50 years ago this summer
Music festivals from the Monterey Pop to Ontario’s Mariposa, a celebration of much more than just music
Fifty years ago a declaration was made. People didn’t trust their leaders, they opposed wars in foreign lands that didn’t seem to have any end or purpose and thought it was time to get back to what they believed in: a little peace, love and understanding. It was to be the Summer of Love, and it kicked off 50 years ago in January of 1967 at the Human Be-In in San Francisco when Timothy Leary famously asked everyone to “Turn on, tune in and drop out.”
It was also the summer of flower children, of hippies, Hair and music at events such as the Monterey Pop Festival where people had the opportunity to express their collective feelings of disenfranchisement in a number of novel and sometimes pharmaceutically driven ways.
And that feeling of peace and love drifted north of the border where our own musical tradition was already taking hold. The Yorkville folk scene was the talk of the town with coffee houses such as the Purple Onion ushering forth musicians such as Buffy Sainte Marie and Gordon Lightfoot. There was even a bona fide love-in at Queen’s Park in May of 1967 attended by thousands.
The Mariposa Festival was established in the early ’60s in Orillia but was given the boot by the gentle townsfolk, and it moved further south to Caledon and on to Centre Island for its hippie heyday, when everyone from Bob Dylan to Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen hit the mainstage while flower children beat their bongos and passed their potfuelled peace pipes in relative privacy.
In 1999, the event was held in Parkdale before moving back home to the shores of Lake Couchiching in Orillia.
Toronto has seen some incredible summer festivals over the years from the John Lennon–driven Rock and Roll Revival festival in 1969 to the summer music events of today, such as this month’s Field Trip at Fort York and the intimate Camp Wavelength on Centre Island and many more. Fifty years later, we could all use a little bit of that Summer of Love magic.
The Rock and Roll Revival concert featured Yoko Ono and John Lennon
Bob Dylan at Mariposa Festival on Centre Island