Celebrating a half-century since San Francisco’s Summer of Love
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Throughout 2017, San Francisco is reveling in a celebration of the most iconic cultural event in its history: The Summer of Love.
In 1967, more than 100,000 free-spirited hippies and would-be hippies, lured by unrestrained access to a variety of pleasures, descended on the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood to join what evolved into a cultural revolution.
It was a rebellion that led to some of the era’s most memorable art, fashion, literature and, of course, music — from such legends as Jerry Garcia, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding, Grace Slick and many more.
Draped with beads and wearing flowers in their hair, young people danced in the streets, preaching peace to a war-ravaged world. Their legacy remains, and five decades later the City by the Bay will pay tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.
It was a transformative time that can be seen as the genesis of a number of movements — civil rights, women’s and gay rights, anti-war and environmental movements.
We can also still see institutions that were born then of necessity and compassion: A first-of-its-kind free health clinic — the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic — was created to deal with drug overdoses and conventional illnesses. It has continued to serve the community to this day.
A former mime troupe called The Diggers established free food centers during the Summer of Love, and others have carried on that tradition. The Diggers also developed a street-cleaning program that traded work for food and shelter for the homeless. The program lasted for decades and was revamped and expanded a few years ago.
Now it is all being celebrated throughout the city and its environs by way of festivals, music and dance performances and exhibits. This is a good time for those who weren’t around in 1967 to savor the time and place that had such an impact on our culture. It should also be an enjoyable and instructive experience for those who just don’t remember it — because they were there.
Your visit should center on Haight-Ashbury, ground zero for the flower children of 1967. Nowadays, yuppies have largely replaced the hippies.
Stores selling posters with psychedelic swirls, vintage clothing, handmade jewelry, bongo drums and Tibetan-themed knick-knacks line the streets. Ben & Jerry’s serves up “Peace, Love and Ice Cream.” And, yes, there’s the aroma of pot mingled with incense.
“If you’re going to San Francisco this summer by all means wear some flowers in your hair but be sure to bring a credit card and the acceptance that the Summer of Love is history,” says a somewhat cynical Rory Carroll, a correspondent to The Guardian newspaper.
“The Bohemian idyll of Allen Ginsberg, Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters no longer exists. In place of Timothy Leary’s ‘turn on, tune in, drop out,’ the modern mantra is click, swipe, update.”
Events celebrating the 50th anniversary began in February and several biggies have come to pass including a two-day ‘60’s dance festival at PIER 39 and the Haight-Ashbury Street Festival – but there are plenty of events, exhibits and tours still on tap.
The de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park (415-750-3600, deyoung.famsf.org) is hosting an exhibition (through Aug. 20) called “Summer of Love: Art, Fashion, and Rock & Roll,” a celebration of San Francisco’s counterculture featuring a mix of posters, tie-dyed outfits and textiles, plus interactive music and light shows.
Guest-curated by Grateful Dead historian Dennis McNally, “On the Road to the Summer of Love,” is a photographic exhibition holding forth at The California Historical Society (415-357-1848, www.californiahistoricalsociety.org) through Sept. 10. It showcases iconic images of the Summer of Love that authentically capture the look of a generation.
The Castro Street Fair (415-294-4405, www.castrostreetfair.org) on Oct. 2 celebrates both the Summer of Love and LGBT rights.
Join San Francisco Love Tours (888-419-5454, www.sanfranciscolovetours.com) to hitch a ride around the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood in an authentic Volkswagen “love bus” with beaded curtains, orange shag carpet and neon blue seats. “It’s not just a sightseeing tour, it’s a trip!” promises a company promotional slogan.
A guided tour by Flower Power Walking Tours (888-832-0705, www.haightashburytour.com) leads you in the footsteps of icons like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jerry Garcia as you learn about the music and pop culture of the Summer of Love.
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