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Summer of Love

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Title: Summer of Love  
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Subject: Counterculture of the 1960s, Hippie, Psychedelia, 1967, Sexual revolution
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Summer of Love

Junction of Haight and Ashbury, San Francisco, epicenter of the Summer of Love

The Summer of Love was a social phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967, when as many as 100,000 people converged in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. Although hippies also gathered in major cities across the U.S., Canada and Europe, San Francisco remained the epicenter of the social earthquake that would come to be known as the Hippie Revolution.[1] Like its sister enclave of Greenwich Village, the city became even more of a melting pot of politics, music, drugs, creativity, and the total lack of sexual and social inhibition than it already was. As the hippie counterculture movement came farther and farther forward into public awareness, the activities centered therein became a defining moment of the 1960s,[2] causing numerous 'ordinary citizens' to begin questioning everything and anything about them and their environment as a result.

This unprecedented gathering of young people is often considered to have been a social experiment, because of all the alternative lifestyles which became more common and accepted such as gender equality, communal living, and free love.[3] Many of these types of social changes reverberated on into the early 1970s, and effects echo throughout modern society.

The hippies, sometimes called flower children, were an eclectic group. Many were suspicious of the government, rejected consumerist values, and generally opposed the Vietnam War. A few were interested in politics; others focused on art (music, painting, poetry in particular) or religious and meditative movements. All were eager to integrate new ideas and insights into daily life, both public and private.[4]

Early 1967

Poster advertising the 'Human Be-In' on January 14, 1967. It was a prelude to the Summer of Love.

Inspired by the Beats of the 1950s, who had flourished in the North Beach area of San Francisco, those who gathered in Haight-Ashbury in 1967 rejected the conformist values of Cold War America. These hippies rejected the material values of modern life; there was an emphasis on sharing and community. The Diggers established a Free Store, and a Free Clinic for medical treatment was started.[5]

The prelude to the Summer of Love was the Michael Bowen[6][7] as a "gathering of tribes".[8]

James Rado and Gerome Ragni were in attendance and absorbed the whole experience; this became the basis for the musical Hair. Rado recalled, "There was so much excitement in the streets and the parks and the hippie areas, and we thought `If we could transmit this excitement to the stage it would be wonderful....' We hung out with them and went to their Be-Ins [and] let our hair grow. It was very important historically, and if we hadn't written it, there'd not be any examples. You could read about it and see film clips, but you'd never experience it. We thought, 'This is happening in the streets,' and we wanted to bring it to the stage.'"

Also at this event, Timothy Leary voiced his phrase, "turn on, tune in, drop out", that persisted throughout the Summer of Love.[9]

The event was announced by the Haight-Ashbury's psychedelic newspaper, the San Francisco Oracle:

A new concept of celebrations beneath the human underground must emerge, become conscious, and be shared, so a revolution can be formed with a renaissance of compassion, awareness, and love, and the revelation of unity for all mankind.[10]

The gathering of approximately 30,000 like-minded people made the Human Be-In the first event that confirmed there was a viable hippie scene.[11]

The term "Summer of Love" originated with the formation of the Council for the Summer of Love in the spring of 1967 as response to the convergence of young people on the Haight-Ashbury district. The Council was composed of The Family Dog, The Straight Theatre, The Diggers, The San Francisco Oracle, and approximately twenty-five other people, who sought to alleviate some of the problems anticipated from the influx of people expected in the summer. The Council also supported the Free Clinic and organized housing, food, sanitation, music and arts, along with maintaining coordination with local churches and other social groups to fill in as needed, a practice that continues today.[12]


The ever-increasing numbers of youth making a pilgrimage to the Haight-Ashbury district alarmed the San Francisco authorities, whose public stance was that they would keep the hippies away. Adam Kneeman, a long-time resident of the Haight-Ashbury, recalls that the police did little to help; organization of the hordes of newcomers fell to the overwhelmed residents themselves.[13]

College and high-school students began streaming into the Haight during the spring break of 1967 and the local government leaders, determined to stop the influx of young people once schools let out for the summer, unwittingly brought additional attention to the scene, and an ongoing series of articles in local papers alerted the national media to the hippies' growing numbers. By spring, Haight community leaders responded by forming the Council of the Summer of Love, giving the word-of-mouth event an official-sounding name.[14]

Spencer Dryden, Marty Balin and Paul Kantner of Jefferson Airplane performing at the Fantasy Fair, early June 1967

The mainstream media's coverage of hippie life in the Haight-Ashbury drew the attention of youth from all over America. Hunter S. Thompson labeled the district "Hashbury" in The New York Times Magazine, and the activities in the area were reported almost daily.[15]

The movement was also fed by the counterculture's own media, particularly the San Francisco Oracle, whose pass-around readership is thought to have topped a half-million at its peak that year.[16]

The media's fascination with the "counterculture" continued with Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival in Marin County and the Monterey Pop Festival, both in June 1967. At Monterey, approximately 30,000 people gathered for the first day of the music festival, with the number swelling to 60,000 on the final day.[17] In addition, media coverage of the Monterey Pop Festival facilitated the Summer of Love even further as large numbers of fledgling hippies headed to San Francisco to hear their favorite bands such as The Who, Grateful Dead, the Animals, Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Otis Redding, The Byrds, and Big Brother and the Holding Company featuring Janis Joplin.[18]

"San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)"

A demonstrator offers a flower to a military police on guard at the Pentagon during an anti-Vietnam demonstration, October 1967
flower children of San Francisco, who came to epitomise the hippy dream.[19] Released on May 13, 1967, the song was an instant hit. By the week ending July 1, 1967, it reached the number four spot on the Billboard Hot 100 in the United States, where it remained for four consecutive weeks.[20] Meanwhile, the song rose to number one in the United Kingdom and most of Europe. The single is purported to have sold over 7 million copies worldwide.[21]


In New York City, an event in Tompkins Square Park in Manhattan on Memorial Day in 1967 sparked the beginning of the summer of love there.[4] During this concert in the park, some police officers asked for the music to be turned down. In response, some in the crowd threw various objects, and thirty-eight police arrests ensued.[4] A debate about the threat of the hippie ensued between Mayor John Lindsay and Police Commissioner Howard Leary.[4] After this event, Allan Katzman, the editor of the East Village Other, predicted that 50,000 hippies would enter the area for the summer.[4]

Double that amount, as many as 100,000 young people from around the world, flocked to San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district, as well as to nearby Berkeley and to other San Francisco Bay Area cities, to join in a popularized version of the hippie experience.[22] Free food, free drugs, and free love were available in Golden Gate Park, a Free Clinic was established for medical treatment, and a Free Store gave away basic necessities to anyone who needed them.[23]

The Summer of Love attracted a wide range of people of various ages: teenagers and college students drawn by their peers and the allure of joining a cultural utopia; middle-class vacationers; and even partying military personnel from bases within driving distance. The Haight-Ashbury could not accommodate this rapid influx of people, and the neighborhood scene quickly deteriorated, with overcrowding, homelessness, hunger, drug problems, and crime afflicting the neighborhood.[23]

Use of drugs

Psychedelic drug use became one of several means of finding or creating a new reality. Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir commented:

Haight Ashbury was a ghetto of bohemians who wanted to do anything—and we did but I don't think it has happened since. Yes there was LSD. But Haight Ashbury was not about drugs. It was about exploration, finding new ways of expression, being aware of one's existence.[24]

After losing his untenured position as an Instructor on the Psychology Faculty at Harvard, Timothy Leary became a major advocate for the recreational use of the drug, spreading his beliefs up and down the East Coast.[9] After taking psilocybin, a drug extracted from certain mushrooms that causes effects similar to those of LSD, Leary supported the use of all psychedelics for personal development. He often invited friends as well as the odd graduate student to trip along with him and colleague Richard Alpert.

On the West Coast, author Ken Kesey, a prior volunteer for a CIA-sponsored LSD experiment, also advocated the use of the drug.[9] Shortly after participating, he was inspired to write the bestselling novel One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.[9] Subsequently, after buying an old school bus, painting it with psychedelic graffiti and attracting a group of similarly-minded individuals he dubbed the Merry Pranksters, Kesey and his group traveled across the country, often hosting "acid tests" where they would fill a large container with a diluted low dose form of the drug and give out diplomas to those who passed their test.[9]

Along with LSD, [25] however, their efforts at repeal were unsuccessful.

Funeral and aftermath

Mock funeral notice.

After many people left in the fall to resume their college studies, those remaining in the Haight wanted to signal the conclusion of the scene not only to themselves and their friends, but also to those still in transit or still considering making the trek as well. A mock funeral entitled "The Death of the Hippie" ceremony was staged on October 6, 1967, and organizer Mary Kasper explained the intended message:[14]

We wanted to signal that this was the end of it, to stay where you are, bring the revolution to where you live and don't come here because it's over and done with.[26]

In New York, the rock musical Hair, which told the story of the hippie counterculture and sexual revolution of the 1960s, opened Off-Broadway on 17 October 1967.[27]

40th anniversary

On September 2, 2007, San Francisco celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love by holding numerous events around the region, most of which were attended by some of the original participants and their children, and by other young people.[28][29]

In London

First held in the Irish Dance Hall on Tottenham Court Road, the scene was reopened at The Round House in Camden Town shortly after a police raid in late May. The city was also host to a number of similar events to those held in the United States, mostly around the outer edge of Soho, King's Road in Chelsea, and the Westbourne Park area.[30]

One of the anthems depicting the general feel of the times was "A Whiter Shade of Pale" performed by Procol Harum and[31] some of the other major bands that played there included Pink Floyd, T. Rex, and Soft Machine many of whom played the UFO Club, one of the major music scenes during the time.[30][30] Another large event was the International Love-In at the Alexandra Palace in July 1967.[30]

See also



  1. ^ E. Vulliamy, "Love and Haight", Observer Music Monthly 20 May 2007
  2. ^ P. Braunstein, and M.W. Doyle (eds), Imagine Nation: The American Counterculture of the 1960s and '70s, (New York, 2002), p.7
  3. ^ Roots of Communal Revival 1962-1966
  4. ^ a b c d e Hinckley, David (October 15, 1998). "Groovy The Summer Of Love, 1967". New York Daily News. Retrieved September 28, 2012. 
  5. ^ M. Isserman, and M. Kazin (eds), America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s, (Oxford University Press, 2004), pp.151–172
  6. ^ "Chronology of San Francisco Rock 1965-1969". Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  7. ^ "Copy of Certificate of Honor presented to Michael Bowen". City and County of San Francisco. 2007-09-02. Retrieved 2008-11-01. 
  8. ^ T.H. Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties: Protest in America from Greensboro to Wounded Knee, (Oxford University Press, 1995), p.172
  9. ^ a b c d e Weller, Sheila (July 2012). "Suddenly That Summer". Vanity Fair. Retrieved September 28, 2012. 
  10. ^ San Francisco Oracle, Vol.1, Issue 5, p.2
  11. ^ T. Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, (New York, 1993), p.215
  12. ^ Summer Of Love ~ The Event
  13. ^ Stuart Maconie, "A Taste of Summer" broadcast, Radio 2, 9 October 2007
  14. ^ a b "The Year of the Hippie: Timeline". Retrieved 2007-04-24. 
  15. ^ T. Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties: Protest in America from Greensboro to Wounded Knee, (Oxford University Press, 1995), p.174
  16. ^ "Summer of Love: Underground News". PBS American Experience companion website. Retrieved 2007-05-15. 
  17. ^ T. Anderson, The Movement and the Sixties: Protest in America from Greensboro to Wounded Knee, (Oxford University Press, 1995), p.175
  18. ^ T. Gitlin, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage, (New York, 1993), p.215–217
  19. ^ Eddi Fiegel. Dream a Little Dream of Me: The Life of 'Mama' Cass Elliot. pp. 225–226. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  20. ^  
  21. ^ Carson, Jim (August 5, 2011). "Did You You: "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" By Scott McKenzie".  
  22. ^ Allen Cohen
  23. ^ a b  
  24. ^ J. McDonald quoted in E. Vulliamy, , "Love and Haight", Observer Music Monthly, 20 May 2007
  25. ^ Harden, Mark (July 6, 1997). "Summer of Love Seminal '67 Event Back after 30 Years". Retrieved September 28, 2012. 
  26. ^ documentary on the Summer of Love)"American Experience"Transcript (for .  
  27. ^ Ron Bruguiere. Collision: When Reality and Illusion Collide. p. 75. Retrieved 5 August 2013. 
  28. ^
  29. ^ Joel Selvin (September 2, 2007). "Summer of Love bands and fans jam in Golden Gate Park - SFGate".  
  30. ^ a b c d Grunenberg, Christoph (2005). Summer of Love: Psychedelic Art, Social Crisis, and Counterculture in the 1960s. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.  
  31. ^ "Procul Harum signer Gary Brooker wins A Whiter Shade of Pale royalty court battle". The Mirror. Retrieved 30 October 2012

Further reading

  • Lee, Martin A.; Shlain, Bruce (1985). Acid Dreams: The CIA, LSD, and the Sixties Rebellion. New York: Grove Press. IDBN 0-394-55013-7, ISBN 0-394-62081-X. 

External links

  • Summer of Love: 40 years later, from SFGate, the online publication of the San Francisco Chronicle
  • The Summer of Love, Performers in Britain and the United States, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and the American National Biography
  • Long Hot Summer of Love Writer Mark Jacobson reminisces about his experiences during the Summer of Love in New York, from New York magazine
  • CIS: 'Summer of Love' Reached Behind Iron Curtain, by Salome Asatiani. RFE/RL, August 30, 2007 (an article about the impact of the Summer of Love event on Soviet youth culture)
  • PBS television, The American Experience: Summer of Love, 2007
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