Fishbone, Iroquois Tribe, Dakota Tribe, Seminole Tribe, Emit Powell and the Gospel Elites.
In addition, the Whitney Museum in New York has mounted “Summer of Love: Art of the Psychedelic Era,” a show that “revisits the unprecedented explosion of contemporary art and popular culture brought about by the civil unrest and pervasive social change of the 1960s and early 70s, when a new psychedelic aesthetic emerged in art, music, film, architecture, graphic design, and fashion. The exhibition includes paintings, photographs and sculptures by Richard Avedon, Jimi Hendrix, and Andy Warhol, among others. As well as a rich selection of important posters, album covers and underground magazines.” The show runs until September 16, 2007.
Links of note:
The San Francisco Chronicle recently ran a series of artices, “The Summer of Love 40 Years Later,” featuring interviews and comments by a host of cultural leaders who were there; the Web site is loaded with interesting articles and stories.
In April, PBS ran an American Experience special on “The Summer of Love”: The site allows you to watch the entire program as well as providing information on the famous Oracle newspaper and more.
The New York Times recently ran an article, “Welcome Back, Starshine,” about the Summer of Love.