The Counterculture, the Hippie Revolution

Topic: ArtMusic
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Last updated: February 13, 2019

“All across the nation such a strange vibration, people in motion. There’s a whole generation with a new explanation, people in motion, people in motion. For those who come to San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.

If you come to San Francisco, summertime will be a love-in there” (McKenzie). “At no other time in history of American culture has the creativity of the whole younger generation been called into play” (Chambers 72).From the love festivals to the Vietnam War protests, from the discovery of the subconscious mind through drugs to the peace rallies, music succeeded in encompassing the spirit of the people in this decade. This generation of flower children questioned the principles and practices of American society at that time. The term “hippie” was brought about my Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle. This name came to describe a cultural movement and a new way of life.In an article titled “The Hippies: The Philosophy of a Subculture,” the following word portray the central beliefs behind this counterculture movement… “Do your own thing, wherever you have to do it and whenever you want. Drop out.

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Leave society as you have known it. Leave it utterly. Blow the mind of every straight person you can reach. Turn them on, if not to drugs then to beauty, love, honesty, and fun” (Marty 125).

Music influenced many people and changed their views of the country. Music itself was at the core of this revolution and helped spread the hippie culture across the United States.Much of the revolution started with college students; the student protest movement began at Berkley University near San Francisco. Not only did these students protest the Vietnam War, but also the educational system and environmental pollution. There were many marches and demonstrations, vigils in public places and at government installations.

Although the hippies appeared very critical of society and its shortcomings, a crucial component to the hippie principles was an overwhelming optimism and appreciation for mankind, the world and what the world had to offer (Cotter, Freedman 270-272).During this time you could be someone, an individual the sixties made room for outsiders and their ideas. The hippies rejected materialism, and power hungry America. They were antiwar.

“In January of 1967 460,000 young Americans ranging in age from 19 to 23 were fighting in the war. Losses were much heavier than expected and already 2,000 had been reported dead or missing” (Chambers 75). By 1968 16,000 men had died. The antiwar movement and student protest movement caused college campuses to explode across the country.

Organized open-air concerts where protests, politics, and folk rock came together helped students spread their message. As more and more young people became involved in a cause they felt strongly about, a new sound began to emerge which changed the face of music forever. The hippies were consumed with thoughts of freedom, nature, and artistic expression. By stepping outside society the hippies were able to look objectively and see what was wrong with it; they saw what they wanted to change.They rushed to break the barriers put up by society and shattered the mold on music and art, creating a new and distinct sound. The new sound started in 1964 when the Beatles arrived in America and took the country by storm.

Within two years other British bands as well as America’s own Detroit sound “Motown”, and folk-rock groups dominated the airwaves. The lyrics, melodies, and look of the new artists were different and exhilarating. The hippies who were just entering their teens when the Beatles arrived became of age when folk-rock groups began to question America through their songs.The nonconformist folk artists began to surface. They wrote songs not just on love and peace but their songs had messages, which questioned society as a whole. One of the biggest artists who influenced the music at this time was Bob Dylan, “Between 1963 and 1964, he gradually emerged as the undisputed leader of the hopeful protest movement…” (Chambers 99). Dylan fused folk music and rock and roll together to form a sound that served as a platform for social critiscm and political statements.

One of the significant ways the new type of music along with the culture of the hippies spread was through music festivals. The festivals were usually several days long and had a streamline of musical talent. In 1966, The Trips Festival of San Francisco was a three-day concert located in Longshoreman’s Hall. The performances were enhanced with light shows and the common use of drugs. Ken Kesey, the author of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and others organized the festival and also provided beverages mixed with LSD. The list f performers consisted of a variety of hippie and acid rock bands, including the Grateful Dead, Big Brother and The Holding Company, and the Charlatans.

“It was incredible because of the formlessness…and stuff happening spontaneously and people being prepared to accept any kind of thing that was happening and add to it. Everybody was creating” (Garcia Jerry, Chambers 157). The hotbed for the hippie movement was the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco. Peaking at the period of 1964-1968, Haight was a center for cultural, artistic, and spiritual exploration.The hippies made Haight Ashbury the center of their universe for the movement. During the first love in at Golden Gate Park near the Haight district, on January 14, 1967 over 20,000 free spirits gathered to love and to just be. The love in or be in was also referred to as “The Gathering of the Tribes”.

This festival helped to give attention to the hippie ideals and ways of life. Here at Golden Gate Park a free concert was held given by the Grateful Dead; the use of marijuana and LSD shocked “the unprepared America” (Chambers 75). Under the influence of protest song lyrics and in the communicative fervor created by the ‘be-ins’ and ‘love-ins’ a new, revolutionary ideology began to gradually take shape” (Chambers 76).

More and more youths flocked to Haight Ashbury in search of a more satisfying life. Their hippie lifestyle spread, along with ideas of openness, artistic expression, and peace and drug experimentation. This psychedelic movement gave birth to several big bands and singers that have gone down in history as being the best there ever was. The pinnacle of the hippie movement known as the Summer of Love took place in 1967, in Haight Ashbury.By this time over seventy-five thousand people had moved to Haight to be apart of the movement. The summer opened with the Monterey Pop Festival, sometimes regarded as the precursor of Woodstock on June 16th through the 18th.

The Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Buffalo Springfield, were just a few of the many artists who preformed. The summer of 1967 ended with the Acid Test Graduation Ceremony and focused mainly on drug experimentation. LSD had become illegal in the United States and Ken Kesey wanted to throw the last acid test that would be remembered orever. The ceremony was to be held at Winterland, and old ice rink in San Francisco that held more than 5,000 people. Kesey planned on spiking everything at Winterland, from the water supply to the doorknobs and railings. Word spread about the test and Kesey relocated the hippies by psychedelically colored busses to an abandoned warehouse.

The test served as a perfect symbolic marker for the end of Haight Ashbury’s essential role as the location of the hippie countercultural movement that had spread across the U. S. A.

By far the largest and most well known music festival synonymous with the hippie revolution was the Woodstock Art and Music Festival. The concert took place on August 15th through the 17th in 1969, in Bethel, NY. During the Woodstock Festival, new musicians gained recognition and popularity due to an increase in media coverage of the counterculture. For several days over 500,000 people camped out to enjoy performances by artists that eventually became rock legends. Not even torrential rains could keep the hippies from joining in on these “three days of peace and music” (Brash, Britten 146).Woodstock symbolized hippie counterculture by promoting human companionship and love. The vast gathering of hippies was a source of some concern; worries arose about having such a large number of people in one area for a period of time.

An announcer during the show stated, “If we are going to make it, you had better remember that the guy sitting next to you is your brother” (Brash, Britten 146). The festival goers succeeded in keeping a peaceful setting and enjoyed themselves with the surrounding art and music.The hippies wanted to live without structural bindings; they came to make love and not war “We would all like to be able to live an un-cluttered life, a simple life and a good life and think about moving the whole human race a step” (Garcia Jerry, Chambers 40). During the music festivals an aura of peace and love was kept by a communal setting where the hippies gathered.

Thousands lived in communes sharing bathroom facilities, supplies, and food provided by companies such as the Hog Farm Commune. In the communes, the hippies felt unified and were surrounded by art, clothing, people and even cars that showed the same ideals.The clothes were now handmade and flowers, bright colors, and soft fabrics were incorporated into women’s clothing. Many wore hand-strung beads, and flowers in their hair, rings and if the climate was temperate as in California, they went bare foot.

Men no longer had crew cuts, but long hair either free flowing or in a ponytail. The dictatorial control over fashion once exerted by fashion houses was broken. Album covers that were once simplistic now became another way to depict not only the bands and singers but illustrated more innovative styles and were ultimately exhibited as art in their own right.The hippie counterculture gave rise to innumerable musicians who revolutionized the music scene from start to finish. Conceivably one of the most influential bands of this decade, The Grateful Dead served as permanent songbirds representing all that was essential in the hippie lifestyle. With lyrics that always held an underlying message, the band promoted hippie ideals to mainstream audiences.

The Grateful Dead had loyal fans known as Dead Heads, who traveled and followed the band as they toured the country. The band was described as “Insanity incarnate, even graceful.In their philosophies, in their pursuits, and in every aspect of their lives, they embodied the spirit and soul of the hippie generation of the Sixties” (Bove). The Grateful Dead used their creative abilities to promote their feelings on life, spirituality, and love, and became a permanent fixture in the counterculture. The British invasion was born in 1964 when Beatle Mania swept across the United States. Following the Beatles, bands such as The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Kinks challenged American audiences with an edgier image and sound, and provoked rock and roll to travel further in new directions (Brash, Britten 158).The influence of psychedelic drugs and counterculture are evident in the Beatles controversial songs such as “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “I am the Walrus” from the albums Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour. Along with the Beatles, The Rolling Stones also continued to cause controversy amongst American listeners with their provocative lyrics (Brash, Britten 160-162).

The Stones continued to push the envelope regarding sexual and artistic expression in music inspired by the hippie movement. The British invasion added a harder edge to American rock music and illustrated how far the counterculture ideas ad spread. The acid rock sound of the Sixties brought new elements to rock music. Artists such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Steve Miller Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Doors, Iron Butterfly, Jefferson Airplane, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young were using more of an electric and amplified sound in their music. With their infinite supply of creativity, these artists experimented with drugs and sounds in order to create unusual and original new music (Brash, Britten 149-150).

Acid rock artists spouted lyrics teeming with emotion and meaning.The sound of acid rock reflected the pure motives of the hippie revolution, the simple ideals, and the anguish of the world around them. Drugs were influential in both the hippie revolution and the musical expression of rock during this time. Psychedelic drugs such as acid were not yet illegal in the United States and most hippies experimented with LSD under the belief that they had expanded the soul and the mind. Marijuana was also commonly used. Drugs were used to express freedom and obtain a certain inner bliss and level of awarness on all levels (Brash, Britten 137-138).The negative effects of drug use were depicted in the death of rock and roll artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison.

By the end of this decade, people were becoming increasingly aware of the detrimental effects of drug use (Brash, Britten 164). The hippie movement’s decline started as it became more popular within America’s mainstream. The Altamont Speedway was selected for a music festival on December 6th 1969 and it was billed as “The West Coast Woodstock”. However, this festival had elements of violence and death.

Although the hippie revolution declined at the end of the decade due to various events with media, drug use, and violence, its impact is recorded in the form of the music that spoke for a generation (Brash, Britten 164). The hippie revolution left a permanent mark in music. From the ideals to the artistic freedom, from the new methods of sound to the power of drugs and music festivals, music spread the ideas of a counterculture around the United States. As Ken Kesey said, “Sometimes I feel like I went to a party in 1963 and it sort of spilled out the door and into the street and covered the world” (Brash, Britten 137).The achievements and ideas during this time were reflected not only in culture but also in music. The music of the 1960’s serves as a permanent testimony to the way of life of the counterculture hippies.

“By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong and everywhere was a song a celebration. And I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes riding shotgun in the sky, turning into butterflies about over nation. We are stardust, we are golden, we are caught in the devils bargain, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden” (Mitchell, Joni).

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