San Fran­cisco marks 50 years since ‘Sum­mer of Love’

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY JO­CE­LYN GECKER

SAN FRAN­CISCO | They came for the mu­sic, the mind-bend­ing drugs, to re­sist the Viet­nam War and 1960s Amer­i­can or­tho­doxy, or sim­ply to es­cape sum­mer bore­dom. And they left an en­dur­ing legacy.

This sea­son marks the 50th an­niver­sary of that leg­endary “Sum­mer of Love,” when throngs of Amer­i­can youth de­scended on San Fran­cisco to join a cul­tural revo­lu­tion.

Think­ing back on 1967, Bob Weir of the Grate­ful Dead re­calls a cre­ative ex­plo­sion that sprouted from fis­sures in Amer­i­can so­ci­ety. That sum­mer marked a pivot point in rock ’n’ roll his­tory, he says, but it was about much more than the mu­sic.

“There was a spirit in the air,” said Mr. Weir, who dropped out of high school and then helped form the Grate­ful Dead in 1965. “We fig­ured that if enough of us got to­gether and put our hearts and minds to it, we could make any­thing hap­pen.”

San Fran­cisco, now a hub of tech­nol­ogy and un­rec­og­niz­able from its grit­tier, more free­wheel­ing for­mer self, is tak­ing the an­niver­sary se­ri­ously.

Hop­ing for an­other in­va­sion of vis­i­tors — this time with tourist dol­lars — the city is cel­e­brat­ing with mu­seum ex­hibits, mu­sic and film fes­ti­vals, Sum­mer of Love-in­spired dance par­ties and lec­ture pan­els. Ho­tels are of­fer­ing dis­count pack­ages that in­clude “psy­che­delic cock­tails,” “Love Bus” tours, tie-dyed tote bags and bub­ble wands.

The city’s travel bureau, which is co­or­di­nat­ing the ef­fort, calls it an “ex­hil­a­rat­ing cel­e­bra­tion of the most iconic cul­tural event in San Fran­cisco his­tory.”

One thing the an­niver­sary makes clear is that what hap­pened here in the 1960s could never hap­pen in San Fran­cisco to­day, sim­ply be­cause strug­gling artists can’t af­ford the city any­more.

In the Haight-Ash­bury neigh­bor­hood, which was ground zero for the coun­ter­cul­ture, two-bed­room apart­ments now rent for $5,000 a month. San Fran­cisco re­mains a mag­net for young peo­ple, but even those earn­ing six-fig­ure Sil­i­con Val­ley salaries com­plain about the cost of liv­ing.

In the mid-1960s, rent in Haight-Ash­bury was ex­tremely cheap, Mr. Weir, now 69, told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

“That at­tracted artists and bo­hemi­ans in gen­eral be­cause the bo­hemian com­mu­nity tended to move in where they could af­ford it,” he said.

Dur­ing those years, the Grate­ful Dead shared a spa­cious Vic­to­rian on Ash­bury Street. Ja­nis Jo­plin lived down the street. Across from her was Joe Mc­Don­ald of the psy­che­delic rock band Coun­try Joe and the Fish.

Jef­fer­son Air­plane even­tu­ally bought a house a few blocks away on Ful­ton Street, where they hosted leg­endary, wild par­ties.

“The mu­sic is what ev­ery­one seems to re­mem­ber, but it was a lot more than that,” said David Freiberg, 75, a singer and bassist for Quick­sil­ver Mes­sen­ger Ser­vice who later joined Jef­fer­son Air­plane. “It was artists, po­ets, mu­si­cians, all the beau­ti­ful shops of clothes and hip­pie food stores. It was a whole com­mu­nity.”

The bands dropped by each other’s houses and played mu­sic nearby, of­ten in free out­door con­certs at Golden Gate Park and its east­ward ex­ten­sion known as the Pan­han­dle. Their ex­cit­ing new breed of folk, jazz and blues-in­spired elec­tri­cal mu­sic be­came known as the San Fran­cisco Sound. Sev­eral of its most in­flu­en­tial lo­cal acts — the Grate­ful Dead, Jef­fer­son Air­plane, Big Brother and the Hold­ing Com­pany, which launched Jo­plin’s ca­reer — shot to fame dur­ing the sum­mer’s three-day Mon­terey Pop Fes­ti­val.

“Ev­ery fan­tasy about the sum­mer of ’67 that was ever cre­ated — peace, joy, love, non­vi­o­lence, wear flow­ers in your hair and fan­tas­tic mu­sic — was real at Mon­terey. It was bliss,” said Den­nis McNally, the Grate­ful Dead’s long­time pub­li­cist and of­fi­cial bi­og­ra­pher who has cu­rated an ex­hibit at the Cal­i­for­nia His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety that runs through Sept. 10.


San Fran­cisco hopes to draw in tourists as it cel­e­brates the 50th an­niver­sary of the Sum­mer of Love. The de Young Mu­seum is hold­ing spe­cial fash­ion ex­hibit.

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