The Hippie Culture
Many generations have come and gone, and many have made an impact on American life. The Sixties were definitely one of those generations that left its mark in history. The people of this generation didn’t follow the teachings of its elders, but rejected them for an alternative culture, which was their very own (Harris 14). This new subculture was such a radical society that it was given its own name which is still used to this day. They came to be known as, the Hippies.
The Hippie movement originated in San Francisco, California and spread across the United States, through Canada, and into parts of Europe (World Book), but the Hippie movement had its greatest influence in America. During the 1960’s a radical subculture labeled as Hippies stunned America with their alternative lifestyle and radical beliefs. All Hippies were young, from the ages of 15 to 25(Worldbook). The young hippies split from their families for various reasons. Some rejected the idealistic views of their parents’, some just wanted to free themselves from societys current norms, and others were simply outcasts, who could only fit in with the Hippie population. Most Hippies came from wealthy middle class families. Some people would say that these youngsters were spoiled and throwing their lives away, but to the Hippies this was the way of life and no one was going to tell them different. Hippies came from all over with various backgrounds to congregate in San Francisco on the corner of Haight Street and Ashbury Street, where the world got its first glimpse of this peculiar sub group. This corner which lies in the very center of San Francisco came to be known as the Haight Ashbury District.
There was a tour bus that ran through the Haight- Ashbury District area in San Francisco called the Gray Line. The tours promotional brochure contained the statement: “The only foreign tour within the continental limits of the United States” (Stern 147). The Hippies were so different that the significant people in the city didnt like the idea of a large hippie community growing in their city. In the years of 1965 and 1966 the Hippies took over the Haight Ashbury district (Cavan 49). There they lived and spread their psychedelic theme through out the whole area. In the Haight Ashbury district there were two parks where the hippies would hang out, Golden Gate Park and Buena Vista Park. The more famous of the two parks was the Golden Gate Park (Cavan 43). The single most important event that put the Hippies on the map was held at the Golden Gate Park. It was called the Trips Festival. The Trips Festival was a weeklong festival designed to celebrate the LSD experience (Stern 148). LSD was said to be an intellectual tool to explore psychic inner space, a new source of kicks for thrill seekers, the sacramental substance of a far-out mystical movement or the latest and most frightening addiction to the list of mind drugs now available in the pill society being fashioned by pharmacology (Clark 59). Besides this festival dozens of other events took place at Golden Gate Park, some of which were free concerts by The Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane and Anti-War rallies held by Hippie political leaders. The other park is called the Buena Vista Park and is known for housing hippies at night and for socializing during the day. As the 1960’s progressed, the youth in America united. “In 1969, 400,000 young people materialized for three dizzying days to listen to rock and blues music, to wear funny clothing or no clothes at all, to talk, sing, dance, clap hands, to drink beer or smoke pot and make love-but mostly to marvel again and again that they were all there together” (This Fabulous Century 64). This festival was held in a small town in up state New York and came to be called Woodstock, named after the town it was held in.
One of the basic foundations of the Hippie movement was the excessive use of illegal drugs. The Hippies used many drugs, but marijuana was used more than any other drug available. From 1960 to 1970 the number of Americans who had tried marijuana had increased from a few hundred thousand to 8,000,000. The majority of these new users were from 12 years old to college seniors (This Fabulous Century 84). Another drug that was common in the Hippie population was LSD. Some Hippies said, “LSD puts you in touch with your surroundings” (Cavan 114), But that was not always the case. On occasion a hippie would take bad LSD and would experience a “bad trip” or would “freak out” (Cavan 115). When someone took bad LSD, freak out is exactly what they would do and sometimes it was fatal. Bad LSD was so common that even at Woodstock people were having bad trips and freaking out. Even with this bad LSD everywhere people would still used it.
A man by the name of Dr. Timothy Leary was a Harvard professor who had ideas about LSD. He said, “LSD is western yoga. The aim of all Eastern religion, like the aim of LSD, is basically to get high; that is to expand your consciousness and find ecstasy and revelation within” (This Fabulous Century 84). Another representative of the use of LSD was an author by the name of Ken Keasey. He traveled around the United States in a psychedelic bus giving LSD to anyone and everyone who would take it.
Hippies were infamous for their out of the ordinary music. Many Hippies were actually musicians themselves. Hippies used music as a way of expressing their thoughts and ideas. One of the most influential musicians of that time was Bob Dylan. The lyrics of the song “Like Rolling Stone” express the thoughts of many Hippies. They say: How does it feel How does it feel To be without a home Like a complete unknown Like a rolling stone? (Harris 69) These lyrics expressed Dylan’s personal thoughts to what was happening to him. He did feel “like a rolling stone” and so did his peers. His simple but meaningful lyrics are what made him so popular and successful. Many Hippies considered Dylan as a spokesman for their beliefs. Drugs were also themes in many bands songs. Jimmy Hendrix’s “Purple Haze” is about marijuana. “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” is a Beatles song about LSD. The Grateful Dead also took part in the fad with their song “Casey Jones,” with lyrics such as “High on Cocaine” and “You better watch your Speed.” Besides their music and drugs Hippies did some out of the ordinary things that were as shocking as their Day-Glo clothing. It was common for hippies in the Haight Ashbury District to put a nickel in a parking meter, then set up blankets and lie down in the space for a half-hour (Stern 161). This was unusual behavior so it is not strange that the public did not take them seriously. “People thought Hippies were the next funniest thing to the Three Stooges” (Stern 161). Television shows and movies made fun of this counter culture. One movie called the Presidents Analyst was extremely successful. The movie was dedicated “to the life, liberty, and pursuit of happenings,” and was based on the Hippies wacky antics. People all over the America were outraged at how strange these people were and at the same time were in tears at how funny they were.
Even though it seemed the Hippies were entertaining, in reality they were devastating the American family and were tearing the country in two. While the adults of the time were conservative, hard working, and caring mainly about money, the Hippies didn’t care about any of that. All they cared about was sex drugs and rock-n-roll. Many didn’t work unless it was completely necessary, they never went to church nor did they care for saving their virginity until after they were married. They were anything but conservative and their families rejected them for it. Hippies easygoing attitudes and fun and games lifestyles were put away when the topic of politics came up. Politics played a huge role in their lives. Having strong feelings toward the Vietnam War and for the Civil Rights Movement, the Hippies made their beliefs known to the world. They did this in many ways including musical shows, pacifist folk songs, and through peaceful sit-ins (This Fabulous Century 206). The Hippies were fully aware that the war was being lost and that thousands of American soldiers were dying. They took it upon themselves the make their voices heard. They put together a rally larger then the ever before. Once the rally was organized, not just Hippies came, but students, intellectuals, radicals, and citizens of all classes took part in it (Harris 36).
This protest was held in Washington DC in the heart of the United States. 250,000 protesters gathered for one common goal. They wanted their troops to come back home and for United States involvement in the war to be over with. Through the years of the Vietnam War hundreds of anti-war rallies were held. By the decades end protests seemed to have done some good. Sixty five percent of all Americans had similar views as the hippies (This Fabulous Century 206). They wanted their troops back and that’s what they got in 1969 when the President gave the word to bring the troops back home. Hippies had other feelings about racism and persecution. They took part in the civil rights movement, just as they did with the Vietnam troops. When President Kennedy tried to pass his Civil Rights policies and they never went through, the Hippies were more aggravated (Harris 8). Eventually some Hippies tried to make their own colonies where there was no racism and persecution. Some communes believed that they were “fighting against the white man’s perverted society of pollution, war, and greed (Stern 166). These communes werent very popular and failed after a few years. Hippies still fought for racial equality. Finally when the 1960’s were over new laws were put into action helping racial equality which would not have happened without the Hippies.
During the 1960’s a radical group called the hippies shocked America with their alternative lifestyle and radical beliefs. No movement in our history defines a culture change more accurately than the hippie movement in the 60s. They had their own laws, music, clothes, and writings. The view of what a society should be was common among all hippies. Their ideas were big all throughout the late 60s and early 70s. The effects of the hippie movement are still felt to this day, and to this day there is still large hippie population in America .
Cavan, Sherry. Hippies of the Haight. St.Louis: New Critics Press, Inc., 1972.
Harris, Nathaniel. The Sixties. London: Macdonald Education Ltd., 1975.
“Hippies” WorldBook Multimedia Encyclopedia. CD-ROM.
Stern, Jane and Michael. Sixties People. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1990.
This Fabulous Century. New York: Time-Life Books, 1970.
Clark, M. LSD and the Drugs of the Mind. Newsweek 9 May 1966.
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