Remembering the “Death of the Hippie” fifty years ago


As the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love winds to a close, many Baby Boomers are now preparing for the inevitable #Woodstock50 celebrations in 2019.

However, it is worth remembering San Francisco on Oct. 6, 1967 after the college kids had left the city in droves. Several stayed in order to stage a mock-funeral celebration titled “The Death of the Hippie,” complete with pallbearers carrying a coffin with the inscription “Hippie, Son of Media.”

Funeral organizer Mary Kasper stated that the funeral was held to indicate the end of the summer’s festivities. The so-called dream was over and the city would quickly become a tourist attraction for those who missed the initial rush.

The appeal of easy access to psychedelic drugs (LSD having been outlawed a year prior), the rise of West Coast music and the growing anti-war movement drew the initial wave to California. But the self-aware funeral afterwards proved that the summer’s imagery had been seized by the media and that it was promoted by the hippies themselves.

Mounted police officers oversee an anti-war protest in San Francisco in April, 1967

The hippie then became a symbol and a self-parody. It would be mocked, ridiculed and endlessly tied to a specific time and place in history.

So why is the dream still kept alive by so many 50th anniversaries in 2017? Is there anything of cultural value that can be worth salvaging?

The influence of bands like Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead and Big Brother and the Holding Company can easily be heard in modern bands like Tame Impala, The Brian Jonestown Massacre and The Flaming Lips; yet it’s the sonic adventurousness that is kept alive, not so much the peace, love and hallucinogens.

If anything, the dream that many took away with them is the mere idea of like-minded people gathering together with peaceful intentions. Such a theme was strong enough to transcend Frisco and touch all members of that generation across the United States. The bow that tied the community together was the remarkable music of the time- – those out of the loop could still listen to the hit parade and feel the good vibrations.

The funeral was for the death of the image: the flower-children smoking pot who wore flowers in their hair and was one with Mother Nature. It’s an unsustainable, dated and laughable image, and one that reeks of artificiality when modern artists try to tap into it ironically.

What hasn’t died is the dream of a like-minded countercultural community that promoted art, free thinking and co-existence, with a healthy dose of anti-authoritarian rebellion and a killer soundtrack. That dream came back to life in mid-1970’s New York and early-1990’s Seattle and it will no doubt appear again.

What should be remembered is the group that lit the spark in the first place, regardless if the original hippies sold out to “The Man” and now own huge corporations. The hippie may be dead, but the dream lives on.


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