It's not Coachella. It's not even Woodstock. The Summer of Love happened exacty 50 years ago when some 100,000 young people, with flowers in their hair and tie-dye duds to match, flocked to San Francisco and descended on the now-gentrified tourist mecca called the Haight-Ashbury. The year was 1967. The media, long before Twitter, made sure all the squares in all of the rest of the country and the world heard about it, and the counterculture happening became a cultural phenomenon and generational touchstone that is still affecting us today.
It was a summer of music (Jerry Garcia, Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin), drugs (“turn on, tune in, drop out” à la Timothy Leary) and love (the carnal type as much as the "everybody get together, try to love one another right now" kind). It was a summer of political statements and fashion statements, about tripping and grooving. No one over 30 was trusted.
Go Ask Alice
A San Francisco landmark: the world-famous Haight-Ashbury intersection
Modern hippie girls: rebels without a cause?
Poster for the Monterey International Pop Festival and beat poet Allen Ginsberg at the Be-In
Jefferson Airplane at Haight-Ashbury, San Francisco
To put things into a rough context, the Summer of Love took place between the formation of the Black Panther Party (1966), the assassination of Martin Luther King (1968) and Woodstock (1969). It was a volatile time of change, of movements ranging from student protests against the Vietnam War and other New Left causes to women’s and gay lib activities. These flower children grew out of the footsteps of the Beatniks who revolted against conformity. They were inspired by the radical Diggers, a group of anti-capitalist anarchists based in the Haight-Ashbury, who opened free stores and free medical clinics and gave out food, putting on avant-garde theater events and shows featuring such greats as Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin. Obviously, this attracted a lot of counterculture-hungry kids from around the country.
On January 14, 1967, San Francisco hosted Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park, described as "A Gathering of the Tribes for a Human Be-In" and attended by such luminaries as Beat poet Allen Ginsberg, LSD lord Timothy Leary, spiritual guru Ram Dass and cult band The Grateful Dead. It was a hit with the disenchanted youth rebelling against middle class conformity and in search of identity and personal empowerment. It was also a hit with the national media, always hungry for a sensation. More college kids flocked to the honey of Hashbury (Hunter S. Thompson’s words) during that year’s spring break.
Are You Experienced?
Are You Experienced by the Jimi Hendrix Experience debuted in 1967
The Mamas and Papas sang "If you're going to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair," and people heeded the call. In June of 1967, the seminal three-day Monterey International Pop Festival launched The Jimi Hendrix Experience. More seekers of trips and music-fueled transcendence came West and a utopia for bohemians was born. But all good things must end. There were simply too many people, too many homeless, too many drugs, and the messianic vibe turned into a mess. People headed back to their colleges. Those left held a funeral of sorts, "The Death of the Hippie" on October 6, 1967,
So what did a bunch of flower children accomplish with their tunes and ‘tudes and outré fashion sense? A social phenom that changed our culture with its groundbreaking music and art, its fashion and challenge of the established norms. A questioning of the status quo, of violence and war. An interest in personal fulfillment, Eastern philosophy, yoga and spiritual growth. Our current Kombucha-drinking, Turmeric-sprinkling, whole-grain ways. A fight for equal human rights.
If you're going to San Francisco...
Poster celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love
Now and Then: Janis Choplin and Coachella Style
Poster for the Monterey International Pop Festival and Allen Ginsberg at the Human Be-In
If it were up to us, we’d celebrate the summer of love every year. Peace and love sound pretty good at a time when things aren't exactly sane out there. Are people getting too much sun? Aha! Global warming, again. But really, now more than ever, a little love in the air is much needed.
Of course, we won’t go full-fledged hippie. Festivalwear has become a cliché. Mainstream. Plus, we’re much too fond of the finer things in life and would rather rebel against convention with a chilled sangria on a sexy rooftop, wearing a crisp linen suit. Our drugs of choice are engineered luxury and craftsmanship. But we love the music, the fashion and the spirit of freeing the mind and body from all constraints, societal and mental. Of being authentic. And obviously, we love boundless and ever-curious creativity, whichever way it’s presented to us.
The City of San Francisco is celebrating the monumental anniversary with a host of great events, from summer street festivals and fairs to museum exhibits. Learn more at sftravel.com/summer-love-2017.