Still hippy after all these years

We learnt this week that Donovan, icon of the flower power era, is still enthusiastically embracing alternative values. What about other high-fliers of 1960s counter-culture? Jonathan Brown finds out


Donovan, singer

In his early career as a folkie, the Glasgow-born singer was dogged by comparisons to Bob Dylan. His whole-hearted embrace of flower power in 1966 changed that. He went on to produce era-defining hits such as "Sunshine Superman", "Mellow Yellow" and "Hurdy Gurdy Man". His hippy credentials were impeccable: he smoked dope on television, was turned over by the News of the World and travelled with The Beatles to study with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. And, as BBC Radio 4 listeners learnt this week, he still practises what he preached. Along with friend and fellow peace-lover David Lynch (below left), he is hoping to introduce transcendental meditation to British schools. Donovan also continues to perform at festivals and keeps up his contacts with India. However, he did undermine his hippy image in 2004 by performing at a pre-wedding concert for the Crown Prince and Crown Princess of Denmark.

Still hippy rating: *****

Felix Dennis, magazine publisher

By his own admission, Dennis misspent his youth in the 1960s playing in a string of unsuccessful R&B bands after leaving Harrow College of Art. He was eventually redeemed courtesy of the British establishment when he was prosecuted as co-editor of counter-culture magazine Oz for conspiracy to corrupt the public morals. Among the most infamous court cases in modern history, the Oz trial proved a defining step on the road to a more permissive British society. It also proved a turning point for Dennis, who went on to found a multi-billion dollar publishing empire spanning titles from Maxim to Computer Buyer. Currently ranked as the 65th richest man in the UK, he continues to write poetry and lists among his hobbies avoiding business meetings and drinking French wine. An inveterate tree hugger, he has embarked on a project to plant a 30,000-acre wood called the Forest of Dennis near his Warwickshire home.

Still hippy? ***

Wavy Gravy, clown

Wavy – real name Hugh Nanton Romney – was the quintessential American hippy. Given his distinctive new name by BB King – who came across his prone body blocking his way on stage before a performance at the Texas International Pop Festival – he went on to preside, as part of the Hog Farm Collective, over the famously lax security arrangements at Woodstock (backstage password: I forgot) and later became the official clown for the Grateful Dead.

His shop, Nobody's Business, mirrored his infamous Nobody for President campaign and in 1978 he helped found the Seva Foundation in Berkeley, California, an organisation dedicated to promoting international peace, alleviating poverty and disease. He still serves on its board of directors.

Still hippy? *****

Dave Gilmour, singer

Drafted into Pink Floyd to fill in for an increasingly erratic Syd Barrett, he and Roger Waters were the band's driving forces through its most commercially and artistically successful period. Today Gilmour is as much admired for his philanthropy as he is his music. Appointed CBE in 2003.

Still hippy? **

Stewart Brand, pioneer of sustainable living

Took part in legal LSD experiments in the Sixties and was a friend of Merry Prankster Ken Kesey, later organising the Trips Festival. His Whole Earth Catalog pioneered the idea of modern day sustainable living. In 1988 he set up the think tank Global Business Network, rejecting hippy ideals and espousing nuclear energy.

Still hippy? *

Caroline Coon, artist

The feminist painter who founded the ground-breaking drugs charity Release, Coon inspired performers The Stranglers, Bob Dylan and Robert Wyatt to immortalise her in their music.

She turned her back on her gentile middle-class upbringing in the Kent countryside to become a lynchpin of the 1960s London scene.

She eventually resigned from Release in 1971 but subsequently thrived as a journalist: she helped discover The Clash, whom she briefly managed, and her photographs and writings are still admired as records of that period.

She is still associatied with the counter-culture. In 1995 one of her paintings was banned by the Tate Liverpool because the black model was sporting an erection. She continues to comment on issues of the day and to fight racism and misogyny.

Still hippy? ***

Joan Baez, singer

Bob Dylan's one-time girlfriend championed civil rights, encouraged draft-dodging and withheld her taxes in the 1960s as well as singing some of the sweetest songs known to man. She opened the Philadelphia Live Aid show in 1985. Baez still lives in California with her 93-year-old mother where she writes and meditates.

Still hippy? ****

Dick Gregory, comic and activist

Originally a comedian, Gregory was an outspoken critic of the establishment on issues from Vietnam to drugs and, above all, race. His autobiography, Nigger, sold 7 million copies, and he once stood for President. He later became an unlikely pioneer of the health food and whole food movement and remains influential, if controversial, in nutrition.

Still hippy? **

Stephen Gaskin, co-founder of 'The Farm'

Haight-Ashbury veteran who, with 300 others, set out in the convoy of 60 buses, trucks and cars from San Francisco in 1971, alighting upon The Farm in 1971 – a Tennessee commune still home to 200 people. He campaigned as a Green Party candidate in the 2000 Presidential Primaries, seeking legalisation of marijuana.

Still hippy? *****

Paul Krassner, yippie leader

A former violin prodigy, Krassner was established on the counter-culture circuit writing for The Realist magazine before founding the Youth International Party or Yippies in 1967, along with Abbie Hoffman, and touring with the Merry Pranksters. Now 75, Krassner still writes and blogs, notably on the Huffington Post.

Still hippy? ***

Jane Fonda actress and activist

Fonda was as famous as a hate figure of the Nixon-era moral majority as for the talent she brought to movie roles. She later produced a range of exercise videos and was married to the billionaire, Ted Turner. She remains committed to liberal-left causes and opposed the Iraq war.

Still hippy? **

Angela Y Davis, Black Panther

After growing up under the infamous Jim Crow laws of the Deep South, Davis was radicalised as a student and remained a committed communist until the failed Soviet coup of 1991. Not exactly a conventional flower child, Davis became involved in the politics of the Black Panthers while teaching at UCLA and was implicated in the murder of a judge during a botched courtroom heist designed to free the incarcerated Soledad Brothers. She went on the run, becoming only the third woman to make it on to the FBI's Most Wanted list, eventually serving time in prison before being released, cleared of all charges. The Rolling Stones wrote the song "Sweet Black Angel" in tribute to her. She is now professor of history of consciousness at the University of California and continues to campaign on race and equality.

Still hippy? ***

Paul McCartney, singer

Always straighter and less cool than John Lennon, Macca nonetheless wasn't averse to sampling the delights of swinging London. He was still getting busted for dope as late as 1984. Today he is better-known for his £800m fortune and the break-up of marriage to Heather Mills. Fans are divided over whether his acceptance of a knighthood (Lennon returned his MBE) signing to Starbucks and appearing in commercials for Apple make him a corporate sell out or man of his times.

Still hippy? *

John Dunbar, artist

Doyen of the swinging London scene, Dunbar has a special place in 1960s art and musical history. His Indica gallery and bookshop was where John Lennon met Yoko Ono; it was also where the underground newspaper International Times was first produced. Dunbar married Marianne Faithful while still a student. After the gallery, he continued to influence young London artists. Still sculpting, he is also currently building a house out of aluminium in Scotland

Still hippy? ***

Penny Rimbaud, pioneer of communal living

Jeremy John Ratter ditched his real name in honour of the poet Arthur Rimbaud and, inspired by the film The Inn of the Sixth Happiness, set about creating the Dial House anarchist community with his friend Phil Russell.

The large rambling building in Ongar, Essex, still stands as a bastion against the forces of commercialism and is now styled as a centre for dynamic change. Despite its hippy ideals, the house became the home of Crass, a band more radical, angry and subversive than anything dreamt up by the Sex Pistols. More a manifesto than a musical group, Crass were prominent in the Stop the City protests of the 1980s. Disbanded in 1984, Crass recently reformed despite furious opposition from Rimbaud who regarded it as a nostalgic sell-out. The 64-year-old still performs, writes and acts.

Still hippy? *****

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