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7 July 2007

Forty years on: the 'Summer of Love' in retrospect (Part 1)

[This article was originally published here]

Four decades have now passed since what must rate as the high-point of counter-cultural activity in living memory. In early 1967, the simmering 'hippie' counter-culture of west-coast America boiled over into the mainstream media, which lapped it up and created the 'Summer of Love'. Now, as then, the media focuses much of its attention to the musicians who suffused their music with counter-cultural ideology: peace, love ('free' if possible) and psychedelic experience. At the time, these musicians became spokespersons for a generation, now they are spokespersons for an age.

Many of these appear on MSNBC's "Summer of Love +40" site, including 'Country' Joe McDonald, whose late-60s wedding service appears in one of my recent blog entries. MSNBC include pages on all the expected themes, however, the site does draw attention to less pastoral experiences of that summer by including civil-rights activists such as Bobby Seale and Jesse Jackson in their 'Where are they now?' section. Elsewhere in the mass media, PBS have made the "Summer of Love" episode of the American Experience series available to view on-line.

San Francisco was the epicentre of hippie counter-culture but the San Francisco Chronicle's "Summer of Love: 40 Years Later" website takes a more critical view of events of the time. They contrast the fleeting experience of 'peace and love' that many felt with the long-lasting impact that summer had on America. San Francisco was not the only place that a smelled change in the air, as Mark Jacobson recalls in his article "Long Hot Summer of Love" for New York Magazine.

More links to sites celebrating the fortieth anniversary soon.