The explosion of hippie culture in the 60s
By: Cat Nuwer
In January of 1967, The Human Be-In festival at Golden Gate Park attracted youngsters to the intriguing city of San Francisco, where hippie culture began to flourish. San Francisco then became the center for young people exploring the new scene during the ‘Summer of Love’ in 1967.
The Summer of Love and hippie movement were originally influenced by the work of eccentric 1950s beat writers Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac. Kerouac, known for psychedelic narrative On The Road, also wrote Dharma Bums, a tale of his travels through the wilderness of California, featuring philosophical asides about Buddhist values; in one instance, Kerouac writes, “I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted”. In this way, Kerouac intrigued his audience with a genuine curiosity in exploring the depths of humanity and this world.
The Observer’s Ed Vulliamy describes the Summer of Love as a “phenomenon of music, psychedelic drugs, politics, anti-politics, art, sex, rebellion, celebration, squalor and calamity…” Teenagers and young adults across the nation fought against tradition by exploring new options offered by the hippie culture like the effect of drugs on one’s perspective. Vulliamy quotes the Grateful Dead’s guitarist Bob Weir, who said that the movement “was about exploration, finding new ways of expression, being aware of one’s existence.”
Folk music and experimental genres of music, such as emerging rock bands like the Jimi Hendrix Experience, helped define the era. For example, in the film Across the Universe, Julie Taymor had her 60s characters express themselves through songs of the Beatles; the Beatles’ song “I Am the Walrus” is one of the most definitive of the era because the song uses rambling nonsensical lyrics to break away from meaning altogether. The Mamas and Papas were also very popular with their key song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).”
Yet, there were flaws in this free age; as the growing amount of communal hippies continued to move upward, food and shelter became an issue. Since these hippies were nomadic, they were not always guaranteed the necessities needed to survive and often, youngsters spent all their money on drugs. In October of 1967, the remaining hippies became part of a mock funeral known as ‘The Death of the Hippie’ to symbolize the end of the movement. Even though the movement slowed down in 1968, Woodstock revived it in 1969, bringing in a fresh age.
Hippie culture has filtered down into our generation, but is exemplified in less drastic ways. For example, some of the fashion remains in the form of aviators, tye dye and patterned sundresses. Also, the modern music scene would be very different without the influence of ’60s artists; the freak-folk scene, featuring artists such as Devendra Banhart and Animal Collective, is particularly influenced by the era.
The hippie era, originally influenced by a philosophy of self-discovery, was diluted by the rapid influx of drugs and self-harmful activities. Nevertheless, even after the ‘Death of the Hippie’ ended the ’60s movement, our culture can still appreciate the great minds and musicians that originally cultivated the era.