When I visited my old friend, Day Yusko, on Saturday, he reminded me that this summer is the 40th anniversary of the legendary Summer of Love, the great moment of triumph of the hippie movement. The Summer of Love was the birth of what we now call the counter-culture. Here, courtesy of YouTube is the announcement of the 40th anniversary celebration of the Summer of Love, to be held in Golden Gate Park on September 2nd.
I’m going to write a few posts about hippie-dom. What is the hell was it? A political movement? Mass psychosis?
I spent the summer of 1967 at the University of Illinois, where I was studying to be a classical and jazz musician. This was during the summer after my junior year in high school. I was just dying to escape my little home town, mostly to find some musicians of my own caliber to play with.
The reverberations of the Summer of Love found me even in Champaign. During that summer, I met Jewish students from New York City who brought with them recordings by The Lovin’ Spoonful. The Lovin’ Spoonful is not often thought to be a hippie band, but they brought with them the typical hippie musical outlook. Songs like “Jug Band Music” and “Nashville” sought to reconnect popular music with what came to be known as “roots music.” Every evening, after classes, my friends and I gathered in our dorm rooms to listen to Miles Davis, Muddy Waters, Bill Monroe, Hank Williams… the greatest of American roots musicians. I couldn’t get enough of it.
And, I was introduced to pot by those same Jewish students. They filled my head with the romance of New York City, intellectual ferment… perhaps, even revolution!
Incredibly, a group of Asian Indian students also lived in my dorm. Indian religion and tradition fascinated hippies. The Beatles, the greatest of all hippie bands, introduced a new generation of Americans to Yoga and meditation. Although I do not remember the name of my Indian friend, I remember that he held my hand (or tried to) when we walked down the street together. I had been starving for intellectual stimulation in my little home town. This world of the exotic and the rebellious was exactly what I was looking for!
During my summer in Champaign, a group of students from Berkeley, California passed through town and sponsored a “teach-in” against the war in Vietnam, which was then at its height. These Californians were unlike any people I had ever met. They seemed incredibly polished and self-assured.
So, even out there in the cornfields of central Illinois, the Summer of Love found me. Four years later, I would move to San Francisco. But, by 1971, the great hippie era had died.