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Summer of Love II a turn-on or bummer?
If the Summer of Love established San Francisco as the hub of hippiedom, the summer of 2007 may be remembered as a time the country commemorated 1960s counterculture by taking the “counter” out of it.
From New York, where Lincoln Center is devoting its outdoor music and dance season to the era, to Minnesota, where the Minneapolis Institute of Arts mounted a psychedelic art and photography exhibit, people of all ages and political persuasions are being invited to celebrate the seminal events that took place here four decades ago.
The anniversary’s most arguably authentic observance is a 17-city concert tour featuring Jefferson Starship sans Grace Slick, a Janis Joplin-less Big Brother and the Holding Company, and Tom Constanten, who played keyboards for the Grateful Dead from 1966 to 1970.
“You’re not going to see drunk, wasted musicians on stage,” says tour co-producer Tim Murphy, noting that men now in their 60s make up most of his talent and the target audience is teenagers and twentysomethings who have recently discovered the Summer of Love sound. “The hope is it’s something you could go to with your parents, you could go to with your grandparents.”
Because of a late start in putting the show together and bad blood between some of the performers and the promoter of a free concert scheduled for Sept. 2 in Golden Gate Park, that tour won’t come anywhere near Haight-Ashbury, the neighborhood where the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin lived in 1967, according to Mr. Murphy. The closest venue will be Monterey, where the 40th anniversary of the Monterey Pop music festival also is being observed.
Not that San Francisco will be forgotten. Events on tap over the next few months include a Labor Day weekend concert featuring Country Joe McDonald and a surviving member of the Doors, a “60s at the ballpark” day where Giants and Dodgers fans will receive “Summer of Love” T-shirts, and lectures and walking tours.
The Summer of Love, considered by many to represent the climax of hippie culture, refers to the period when tens of thousands of young people flocked to free-spirited San Francisco to dance barefoot, listen to alternative poetry and music and march for peace in Vietnam and civil rights at home — all while having easy access to drugs and sex.
Conventional wisdom holds that it kicked off in January 1967 with the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, where LSD pioneer Timothy Leary exhorted the crowd to “turn on, tune in, drop out.” The summer, if not the era, ended in October when the locals who witnessed the dark side of having 100,000 stoned youngsters roaming the streets held a funeral — “The Death of Hippie.”
Revisionists long have focused on the deaths that accompanied and followed the debauchery — Miss Joplin’s in 1970, Jim Morrison’s in 1971 and Jimi Hendrix’s in 1970 among them — and questioned whether the peaceful ideals expressed then mattered much to members of a generation that in many ways was even more materialistic and self-absorbed than its predecessors.
“What people remember is the frivolity — ‘Isn’t it great to be young and uninhibited,’ ” says Maurice Isserman, a scholar of 20th century U.S. history who teaches at Hunter College in New York.
“At that time it had a very different context. In terms of observing the anniversary, it’s important to put it in the context which people had at the time, those long hot summers and the riots in Detroit and Newark,” Mr. Isserman says. “Every week what you heard about was killings of thousands of Americans and Vietnamese.”
David Smith, who co-founded the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic in 1967 to serve the thousands who came to San Francisco that summer, would like to think the anniversary is drawing so much attention because of the parallels between today and America four decades ago, when the nation was embroiled in an unpopular war and the public’s consciousness was caught by the harm people were doing to the environment.
“I’m 68, and sometimes I remember ‘67 better than I remember yesterday,” Mr. Smith said. He parted ways with the Free Clinic last year in a dispute over what he called its increasingly profit-driven direction.
Politics were far from Don Oriolo’s mind when he started organizing a Summer of Love music festival held in New Jersey this weekend at the Sussex County Fairgrounds.
By Tom Fitton
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