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Summer of Love

Surrealistic Summer Solstice, San Francisco 2017

The Surrealistic Summer Solstice will be held June 21 in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in front of the Conservatory of Flowers. JFK Drive will be closed that day to accommodate the vendors. Dusk to midnight. Free, but tickets are already gone.

Hippie Hill, San Francisco
Hippie Hill 1967 – photo courtesy San Francisco Chronicle

Good news for some, but there is sour grapes brewing in the City of Love by the Bay.
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San Francisco’s Summer of Love 2017

It was fifty years ago when free love, peace and acid ruled the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco.

In that year artists, activists, writers, and musicians were all gathering with hopes of creating a new social paradigm. With as many as 100,000 young people from all over the nation, they used nearby Golden Gate Park as their playground.

When you leave Haight Street and cross into the park, the first big grassy field you find is what they call Hippy Hill now, and every April 20th there is a massive free smokeout for hippies and cannabis lovers. This year’s was bigger and happier than most, as California recently legalized cannabis for personal use by adults.

A decade ago there was a huge festival in Golden Gate Park to celebrate the Summer of Love, Paul Kantner and the Jefferson Airplane showed up and a grand party was had by all, with doves being released at 4:20 pm, It’s A Beautiful Day performed “White Bird”, and the music was fab. This year the city denied a permit to allow another celebration there.

So what else can one do to honor that time in celebration?

In San Francisco there will be an untold number of art gallery showings of photographs and other memorabilia from that time, some excellent outdoor music festivals and concerts here and there.

Running from April 8, 2017 – August 20, 2017 at the de Young Museum is The Summer of Love Experience: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll. Offering a collection of iconic rock posters, photographs, interactive music and light shows, costumes and textiles, ephemera, and avant-garde films this is something really groovy to behold. https://deyoung.famsf.org/summer-love-art-fashion-and-rock-roll

Haight Ashbury Street Fair (June 11, 2017) Since 1978, arts and crafts, food booths, three musical stages, a Family Area (Children’s Alley) and more. https://haightashburystreetfair.org/

There will be a Monterey Pop Festival celebrating 50 years since 1967 with a Three Day Music Festival Featuring Jack Johnson, Phil Lesh & The Terrapin Family Band, Leon Bridges, Norah Jones, The Head and the Heart, Father John Misty, Regina and others. June 16 – 18, 2017 at the Monterey County Fairgrounds – Monterey, CA https://montereypopfestival50.com/

San Francisco Pride (June 24 and 25, 2017) over 200 parade contingents and exhibitors, and more than 20 community-run stages and venues, the San Francisco Pride Celebration and Parade is the largest gathering of the LGBT community and its allies in the nation. Celebrations begin on Saturday, June 24 in Civic Center Plaza. The parade, Sunday, June 25, runs from Beale Street along Market and ends at Market and 8th Streets. https://www.sfpride.org/schedule/

Kool and the Gang, Eric Burdon and the Animals, and WAR, will be performing at the Stern Grove Festival (June 25 through August 27, 2017). https://www.sterngrove.org/

The Marin County Fair (June 30 through July 4) will be once again the greenest fair on earth, this year’s theme, “Let the Funshine In” is a tribute to the Summer of Love. https://www.marinfair.org/2017

The Fillmore Jazz Festival (July 1 and 2, 2017) “is the largest free jazz festival on the West Coast, drawing over 100,000 visitors over the Independence Day weekend. From sunup to sundown, visitors can groove to the sounds of live music from multiple stages, browse the offerings of over 12 blocks of fine art and crafts and enjoy gourmet food and beverages.” https://www.fillmorejazzfestival.com/index.php

Jerry Day (August 6, 2017) is perhaps the most pertinent of the celebrations in San Francisco this year, celebrating Jerry Garcia, at The Jerry Garcia Amphitheater. https://www.jerryday.org/

The Outside Lands Music Festival (August 11 through 13, 2017) is a free outdoor scene in Golden Gate Park with music, food, wine, beer, art and comedy. https://www.sfoutsidelands.com/

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (October 6 through 8, 2017) is another free festival winding up the summer season, with seven stages of musicians playing just about everything. https://www.hardlystrictlybluegrass.com/2016/schedule/

My hope is that San Francisco (and the Bay Area) always remains a safe haven of peace and love, where artists and thinkers can gather freely and creatively, especially through this summer.

1967 The Summer Of Love

Having been there, and done that, I have a few memories of the time known as the Summer of Love.

From the far distant future, 50 years later, it seems music was the most important thing to me then.

My mind was also exploring that year, it being the psychedelic era. My artistic creations of the time were mostly paisley patterns in wild colors and three dimensions with found objects. My poetry was pretty tripped out also. I had tried pot the year before and was known to nip more than a bit of table wine at dinner. In school I created a stir when asked to write a story for English class on any subject. I wrote a long piece about what I had read about people using LSD and the profound changes it had on their lives. That got me sent to the counselor and a rather severe scolding from Mom.

My defense was that the New York Times had reported Paul McCartney stating on May 1st that all four members of the Beatles have “dropped acid”.

And then I used some birthday money to buy two copies of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band at the local Caldor department store. Cousin Brucie on WABC out of New York City had played the entire album upon release June 1st. It was my friend’s birthday on June 4th so I brought it wrapped as a gift when I went to visit. I swear we nearly wore out the needle on that disk that day, endlessly replaying Sgt. Peppers until his Dad or someone complained.

But what an impression that album made!

1967 was so musical it seems every family had a garage band playing rock and roll and so many musicians seemed to reach a peak of genius that year.

In the month of May we had Electric Music for the Mind and Body from Country Joe and the Fish, Are You Experienced by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Headquarters from The Monkees, and Absolutely Free by Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention – a taste of the stuff to come that summer to our ears – and minds.

June saw the momentous release of not just Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band by the Beatles, but also amazements such as David Bowie’s eponymous first album, Moby Grape with Moby Grape, Flowers from the Rolling Stones and Leonard Nimoy Presents Mr. Spock’s Music from Outer Space.

In the News in June: The Six Day War in the Middle East begins, Two Moby Grape members are arrested for contributing to the delinquency of minors, Loving v. Virginia: The United States Supreme Court declares all U.S. state laws prohibiting interracial marriage to be unconstitutional.

June 16-18 was also the Monterey Pop Festival in California, which brought us acts from “The Who, Simon and Garfunkel, Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Byrds, The Association, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and The Holding Company w/ Janis Joplin, and Jimi Hendrix…55,000 are in attendance. Ravi Shankar is among the performers at the festival.” – Wikipedia

June 25 – 400 million viewers watch Our World, the first live, international, satellite television production. It features the live debut of The Beatles’ song “All You Need Is Love”.

June 27 – The world’s first ATM cash machine is installed in a Barclays Bank in England.

July got interesting with Bee Gees’ 1st from the Bee Gees, Little Games by The Yardbirds, The 5000 Spirits or the Layers of the Onion by The Incredible String Band. Canned Heat brought us the vibes of summer with Canned Heat, and Let’s Live for Today from The Grass Roots certainly voiced the spirit of the time. Of course there was the trippily inscrutable Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry, Reach Out from the Four Tops, and Triangle by The Beau Brummels.

Summer was very hot that year, and brought us more than great music, it brought riots. The Newark riots, Plainfield NJ riots, a prison riot in Jay Florida, destructive race riots in Minneapolis, and there were the 12th Street Riots In Detroit, one of the worst riots in United States history: 43 are killed, 342 injured and 1,400 buildings burned. The 1967 Milwaukee race riots lead to a ten-day shutdown of the city. In August the riots spread to DC. where they finally end that Fall.

Social change was very much on people’s minds that year, here in the US and around the world.

In August Pink Floyd released The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, Zappa created Lumpy Gravy, Big Brother and the Holding Company‘s first album was released, Joan Baez sang to us on Joan, The Electric Prunes released Underground, and Vanilla Fudge was making a scene.

September of 1967 was highly creative if you know what I mean, with the Kinks’ Something Else, Strange Days by the Doors, Arlo Guthrie’s Alice’s Restaurant, Procol Harum got totally psychedelic on danceroom floors, and Eric Burdon and the Animals brought us The Winds of Change.

Jim Morrison gets the Doors banned forever from the Ed Sullivan Show for singing the word “higher” during a performance of “Light My Fire” despite promising being asked not to say such a drug-referenced word.

And suddenly summer was over, and the reality of the Vietnam War took hold of the consciousness of America, and the world. Once again the media changed our viewpoint. We went from happiness and love to thoughts of war with reporting by Walter Cronkite and others on the nightly news. Film footage of people being killed and burned alive was the antithesis of the hippy era and the end of the Summer of Love.

As the Haight emptied out, a mock funeral called “The Death of the Hippie” was held on October 6, 1967, with the organizer Mary Kasper explaining “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.”

Hippies listened and spread forth to conquer the world! Many moved to communes outside the cities, and some are still living there! The Hippie Movement lives on in the spirit of many hippies old and young.  Society is still absorbing the Summer of Love experience, as it slowly evolves into a more loving and inclusive world.

June 1, 2017 saw the re-release of the album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, by The Beatles, remixed and brought to hi-definition surround sound stereo.

San Francisco celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love on September 2, 2007, when over 150,000 people attended the 40th anniversary of the Summer of Love concert, held in Golden Gate Park in Speedway Meadows. Performers included Country Joe McDonald, Taj Mahal, The Chambers Brothers, It’s A Beautiful Day, Ray Manzarek and others. White doves were released at 4:20 pm. It was spectacular!

Read my list of events for San Francisco this summer, 2017 by clicking here.