United States And The Summer Of Love History Essay

The United States of America is a nation of pride, freedom, and culture. From the day the Declaration of Independence was signed, July 4, 1776, to present, 15 November 2010, numerous events have occurred that have shaped the lives, paths, and views of every citizen. The summer of 1967 in San Francisco, California was a summer that would never be lost in the eyes of the American public, and is a clear example of one of these “numerous events”. It was known as the Summer of Love. This summer was filled with new and different types of music, art, and literature which affected the U.S. as well as the world. This simple summer altered music within the American culture, freedom, choice, and trends in clothing, religious/life beliefs, the use of drugs, as well as the way people interacted with and treated each other. The Summer of Love was largely a part of the civil rights and antiwar movement, and as it developed it moved into the counterculture from which the Women’s movement and Green movement were developed (McCulloch). The economic markets for retailers as well as entertainers expanded drastically because there were so many new and popular trends and bands rising to the surface. San Francisco’s 1967 Summer of Love had the strongest social, political, and economic impact out of all the events associated with the entire hippie movement throughout the United States, changing the people involved as well as the nation itself.

The early 1960’s was primarily when the hippie movement began. It mainly centered in the western part of the United States, mainly in San Francisco. The movement formed simply for the people who the behavior and values enforced by U.S. society (Home Front Turmoil: The 1960s, 288). It continued to expand greatly through multiple events during the 1960’s, but the most influential event prior to the Summer of Love was known as the “Human Be-In”. The Human Be-In took place in San Francisco’s very own Golden Gate Park just months before the infamous summer, January 14, 1967 (Layman, 322). Political liberation, ecological awareness, higher consciousness, personal empowerment, and other such ideals were what the event focused around. Various band and speakers from all around came out to promote their belief of questioning authority. Criticism and media attention was drawn after the event drew more than 20,000 celebration-craving hippies. More people began to migrate to San Francisco due to the widespread news of what was going on (Perry, 9). For months prior to the Summer of Love, word echoed throughout the national media. Some college students who had read about the Human Be-In traveled to San Francisco during Spring Break to check things out. Others who were unable to make the trip then simply couldn’t wait for the school year to be over, for the summer. Who knew that Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco would be filled with more than 100,000 hippies only a few months later (1967: The Stuff That Myths Are Made of).

The attendants consisted of mainly college and high school students, whom had just let out for summer vacation and eagerly joined in on the great movement they had been hearing about. A majority of the population whom attended the Summer of Love were part of the baby boom generation. During 1967, 20% of the United States population was made up of baby boomers between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four (Home Front Turmoil: The 1960s, 286). When the government tried to take advantage of the media and use it to prevent people from going, it simply persuaded people instead. These young adults saw an opportunity to meet up with people who shared the same ideals with them. Gain a chance to declare a new culture, and to create a new family among others of whom they were so alike. Many people purely just wanted to find freedom of both body and mind (1967: The Stuff That Myths Are Made of).

A lot of changes and messages erupted from the Summer of Love, and the delivery of the changes and messages came in many forms. Potentially the strongest form of which was created was rock music. All around, the rock music scene consisted of more than just the music. It carried a new message, a new feeling, and new viewpoints. So many new bands and groups arose during this time simply because it was a time of change where people were so open-minded to the type of music and the protest-filled lyrics. Many well-known bands today were first discovered and heard at the Summer of Love. Some bands who were springing up were the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Country Joe, the Fish, and Jefferson Airplane (McCulloch). Other rock musicians whom this counterculture centered around were the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthric, and Joni Mitchell (Home Front Turmoil: The 1960s, 288). Before this summer, people were not nearly as open-minded, and music, especially rock, was not nearly as free. Many bands were inspired to break free from the norm and express their beliefs using their music after the album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club Band was released by the Beatles. The way the Summer of Love altered music was a huge social benefit (McCulloch).

Not only was music punching for a change, but clothing, fashion, trends were also hoping to break free and create whole new life. In the years before 1967, London, England had the hippest fashion, and this was mainly because that’s where all the strongest music and bands were located. When the center of music switched over to America, and the hippie movement told hold of teens and young adults, the trends followed and started becoming more and more popular. The teens of this era had enough power with their spending that it created a drastic boost in the United States’ economy. Females were starting to embrace Mary Quant style miniskirts and mini dresses, and although they were not allowed to wear jeans and pants to school, casual bell-bottom jeans began to creep into their wardrobes. Just like today, jeans were much easier to manage and more comfortable than dresses and skirts, plus they were cheaper and people wanted to use that extra money for more important things. Bell-bottoms were simply one item of clothing that every hippie possessed. Because it sort of went “against the Establishment”, hippies on the west coast started to lean towards the inexpensive indie clothing. The reason people loved this new movement in clothing was because they were able to get up and put on anything they wanted. Many common things that were worn by many of the trendsetting hippies included fringe suede jackets, southwestern Native American dresses, embroidered cotton shirts, bell-bottom jeans, angel wing sleeves, and leather fringe with beads (Gregoire). A lot of people also wore flowers in their hair as a symbol of peace and rejection of U.S. militarism and the Vietnam War. Hippies got their nickname “flower children” from this (McCulloch). This new look among the public was eventually spread throughout America, but was first sparked in San Francisco in 1967 (Gregoire).

As trends with music and clothing seemed to grow exponentially, the recreational use of drugs was strongly involved in the Summer of Love. People were trying to find new ways and eyes to see the world through, and drugs were a psychedelic option which offered a whole new route towards enlightenment. The two main drugs were cannabis (aka: marijuana, weed, pot) and LSD (aka: Lysergic acid diethylamide, acid). The public found the “naturalness” of cannabis and the idea that LSD could expand the amazement and wonders of nature so appealing (McCulloch). LSD was used by 10 to 30 million people including members of the top bands during this time. A lot of the lyrics and styles of music were inspired by the use of drugs which created a “symbiotic relationship”. It has been presumed by many individuals that the John Lennon’s “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” off of the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band refers to LSD, but Lennon in fact denies that there is any relationship (Matus). Both LSD and cannabis were illegal, but that definitely didn’t stop anyone following the hippie movement. Soon speed (aka: amphetamines) became an epidemic. It was used as a supply for cannabis and LSD, so as the demand increased, they supply started to decrease. It altered peoples’ minds causing health and hygiene to deteriorate making it one of the most dangerous drugs of the time along with heroine which was used by and killed numerous musicians. The overuse and horrible effects these drugs had during the Summer of Love are reasons why these drugs are illegal today (1967: The Stuff That Myths Are Made of).

During the 1960’s people felt so trapped in what was going on, mainly with the war. Hippies were rejected by their families for being far from conservative. Politics became a huge role in their lives and in the movement all together. They made their beliefs and political views through musical shows, concerts, folk songs, peaceful sit-ins, and other simple things (Huber). The Summer of Love was a merely a demonstration of a political voice speaking through a peaceful way that everyone could understand.

The Summer of Love occurred during a time when many historical movements were happening for the United States. One of the most prominent protests was against the war in Vietnam. Many families were losing their sons to the war because of the draft. Many believed it was unfair that they were being forced to fight for something they did not believe in. Although the United States was in fact winning the war by this point, the cruelty of the killing and the war in general were motives behind the Summer of Love. The Hippie counterculture embraced new music, clothes, psychedelic colors, and the entire anti war movement. St Francis of Assisi was one who loved the environment, animals, the sick and poor, and was against war. The Summer of Love really aimed to stress his principles. These ideals were incredibly strong, and are still carried out today by politicians who themselves contributed to the hippie movement during the 1960’s and the Summer of Love in 1967 (Just a Season, but It Lives On).

Only a few years prior to the Summer of Love, Martin Luther King Jr delivered a speech, known among nearly all Americans to this day that demonstrated some of the ideals the hippies shared and long to share with others. “We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” – Dr. King (American Rhetoric: Martin Luther King, Jr. – I Have a Dream). The Hippies followed Dr. King because he was suggesting peace and unity, which was what people were searching for at the Summer of Love. It had a lot to do with politics of the war and politics in general.

The United States’ economy was affected by many things such as the new music and trends that were sprouting out, but the economy for the West-Coast, primarily San Francisco, was affected drastically in other ways. As people poured into the city for the hippie movement, Human Be-In, and mainly the Summer of Love, there was a great boost in the economy. The amount of houses bought and rented increased largely as well as the amount of food and other essentials being purchased. While this was a great thing, there were many people who lacked money. This caused people to flood into the streets. People started begging for the things they could not afford, shelter, food, water, clothes. Crimes broke out because of the enormous amount of need people carried for things. They would try to stop traffic by jumping on car bumpers to get peoples’ attention. The police would have to intervene and sometimes would leave people badly injured, and sometimes have to arrest out of control hippies. More policemen were hired as the situation went more and more out of control which hurtful to the economy because the more hired, the more it cost (1967: The Stuff That Myths Are Made of). Drugs were another downfall for the economy. Dealers were making large sums of money, profiting off of drug-craving hippies, but they were the only ones. People were spending all their money to get more marijuana and LSD that they had no money left for food and shelter. The Summer of Love had a strong impact economically, even if it was both good and bad.

The Summer of Love had its ups and downs, but altogether it upheld a bold meaning, and ended strongly. The amount of people migrating to San Francisco was continually increasing at an outstanding, nearly ridiculous rate. People started joining in on the hippie movement and the Summer of Love because it was becoming popular. The popularity of it was merely commercialism. It became a victim of commercialism which is the very thing it was trying to reject. It was now becoming possible to buy into the psychedelic lifestyle. They could no longer continue on with something that was falling into the hands of what they were protesting against (McCulloch). On October 7, 1967, they held a parade known as “Death of a Hippie”, symbolizing the end of the Summer of Love. People who were planning on migrating to San Francisco to join in were advised to stay home, and spread the love among the people there. Others who were already in San Francisco traveled to new places to spread the love and the hippie ideals. As the season came to an end, so did the Summer of Love.

The Summer of Love is scarcely documented on paper and the internet compared to other events in United States’ History, but it is documented in every individual who was alive and had a strong memory during the time. Anything can be written down on paper, but the only way that any person can easily recall an event is if it had a strong impact upon them. I was able to locate different articles that all together gave me what I needed. It was as if each piece and each memory from every person was a puzzle piece. Socially, the Summer of Love impacted clothing and music drastically. Economically, it brought and took away great wealth from the United States. Politically, it influenced the way many politicians in our government handle situations in the present day. The innocence and the belief of goodness in people that was carried travels on today. People were encouraged to try new things and say things that would have never said before. “The Summer of Love was flat-out beautiful” – Angela Alioto (Just a Season, but It Lives On).

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