28 4.6. The Summer of Love

The Summer of Love was a social phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967, when as many as 100,000 people converged on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood ofSan Francisco, initiating a major cultural and political shift. Although hippies also gathered in major cities across the U.S., Canada and Europe, San Francisco remained the epicenter of the social earthquake which would come to be known as the Hippie Revolution. [1] Like its sister enclave of Greenwich Village, the city became even more of a melting pot of politics, musicdrugs, creativity, and the total lack of sexual and social inhibition than it already was. As the hippie counterculture movement came farther and farther forward into public awareness, the activities centered therein became a defining moment of the 1960s,[2] causing numerous ‘ordinary citizens’ to begin questioning everything and anything about them and their environment as a result.

This unprecedented gathering of young people is often considered to have been a social experiment, because of all the alternative lifestyles which became more and more common and accepted such as gender equalitycommunal living and free love.[3] Many of these types of social changes reverberated on into the early 1970s, and effects echo throughout modern society.

The hippies, sometimes called flower people, were an eclectic group. They were suspicious of the established system of government, yet they supported liberal views of the time because they also believed in peace and equality for all as well as retained numerous anti-Vietnam war sentiments. Still, some were uninterested in political affairs and preferred to spend their time involved in the aforementioned sex, drugs, and music.[4]



[edit]Early 1967

Inspired by the Beatniks of the 1950s, who declared themselves independent from the authoritarian order of America, the Haight-Ashbury community rejected American commercialism. Haight residents eschewed the material benefits of modern life, encouraged by the distribution of free food and organized shelter by the Diggers, and the creation of institutions such as the Free Clinic for medical treatment.[5]

The prelude to the Summer of Love was the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park on January 14, 1967, which was produced and organized by artist Michael Bowen[6][7] as a “gathering of tribes”.[8]

James Rado and Gerome Ragni were in attendance and absorbed the whole experience; this became the basis for the musical Hair. Rado recalled, “There was so much excitement in the streets and the parks and the hippie areas, and we thought `If we could transmit this excitement to the stage it would be wonderful….’ We hung out with them and went to their Be-Ins [and] let our hair grow. It was very important historically, and if we hadn’t written it, there’d not be any examples. You could read about it and see film clips, but you’d never experience it. We thought, ‘This is happening in the streets,’ and we wanted to bring it to the stage.'”

Also at this event, Timothy Leary voiced his phrase, “turn on, tune in, drop out,” that persisted throughout the entire Summer of Love.[9]

The event was announced by the Haight-Ashbury’s own psychedelic newspaper, the San Francisco Oracle:

A new concept of celebrations beneath the human underground must emerge, become conscious, and be shared, so a revolution can be formed with a renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love, and the revelation of unity for all mankind.[10]

The gathering of approximately 30,000 like-minded people made the Human Be-In the first event that confirmed there was a viable hippie scene.[11]

The term “Summer of Love” originated with the formation of the Council for the Summer of Love in the spring of 1967 as response to the convergence of young people on the Haight-Ashbury district. The Council was composed of The Family Dog, The Straight Theatre, The Diggers, The San Francisco Oracle, and approximately twenty-five other people, who sought to alleviate some of the problems anticipated from the influx of people expected in the summer. The Council also supported the Free Clinic and organized housing, food, sanitation, music and arts, along with maintaining coordination with local churches and other social groups to fill in as needed, a practice that continues today.[12]


The ever-increasing numbers of youth making a pilgrimage to the Haight-Ashbury district alarmed the San Francisco authorities, whose public stance was that they would keep the hippies away. Adam Kneeman, a long-time resident of the Haight-Ashbury, recalls that the police did little to help; organization of the hordes of newcomers fell to the overwhelmed residents themselves.[13]

College and high-school students began streaming into the Haight during the spring break of 1967 and the local government leaders, determined to stop the influx of young people once schools let out for the summer, unwittingly brought additional attention to the scene, and an ongoing series of articles in local papers alerted the national media to the hippies’ growing numbers. By spring, Haight community leaders responded by forming the Council of the Summer of Love, giving the word-of-mouth event an official-sounding name.[14]

The mainstream media’s coverage of hippie life in the Haight-Ashbury drew the attention of youth from all over America. Hunter S. Thompson labeled the district “Hashbury” in The New York Times Magazine, and the activities in the area were reported almost daily.[15]

The movement was also fed by the counterculture’s own media, particularly the San Francisco Oracle, whose pass-around readership is thought to have topped a half-million at its peak that year.[16]

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.[17] In addition, media coverage of the Monterey Pop Festival facilitated the Summer of Love even further as large numbers of fledgling hippies headed to San Francisco to hear their favorite bands such as The WhoGrateful Deadthe Animals Jefferson AirplaneQuicksilver Messenger Service,The Jimi Hendrix ExperienceOtis ReddingThe Byrds, and Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin.[18]


Originally, the song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)“, composed by John Phillips (songwriter for The Mamas & the Papas) was written to promote only the upcoming Monterey Pop Festival:

If you’re going to San Francisco,
be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…
If you’re going to San Francisco,
You’re gonna meet some gentle people there.

However, the tune, sung by future Denny Doherty replacement Scott McKenzie quickly transcended its original purpose by popularizing a nonexistent but totally idealized image of Northern California, becoming a #4 hit in the United States and topping the charts in the U.K. to become an anthem for the entire vibe emanating from the city for most of the summer.

Music during the time went through many different evolutions and alterations. As the popularity of singles was declining, full albums and the Album-oriented Rock (AOR) radio format it spawned on college campuses became much more significant than the single-oriented Top 40 format which had enjoyed dominance for over a decade, leading even more people into awareness of the various bands.

Much of the music could be classified as either acid or psychedelic rock, which was influenced by garage bandsfolk, the blues, and some Native American tribal music. [19] Other genres and musical forms still existed, however, such as soul, R&B, rock ‘n’ roll, and even influences of country.

One of the changes in music was the activity of the bands and artists. During this time, bands began to host concerts for a much more mature audience rather than play for a high school dance.[20] Bands also began to embark upon national and international tours instead of remaining within their city or state, similar to The Beatles.[19]

Before bands started going all around the country and the world, they made names for themselves in the Bay Area in some of the notable venues at which soon-to-be famous concerts were held, including the Fillmore, the Avalon Ballroom, and Winterland.[19] Audiences from far and wide would overfill these events to the point of becoming a health andsafety hazard. Then in a number of cases, most notably the Grateful Dead, fans would follow the band around the country, if not the world, a practice which continues in some form to the modern day.

[edit]Technology and new techniques

Improvisation and free form were major elements of the music. New, exciting methods of creating music began to arise during the Summer of Love. One of these techniques was to move sounds from one speaker to another in order to create a swirling surround sound effect, which eventually accompanied much of the psychedelic sounding music of the period.[19]

Artists like Jimi Hendrix, who used his talent and technology to alter the sound of the guitar; Janis Joplin, who used her personal experiences to create soulful and meaningful blues; and Buffalo Springfield, who combined rock, country, and folk, became groundbreaking acts, most of which would enjoy long and prolific careers afterward.

Due to the music of the time being interwoven with the culture, many of the songs were written with the advocacy of different perceptions i.e. those induced by drugs, as well as the rejection of established society. Groups such as Velvet Underground and The Doors for example often discussed hedonism and decadence within their songs, while other groups such as the Grateful Dead advocated joining their tribe of “Dead-Heads” and following their concerts as the communal ritual.[20]

Still other groups such as Jefferson Airplane and Traffic focused their music on the alteration of consciousness, sometimes with the assistance of drugs.[20]


In New York City, an event in Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan on Memorial Day in 1967 sparked the beginning of the summer of love there.[4] During this concert in the park, some police officers asked for the music to be turned down. To reject the request, the crowd threw various objects, thus causing the police to make thirty-eight arrests/[4] A debate about the threat of the hippie ensued between Mayor John Lindsay and Police Commissioner Howard Leary.[4] After this event, Allan Katzman, the editor of the East Village Other, predicted that 50,000 hippies would enter the area for the summer.[4]

Double that amount – as many as 100,000 young people from around the world – flocked to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, as well as to nearby Berkeley – and to otherSan Francisco Bay Area cities, to join in a popularized version of the hippie experience.[21] Free food, free drugs, and free love were available in Golden Gate Park, a Free Clinic was established for medical treatment, and a Free Store gave away basic necessities to anyone who needed them.[22]

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; and even partying military personnel from bases within driving distance. The Haight-Ashbury could not accommodate this rapid influx of people, and the neighborhood scene quickly deteriorated, with overcrowding, homelessness, hunger, drug problems, and crime afflicting the neighborhood.[22]

[edit]Use of drugs

Psychedelic drug use became one of several means of finding or creating a new reality. Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir comments:

Haight Ashbury was a ghetto of bohemians who wanted to do anything—and we did but I don’t think it has happened since. Yes there was LSD. But Haight Ashbury was not about drugs. It was about exploration, finding new ways of expression, being aware of one’s existence.[23]

Although the culture was based primarily on music and the rejection of established society, a large and colorful thread running through the social fabric at the time featured enlightenment through discovery and personal development, and the use of LSD and marijuana was significantly influential as a result. LSD – also known as acid – was extremely popular, and the perception-altering effects of the drug were often interpreted to be a path for evolution onto a “higher plane” of consciousness.

After resigning his tenured position at Harvard, former professor of psychology Timothy Leary became a major advocate for the recreational use of the drug, spreading his beliefs up and down the East Coast.[9] After taking psilocybin, a drug extracted from certain mushrooms that causes effects similar to those of LSD, Leary supported the use of all psychedelics for personal development. He often invited friends as well as the odd graduate student to trip along with him and colleague Richard Alpert.

On the West Coast, author Ken Kesey, a prior volunteer for a CIA-sponsored LSD experiment, also advocated the use of the drug.[9] Shortly after participating, he was inspired to write the bestselling novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.[9] Subsequently, after buying an old school bus, painting it with psychedelic graffiti and attracting a group of similarly-minded individuals he dubbed the Merry Pranksters, Kesey and his group traveled across the country, often hosting “acid tests” where they would fill a large container with a diluted low dose form of the drug and give out diplomas to those who passed their test.[9]

Along with LSD, marijuana was also used heavily during this period of time. With the various all-organic movements beginning to expand, this drug was even more appealing than LSD due to the fact that apart from creating a euphoric high, it was all-natural as well. However, as a result, crime rose among users due to the fact that several laws were subsequently enacted to control the use of both drugs. The users thereof often had sessions to oppose the laws, including The Human Be-In referenced above as well as various smoke-ins in July and August,[20] however, their efforts at repeal were unsuccessful.

[edit]Funeral and aftermath

The final nail in the coffin came about in no small part due to the fact that by the end of the summer, most of the buzzwords therefrom had long since been re-appropriated as advertising slogans by the very commercialist-based culture they sought to escape. Additionally, for the entire summer, the tenderfooted and greenhorned hippie, unused to the daily realities of city life, inherently believed everyone to be `basically good’.[9] But, once all the various types of ne’er-do-wells caught on and started following the hippies to town, that only led them to be seen as easy targets like vultures looking for carrion in the desert.

And then – after so many people left in the fall to resume their college studies, those remaining in the Haight wanted to signal the conclusion of the scene not only to themselves and their friends, but also to those still in transit or still considering making the trek as well. A mock funeral entitled “The Death of the Hippie” ceremony was staged on October 6, 1967, and organizer [14] Mary Kasper explained the intended message therefrom as follows:

We wanted to signal that this was the end of it, to stay where you are, bring the revolution to where you live and don’t come here because it’s over and done with.[24]

Disgusted, disillusioned and depressed, both the people who had missed out due to not having left their hometowns yet as well as those who were still in transit but who had yet to arrive in San Francisco, pretty much got off their train, plane or bus at the next stop, and/or found others in their locale in the same predicament, and set about trying to create their own mini-versions of the intended utopia about which they had read or seen on television.

Afterward, the few people from the scene who were still left in the city basically brought the final curtain down on the whole experience, cleaned up to make themselves presentable, headed East to clear their heads and prepared to follow the footsteps of their mothers and fathers into what surely would become their future humdrum lives as part of the Establishment in Middle America.[original research?]

New Yorkers were subsequently abducted into a loud, raw and totally irreverent two-hour musical version of what the Summer of Love was all about when Joseph Papp blasted the psychedelic Hair onto an unsuspecting Off-Broadway public ten days later, beginning one of the longest runs of one of the most successful in-your-face musicals about the counterculture anybody had ever seen.

Two weeks after that, all the hippies were happily back in San Francisco and migrated over to the Halloween in the Castro party to celebrate. As the years went by, this gradually ended the reign of the children’s event and began the trend of catering to adults of alternative lifestyles which continues today.[original research?]

[edit]Later developments

The temporarily sour mood at the end of the summer soon improved when the newly-recruited Flower children returned home and brought all the new ideas, values, behaviors, andstyles of fashion back with them to many major cities across the U.S., Canada, Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan – where they took root and flourished, changing the majority of the cultures in the world forever – which was the whole point of staging the event in the first place.[citation needed]

The Summer of Love also exerted its far-reaching influence on a number of young musicians who went on to form many successful and infamous bands in the years to come. Several similarities can be found between the music of R.E.M. and that of the Velvet UndergroundU2 and The Who, as well as multiple jam bands such as Widespread Panic and the Dave Matthews Band,[20] deriving their influences from The Grateful Dead all of whom have developed a wide and enthusiastic fan base as a result.

On September 2, 2007, San Francisco celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love by holding numerous events around the region, most of which were well-attended not only by the original participants looking for a nostalgia trip, but also by their children and other similarly disenfranchised young people, piquing interest in the original causes for a new generation.[25]

Numerous examples of concepts originally born during the Summer of Love remain today, such as caring for the environment and its species, recycling, clean energy sources, vegetarianism, New Age philosophies, disability, women’s and minorities’ rights advocacy, and – brought about in no small part by the numerous people who were taken advantage of during the Summer of Love – programs dedicated to the protection of vulnerable populations – incorporating free clinics, free meal services and food distribution programs, free needle-exchange programs brought on by the AIDS epidemic and numerous other philanthropic ventures.[citation needed]

[edit]In London

London, like San Francisco was also impacted by the popularity of psychedelic drugs, and due in part to the larger metropolitan area and smaller country surrounding it, as well as the fact that the drug laws enacted in the U.S. as a result were slower in coming to the UK, a greater impact was felt on conventional middle-class British culture.[citation needed]

First held in the Irish Dance Hall on Tottenham Court Road, the scene was reopened at The Round House in Camden Town shortly after a police raid in late May. The city was also host to a number of similar events to those held in the United States, mostly around the outer edge of SohoKing’s Road in Chelsea, and the Westbourne Park area.[26] These areas were similar to the Haight-Ashbury district in the sense that the areas had already become havens to artistic and other creative people.

One of the anthems depicting the general feel of the times was “A Whiter Shade of Pale” performed by Procol Harum and [27] some of the other major bands that played there included Pink FloydT. Rex, and Soft Machine many of whom played the UFO Club, equivalent to the Fillmore and one of the major music scenes during the time.[26][26] Another large event was the International Love-In at the Alexandra Palace in July of 1967.[26]

Although no funeral per se was held in London that fall, the mood was similarly grim when, just as in the United States, participants prepared to head off to university and eventually go about their equally humdrum existences into which they were expected to subsequently enter as they got on with their lives.[original research?]

In addition to all the above mentioned acts, Jimi Hendrix had been in London for over a year and had already garnered three Top Ten UK singles in preparation for the release of his first album Are You Experienced which was kept off the #1 spot of the UK album charts by The Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s album, another groundbreaking British masterpiece.[citation needed]


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