Hippies mark 40th anniversary of San Francisco's Summer of Love

Their hair, once a symbol of youthful rebellion, is now shot through with grey. Bodies that writhed with wild abandon to psychedelic music sport stiff knees and wrinkles.

"How many of you are on acid right now?" rock critic Joel Selvin asked an audience of former hippies who turned out yesterday to mark the 40th anniversary of the Human Be-in, the counterculture event that set the stage for the Summer of Love. "How many of you are on antacid right now? "

In many ways, the '60s were born on 14 January, 1967 when musicians, poets, visionaries, student radicals and wayward youth gathered in Golden Gate Park.

Those who were there agree that neither they nor San Francisco have been the same since. Part rock concert, part protest, part literary festival, the Human Be-in was billed at the time as a "Gathering of the Tribes" meant to unite and stir up the various wings of the counterculture movement.

Estimates of the number of people who cavorted on the park's Polo Fields that day range from 10,000 to 50,000.

The speakers and bands who appeared reads like a "Who's Who" of 1960s icons: LSD advocate Timothy Leary, poets Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, comedian Dick Gregory, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane.

Psychedelic drugs were in plentiful supply, courtesy of a parachutist who tossed free samples to the crowd. "Over the years, probably a dozen people have come up to me and said: 'You guys were fantastic!' laughed David Getz, the drummer for Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin's band, which was not on the lineup that day. "I say: 'We weren't there,' And they say: 'No, I saw you!' Maybe they did."

By that summer, publicity about "the happening" , had encouraged thousands more young people to go to San Francisco with flowers in their hair.

At the commemorative forum, panelist Jim O'Donnell recalled the transformative days leading up to the Be-In. "My life turned from academia to sex, drugs and rock'n'roll - unfortunately, not necessarily in that order."

Like other panellists, O'Donnell and Getz remembered the Human Be-in as both the beginning and the end, an event that would be much duplicated but never equalled.

"The Human Be-in was a creation from within the San Francisco counterculture," Getz said. "The Summer of Love was a creation of the national news media that befell San Francisco."

Selvin noted that many of the young people who flocked to San Francisco that year were not emotionally equipped to handle the raw experiences they encountered and "some of them wound up as debris".

But Peder Jones, an educational publisher who attended the Be-in, said that despite the drug-soaked atmosphere, "not every hippie wound up incapable and penniless. We ended up doing jobs that didn't exist when we started college. The idea of groups doing things together started to make sense."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
food + drink
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
News
UK Border Control
i100
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Administrator

£16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Teleradiology s...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Administrator - Out of Hours

£19000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Telera...

Recruitment Genius: Receptionist / Office Administrator - Full or Part Time

£14600 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 2003 the company...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn