Vintage photos that will bring you back to the Summer of Love
It was 1967, and San Francisco was the center of the universe for anyone subscribing to the ideas of “free love” and “peace.” Starting with the Human Be-In and ending with the “Death of Hippie” march, the spirit fostered by hippies and the nation’s youth soared to its high watermark. These photographs allow us to relive that special time and place that was far from perfect, but held onto ideas that we still feel strongly about today.
1. Human Be-In
The Summer of Love actually kicked off on January 14, 1967, when 20,000 people attended the world’s first “Human Be-In.” It was organized by the editors of an underground San Francisco newspaper in protest of acid becoming illegal, which was the psychedelic wonder drug that transformed reality into something unrecognizable and full of promise.
The Human Be-In was an event that brought some of the most far-out thinkers in the country, including Beat poet Allen Ginsberg and Harvard professor Timothy Leary. Leary was a major proponent of the use of the powerful hallucinogen and did his best to introduce it to the masses. He kicked off the whole thing when he proclaimed loudly, “Turn on, tune in, drop out.”
2. “Flowers in your hair”
By the summer of 1967, young people looking to capture the feeling lingering in the air in San Francisco began showing up in droves. There are no actual statistics to tell us how many came, but estimates put it somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000. Not everyone was happy about that, including the square scowling on the right, but our hippie friend up front looks like a kid on a roller coaster.
These folks are “Diggers,” who were street theater actors that freaked people out during the Summer of Love. At this point, rock and roll was already well on the scene, and the country caught the fever to the words of Scott McKenzie’s May 1967 release, “If you’re going to San Francisco/Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.”
3. “Revolution of values”
Just before the summer kicked off, San Francisco and Berkeley were a hotbed for race issues and the anti-war movement. On May 17, 1967, 7,000 people gathered at UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza to hear Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech asking for a “revolution of values.” It would be the last speech Dr. King would give in the Bay Area.
Dr. King also spoke about the need to protest the war in Vietnam. Years before, he supported President Johnson’s (LBJ) policies in Southeast Asia—but when hundreds of thousands of men, especially those from African American and poorer communities, were drafted into the army, King turned against the war in Vietnam. The country was increasingly feeling this way, especially younger folks who were in danger of being sent to the fighting.
4. Monterey Pop Festival
Woodstock may have been the most iconic concert of the 1960s, but it would not have had nearly as much success if it weren’t for the Monterey Pop Festival from June 16–18th, 1967. This couple is about to join the festivities of the festival, and they’ve brought their baby in a backpack for what is presumably his or her first rock concert. When you see the lineup, you’ll know it’s not a bad one for a first concert.
The Monterey Pop Festival featured a collection of relatively unknown musicians on the national scene, but who are now legends, as we look back at the Summer of Love. The lineup included The Who, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and a young guitarist showing a lot of promise, named Jimi Hendrix. The Monterey Pop Festival was his first concert in the United States, and you’ll see that he rocked the crowd in San Francisco and exploded onto the music scene.
Jefferson Airplane, The Mamas and The Papas, and even Otis Redding all played at the Monterey Pop Festival, but Jimi Hendrix stole the show. By the time Woodstock took place two years and two months later, the relatively unknown Hendrix had risen to headline status. One writer for the New York Post wrote that Hendrix’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in 1969 “was the single greatest moment of the sixties.”
The Jimi Hendrix Experience was an absolute showstopper at the concert that saw 200,000 people attend. In a lasting image, Hendrix set the crowd alight, then his guitar on fire as a gesture of sacrifice. He was quoted later as saying, “The time I burned my guitar, it was like a sacrifice. You sacrifice the things you love. I love my guitar.”
One thing that Festival goers and Summer of Love participants loved and didn’t sacrifice was “cid,” as it was popularly called. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was synthesized in 1938, and sat on a shelf for five years until its creator accidentally ingested some. He had a pleasant experience that time, then an awful one the second time because he took an extremely large dose.
In the 1950s, it was heavily researched and its early proponents thought it was a “wonder drug.” The CIA tried to use it as a truth serum, and psychologists used it to discover new information about schizophrenia. Early in the 1960s, men such as Timothy Leary and author Ken Kesey did their best to make it readily available to everyone. The drug exploded on the scene and caused such great alarm that it became illegal in October 1966.
In the summer of 1967, protest of the Vietnam War was beginning to really pick up steam. It hadn’t quite become the debacle remembered by future generations, but people, especially young ones, were in opposition of the unrelenting bombing of North Vietnam and calls for drastically increased conscription. By the time the Summer of Love was over, there were almost 500,000 American troops in Vietnam and over 15,000 Americans had been killed.
In April of 1967, just before the Summer of Love kicked off, 500,000 people gathered in New York for the biggest anti-war demonstration in history. One of the people there was Heavyweight Champion of the World Muhammad Ali. Ali was drafted into the army but showed up to the protest to proclaim himself a “conscientious objector.” He would lose his title and go to jail for the move, but he inspired many young men to do what they could to avoid the draft.
8. The Beatle and the hippies
Guitarist George Harrison showed up on August 7, 1967 to check out the hippie scene while he was on the West Coast. While this picture seems to depict a magical moment, it was anything but for Harrison. He was extremely high on “cid,” and according to reports, so too was just about everyone following him in this photograph. He didn’t like the attention and then confronted the crowd when they all walked to “hippie hill.”
Harrison was being faced down by onlookers waiting in anticipation, and eventually a guitar made its way to his hands. All he did was show the gathering a few chords, then he handed the guitar back and told them he had to go. Later on he would say of the event, “it was full of horrible spotty drop-out kids on drugs, and it turned me right off the whole scene.” Then again, maybe he was having a bad trip.
9. Hells Angels
No two groups are more far apart in their ideology than hippies and Hells Angels, and yet their paths crossed often in the 1960s. Thanks to the Diggers, the New Year’s Day Wail of 1967 kicked off festivities in that year even before the Human Be-In. Two weeks before the hippie gathering, members of the Hells Angels rocked out to the sounds of The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin and the Holding Company.
The Hells Angels were formed in California, and many called the Bay Area home. They were also no strangers to hallucinogens, having been introduced to it a year and a half earlier. On August 7, 1965, a young journalist named Hunter S. Thompson accepted already renowned author Ken Kesey’s invitation to host the motorcycle gang. It was the first time Thompson and most of the Hells Angels had tried the drug, and it would follow Thompson around the rest of his life, while the Hells Angels and Kesey brought the drug to San Francisco.
The gentleman below who apparently doesn’t like having his picture taken is referred to as “the rock ‘n’ roll photographer.” That photograph of Jimi Hendrix setting his guitar ablaze? You can thank Marshall for that. Several more photographs included in this collection were taken by him, and he is known for his unique style that tried to capture rock and roll musicians in candid shots rather than being staged.
Marshall once said, “When I’m photographing people, I don’t like to give any direction. There are no hair people fussing around, no make-up artists. I’m like a reporter, only with a camera; I react to my subject in their environment, and if it’s going well, I get so immersed in it that I become one with the camera.”
These two gentlemen are showing their patriotism during the Monterey Pop Festival by dawning matching outfits. The people in San Francisco during the Summer of Love were out to create a new consciousness where all conventions of society were questioned. Anything was possible, including redefining patriotism as an act that might put one at odds with the United States government.
The people who came to San Francisco that summer were mostly white suburbanites. One of the major successes of the festival is the fact that musicians such as Ravi Shankar, Hugh Masekela, and Otis Redding hadn’t really played in front of white audiences until this event. The diversity in the sets and the sheer amount of them over the course of three days paved the way for the modern musical festival as we know it.
This photograph was actually taken at Griffith Park in Los Angeles on July 24, 1967 at their version of the Human Be-In. Some have made the argument that the City of Angels, and not San Francisco, was the epicenter of the Summer of Love. With all that was going on in the city to the south, it’s a compelling argument.
There was no shortage of Los Angeles–based musicians in 1967, and that included Buffalo Springfield and The Byrds. More realistically, Los Angeles was an offshoot of the Summer of Love, as bands were forced to come to the city because that’s where most record labels were based. Not to mention the troves of people who showed up to San Francisco seeking to form an entirely new society.
13. Flower Power
San Francisco had become the place to go if you wanted to make peace not war, and the slogan adopted for the quest was “Flower Power.” It is said that Allen Ginsberg, the Beat poet who penned “Howl,” is the one who coined the term back in 1965. It was meant to be used as a weapon against war in favor of a peaceful existence, and gave birth to the flower children.
Flower children were often clad in floral arrangements (such as the ones on this young man’s jacket) and used the daisy flower to combat rifles. Many iconic photographs of the 1960s would show National Guard troops facing off against hordes of flower children, and instead of bullets coming out of the soldiers’ rifles, it was hippies stuffing daisies in their barrels.
14. The Dead
The man on the left is none other than Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead, and that’s his future wife Carolyn “Mountain Girl” Adams. This photo was taken in May 1967 at their residence on 710 Ashbury Street. The two were no strangers to the Summer of Love as San Francisco was where they made their home, and where they rocked crowds who participated in Acid Tests.
“Mountain Girl” was a Merry Prankster before she was the First Lady of the Dead. She showed up at Ken Kesey’s ranch in La Honda and got her nickname because she was from the woods and rode around on a motorcycle. She had a brief love affair with Kesey and they had a child together (despite Kesey being married at the time). She would end up having two children with Garcia before they divorced in 1981.
Allen Ginsberg is shown below in an ultimate state of ecstasy as he chants mantras to the gathered crowd. Perhaps more than anyone, Ginsberg is responsible for translating the “new vision” of the Beats to the next generation of hippies. His ideas, formulated with the help of other great writers such as Jack Kerouac, helped shape a new world where consciousness expansion was essential, and possibilities were endless.
Ginsberg also spent a lot of time with Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. He was in attendance at the party in La Honda where Hunter S. Thompson tried acid for the first time. Thompson recoiled in horror as he watched Ginsberg read his generation-defining poem, “Howl” to the Hells Angels, and fully expected a violent result. But the Hells Angels were into what he was saying, and they calmly listened to him read.
16. Love in the air
Love, love, and more love was in the air in the summer of 1967. It’s interesting that all summer long people showed up in droves to the Haight-Ashbury District, but there was no call to do so. In speaking of the feeling that was in the air, Mountain Girl remarked, “It was this magical moment…this liberation movement, a time of sharing that was very special,” and there was “a lot of trust going around.”
Musician Country Joe McDonald would later say, “The Aquarian Age! They all want sex. They all want to have fun. Everyone wants hope. We opened the door, and everybody went through it, and everything changed after that.” He went on to say, “Sir Edward Cook, the biographer of Florence Nightingale, said that when the success of an idea of past generations is ingrained in the public and taken for granted the source is forgotten.”
17. “Ball and Chain”
Janis Joplin was just a blues singer from Texas the year before the Monterey Pop Festival catapulted her into stardom. Joplin had a style all her own as she knocked down conventional walls limiting the way in which a woman could perform. Her body contorted on stage as she kicked her feet up and down with enormous energy. Her voiced boomed through the chests of crowds and she nearly brought the house down with her rendition of “Ball and Chain.”
Joplin’s band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, would play at many San Francisco clubs before making it big. The band didn’t last, but Joplin became one of rock and roll’s most talented figures. She paved the way for many female musicians who followed, and enabled them to create their own identity. Joplin would go on to play at Woodstock, though she would play with a patchwork of musicians as she launched into a solo career.
18. Avalon Ballroom
Janis Joplin was asked if she would rather play at San Francisco’s most premier music venue, the Fillmore, or the lesser-known Avalon Ballroom, and she answered unequivocally: Avalon Ballroom. The young lady below, painted in full DayGlo paint, is the reason why. This photograph was taken at the Avalon Ballroom, a place where above the entrance it read, “May the baby Jesus shut your mouth and open your mind.”
Chet Helms, the owner of the Avalon Ballroom, best summed up the experience when he said in a later interview, “When you come to the Avalon, some of the time, you just get entertainment, but very often, you get a connection with people. In a sense, an oceanic experience of being unified with something larger than yourself, that is essentially ultimately regenerating and renewing and is what the word recreation means in its true sense.”
19. The Who
Janice Joplin may have preferred the Avalon Ballroom, but The Who played two shows at the Fillmore during the Monterey Pop Festival. Also like Joplin, The Who were a showstopper at Woodstock two years later. So packed was the lineup at Woodstock that they didn’t even come on until 5 a.m. on the final day. They played their entire “Tommy” album before making way for Jefferson Airplane.
At the Monterey Pop Festival, The Who were part of what is probably the best lineup in the history of music festivals: Buffalo Springfield, The Who, The Grateful Dead, followed by Jimi Hendrix. The Who were relatively unknown at the time, meaning if you ever encounter someone who witnessed this concert, you should reach out and touch them. Though comparing the two is nearly impossible, the Monterey Pop Festival was right up there with Woodstock.
Flower power was spreading all over the world and this photo shows us that it made it all the way to London, England. The Festival of the Flower Children was held at the Woburn Abbey in late August 1967, and sources say there were between 12,000 and 20,000 people in attendance. But the vibe was different, and the event had nowhere near the feeling that the Summer of Love did, as it was on the precipice of producing something new.
These two gentlemen look pretty good, in fact a little too good. Reports indicate that the promoters of the concert were out to capitalize on the hippie movement and the Summer of Love, and the lineup reflected that aim. The Bee Gees played there, which was very far from acid rock. These two gentlemen are what would be called “weekend hippies” or “posers,” given their clean clothes and countless pieces of flare.
21. Hippie vans
Where would the hippies be without their hippie vans? The Volkswagen Microbus was the most popular version and still evokes thoughts of drifting hippies sleeping in and driving it across the nation. There’s no way to know for sure, but during the Summer of Love, all hippie vans were probably collected in San Francisco like a magnet.
This particular hippie van has a makeshift top that looks like it could support, say, everything one owns. She might live in the van that looks like it was painted by a person from the future that loves Tetris. One of the reasons George Harrison hated his visit to San Francisco was because he thought everyone was dirty. Those who had hippie vans at least had somewhere to sleep, as many didn’t have a roof over their heads and relied on the community to house them.
22. Something like a kite
Did we mention acid was a big part of the Summer of Love? Acid Tests had been around in the Haight-Ashbury District for years, and were the byproduct of Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters. The Warlocks band got their start there, and when that name was taken from them, they became The Grateful Dead. To give you an idea of what it was like to “pass” an Acid Test, let’s see what Ken Kesey had to say about it:
“Some businessman just walking around the street…and for a buck he got to see the Dead make all their noise. This guy was in a suit and had an umbrella and got the customary cup of stuff…About midnight you could see him really get ripped. He looked around and saw all these strange people. He stood up straight and put that umbrella over his head and said ‘the king walks, the king turns around,’ and ‘now the king will dance.’”
23. “Drop City”
The Summer of Love was very much a Walden Pond sort of effort, where young folks were looking for utopian communities where everyone shared everything and looked after one another. This particular structure resided in Trinidad, Colorado in a community that came to be known as “Drop City.” It’s where two young men are passing the time listening to their friend rock out.
Author and satirist P. J. O’Rourke summed up the vibe best when he said, “You name it and I believed it. I believed love was all you need…I believed drugs could make you a better person. I believed I could hitchhike to California with 35 cents and people would be glad to feed me…I believed the Age of Aquarius was about to happen…With the exception of anything my parents said, I believed everything.”
24. The Mecca
The intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets was the mecca of hippie activity. The Haight-Ashbury District was where the first Acid Tests were conducted with the rock ‘n’ roll of The Grateful Dead. When hippies flooded San Francisco, this is largely where they ended up.
The gathering actually became quite the spectacle, and the square crowd wanted a chance to see it. Special Gray Line buses would take onlookers through the Haight-Ashbury streets to gawk at the hippies and their culture. Hippies responded by holding up mirrors that hid them from the judgmental looks of the ones who didn’t understand.
25. Movin’ and groovin’
Where’s Waldo? Just kidding, stop looking, he’s not there. But there’s so much motion in this still photograph, it looks like it’s moving. They’re rocking out at the Monterey Pop Festival to one of 30 bands that played. And if you think this is a lot of people, then you’re wrong, because the festival brought in 90,000 people!
Director D. A. Pennebaker ended up filming the entire festival and made a movie about it titled, “Monterey Pop.” Many groups wanted nothing to do with it, and The Grateful Dead, among others, refused to let Pennebaker film them. But not Janis Joplin, and that incredible footage of her singing “Ball and Chain” is thanks to him.
26. Beautiful butterfly
Well, most guys in this photograph can’t take their eyes off of her (we’re assuming that something more hardcore is playing than “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You”), and at least one gentleman (notice there aren’t any other ladies), we’re assuming, had enough courage to try and dance with the beautiful butterfly.
This photograph is actually taken from the Human Be-In, which may be why so many people look like they don’t know what to do. Maybe we should call her “showstopper,” because so many people are just watching. If only we had Pennebaker for this event, then we could see how she moves.
27. “Drop City” revealed
Here we have an outside view of “Drop City,” which was originally founded by Curly, Joe, Lard, and Clard. Much of what you see was made from car bodies, as the group advertised, “Kids, tear the top off your daddy’s car, and send it, together with 10 cents in cash or coin, to Drop City, Colorado…”
The group staged the Joy Festival in June 1967, and attracted people from all over the country. After the festival, the whole thing fell apart, as so many people materialized who had nothing to do with, and wanted nothing to do with, the actual commune itself.
28. Free love ain’t free
“Free love” was the expression, but that often required medical attention. Hippies had no means for treatment of any sort of ailment, so a group called the Diggers opened a free clinic and a local doctor volunteered to help the kids.
It was absolute madness in the clinic, as it served 250 young people every day. The doctor, Dr. David E. Smith, later said what he was doing was “totally insane,” as he was helping kids without any insurance. “We met a lot of people at the clinic,” says Rock Scully. “A joke I made, but it was true, was: You want to meet girls? Go down to the clinic.”
29. Barbara Dane leads a march
This photograph wasn’t actually taken during the Summer of Love, but was featured in “On the Road to the Summer of Love,” which was an exhibit that marked the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love at the California Historical Society in San Francisco.
Jazz and folk singer Barbara Dane, with her son and daughter, led an anti–Vietnam War march in 1964. That’s incredible considering the anti-war movement didn’t really ramp up for another couple of years. But scenes like this became commonplace in 1967, as The Grateful Dead would cause 75,000 people to gather in the streets, blocking traffic nearly every day.
30. “The death of the hippie”
This odd procession pictured below was called “The death of the hippie,” and marked the end of the Summer of Love. The Summer of Love, for all its fun and free love, in the end was not a successful attempt at a new society. The ideas of the hippies lived on, but basing a culture around a drug is a very difficult thing to do.
Just about anyone with means got out of San Francisco after the summer, while thousands were left there as vagrants. Country Joe McDonald summed it all up best when he said, “We discovered there was a 10 on the knob. Everybody else was saying, ‘Don’t turn it up to 10! It will blow up!’”