As many as 100,000 young people from around the world flocked to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district during the summer of 1967, including nearby Berkeley and other neighboring San Francisco Bay Area cities, to join in the ultimate hippie experience. In Golden Gate Park one could obtain free food, drugs and love. A free medical clinic was established and a free store gave away basic necessities to anyone who needed them.
The allure of joining a cultural utopia during the Summer of Love attracted a wide range of people of various ages including teenagers and college students, middle-class vacationers and even the
free-spirited military personnel from nearby military bases.
The Haight-Ashbury district, however, could not accommodate this rapid influx of people, and the neighborhood scene quickly deteriorated. Overcrowding, homelessness, hunger, drug problems, and crime afflicted the neighborhood. Many people simply left in the fall to resume their studies and previous life styles.
Along with the music and artists of the Monterey Pop Festival the songs from groups like The Beatles, Bob Dylan, The Animals, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, The Mamas and the Papas, The Strawberry Alarm Clock and the Grateful Dead have become synonymous of the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco and the summer of love, 1967.
The decade of the 60’s was one of many accomplishments as well as tragedy, war and violence. It was a time of technological advances and great individual accomplishments, a decade of firsts: the first heart transplant, the first televised Presidential debate, the first man in space, the first man on the moon and the first Super Bowl.
As a nation we mourned the loss of a President gunned down in Dallas. We cried as his brother met the same fate. The Civil Rights Movement which had made great strides in the Sixties was shook by a gunman in Memphis. Along with the Civil Rights Movement we saw the rise of feminism, the anti-war movement, the rise of the New Left and increased crime–riots in Los Angeles, Chicago and Detroit to name a few. We heard it all. Let’s not forget our fallen bothers.
We saw many of our young men as they went off to fight in what was to many a senseless war. This along with the strong materialistic values of the time and the Cold War helped spawn a counterculture or social revolution. These rebels of the time were called hippies. The hippie movement grew massively and very fast. The movement was marked by their drug use, free love and of course, their music.
The counterculture revolution created a vast market for rock, soul, pop, blues, reggae and folk music. Artists influenced by the drug culture music of the times included The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, The Who and Donovan to name only a few.
A vast many of these artists and others of the Sixties were greatly influenced by the music that resonated from the Mississippi Delta and into the larger cities like Chicago, Detroit, St. Louis and Memphis. In their youth many of these aspiring artists would spend hours listening to the sounds of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf and Son House. This was especially true of the musicians across the pond in England. Even today the Blues are quite popular there. We must not forget the heroes of the 1950’s that left their impressions, including Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and of course, Elvis Presley. John Lennon once said that Chuck Berry was his teacher but Elvis was his idol.
With all this in mind the artists of the 1960’s took that influence and added their own artistic expression which was augmented by the use of hallucinogenic drugs. The most popular besides marijuana was LSD, which gave birth to music known as Psychedelic Music also known as Acid Rock. The effect of the drug use is reflected in much of the rock music of the sixties. Whether you agree or not with this practice one will have to admit that some of greatest music was claimed to be written under the influence of these substances.
Next post we’ll take a closer look at some of the artists, music and events that had the greatest impact on the overall music scene of the decade.