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Donnie Johnston: A half-century ago, Summer of Love was full of war, peace | Features | fredericksburg.com

Donnie Johnston: A half-century ago, Summer of Love was full of war, peace | Features | fredericksburg.com

Donnie Johnston: A half-century ago, Summer of Love was full of war, peace | Features | fredericksburg.com
August 07
09:23 2017

Passing practically unnoticed is the fact that this is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.Part of the reason for this lack of an enthusiastic celebration may be that many of those who ran around naked smoking pot in the summer of 1967 are now in nursing homes or 6 feet under.Another reason is that the kids who represented the counterculture 50 years ago wound up turning into exactly what they protested against—capitalistic war mongers.Yep, many of those who protested the Vietnam War, made love in the back of a beat-up old Volkswagen buses and shunned steady work as if it were the plague are now demanding that the government bomb everything in the Middle East, sleeping in half-a-million dollar houses and going online three times a day to check their stock portfolios.Of course, everyone in the Peace Movement didn’t change their revolutionary ways, but a lot of the ones who didn’t are those now in nursing homes, 6 feet under or demanding that the government they fought against in 1967 give them more Social Security to live on.I know it is hard for youngsters to believe that their straight-laced old grandma was running around topless at outdoor music festivals 50 years ago, but that’s the way it was for many. Those were wild and turbulent times that led directly to many of the social problems that we face today. I know because I lived through this chaos.Except for today’s drug problems, about the only thing that remains from the Summer of Love is the music and it underwent a big change between June and September 1967. The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and that album, strikingly different from previous Beatles music, was hailed by many as a classic.Personally, I never cared for the psychedelic character of the album or the Beatles’ change from clean-cut guys to bearded wonders. Still, as a rock ’n’ roll disc jockey, I had to deal with the change.In case you don’t remember, the No. 1 song this week 50 years ago was “Light My Fire” by the Doors. It featured Jim Morrison—who would die a few years later of an overdose—with his growling voice and a driving organ lead. I loved the song then and still do.Organ music was hot that summer. No. 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 was “Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum. It, too, was carried along by a more psychedelic organ lead.The Beatles were also there with “All You Need is Love.”The unofficial anthem of 1967, the Summer of Love, was Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).” It was written by John Phillips (The Mamas and the Papas) and, according to some, was supposed to be a promotional song to bring the hippie crowd to the City by the Bay that summer.San Francisco, after all, had become the mecca for “long-haired freaky people” who liked drugs, free love and psychedelic music. The sign at the corner of Haight and Ashbury streets became almost as symbolic of the hippie movement as the peace symbol.Whether going to San Francisco, to a music festival or just to get away from the trappings of a traditional society, young people were on the move during the Summer of Love. Bearded guys and half-naked hippie gals hitchhiked down almost every highway in America.Free love for a free ride. It happened often and usually without hesitation. When you saw a hitchhiker with long blonde hair up ahead, you slammed on the brakes and hoped this one didn’t have a beard.There were some unexpected hit songs in August 1967, like Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe,” which débuted at No. 71 and “Society’s Child,” an offbeat social commentary by Janis Ian.David Houston and Tammy Wynette were also on the charts with the country version of “My Elusive Dreams.” Van Morrison (“Brown Eyed Girl)” was on his way up and The 5th Dimension (“Up, Up and Away”) was on its way down.The Vietnam War was heating up, as were the public’s views on the conflict. The Tet Offensive, the turning point in America’s toleration of the war, was less than six months away.Some who opposed the war were heading for Canada, while others were starting communes and going back to nature. That movement would reach its apex at Woodstock, N.Y., in the summer of 1969.In August 1967, guys in San Francisco were packing up to go to college. Higher education had great meaning in those days. Being a full-time student could keep you from getting drafted.

Source: Donnie Johnston: A half-century ago, Summer of Love was full of war, peace | Features | fredericksburg.com

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Martin Nethercutt

Martin Nethercutt

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