SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - If the Summer of Love established San Francisco as the hub of hippiedom, the summer of 2007 may one day be remembered as a time when the city and the rest of the country commemorated 1960s counterculture by taking the "counter" out of it.
From New York, where Lincoln Center is devoting its outdoor music and dance season to the era, to Minneapolis, where the local art museum mounted a psychedelic art and photography exhibit, people of all ages and political persuasions are being invited to celebrate the seminal events that took place here four decades ago.
The anniversary's most arguably authentic observance will not even be in San Francisco - a 17-city concert tour featuring Jefferson Starship sans Grace Slick, a Janis Joplin-less Big Brother & the Holding Company, and Tom Constanten, who played keyboards for the Grateful Dead from 1966 to 1970. One of the stops, in Northampton, Mass., is a benefit for troops serving in Iraq and their families.
"You're not going to see drunk, wasted musicians on stage," said tour co-producer Tim Murphy, noting that men who are now in their 60s comprise most of his talent and the target audience is teenagers and twenty-somethings who have recently discovered the Summer of Love sound. "The hope is it's something you could go to with your parents, you could go to with your grandparents."
A late start in putting the show together and bad blood between some of the performers and the promoter of a free concert scheduled for September 2 in Golden Gate Park resulted in a schedule that also includes dates in Torrington, Conn., Macon, GA., and New York, but nowhere near Haight-Ashbury, the neighborhood where the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin lived in 1967, according to Murphy. The closest the tour will get is Monterey, California, where the 40th anniversary of the Monterey Pop music festival also is being observed.
Not that San Francisco will be forgotten. Along with the Labor Day weekend concert featuring Country Joe McDonald and a surviving member of The Doors, events on tap over the next few months include a "60s at the ballpark" day where Giants and Dodgers fans will receive "Summer of Love" T-shirts, a Summer of Love treasure hunt, as well as lectures and walking tours .
The Summer of Love, considered by many to represent the climax of hippie culture, refers to the period when tens of thousands of young people flocked to free-spirited San Francisco to dance barefoot, listen to alternative poetry and music, march for peace in Vietnam and civil rights at home - all while under the influence of easy drugs and sex.
Conventional wisdom holds that it got kicked off in January 1967 with the Human Be-In in Golden Gate Park, where LSD pioneer Timothy Leary exhorted the crowd to "turn on, tune in, drop out." The summer, if not the era, ended in October, when the locals who witnessed the dark side of having 100,000 stoned youngsters roaming the streets held a "The Death of Hippie" funeral.
History hasn't always been kind to those days. Revisionists long have focused on the deaths - Joplin's, Jim Morrison's and Jimi Hendrix's among them - that accompanied the debauchery, and questioned whether the peaceful ideals expressed then mattered much to members of a generation that in many ways was even more materialistic and self-absorbed than its predecessors.
"What people remember is the frivolity - 'Isn't it great to be young and uninhibited,"' said Maurice Isserman, a scholar of 20th century U.S. history who teaches at Hunter College in New York. "At that time it had a very different context. In terms of observing the anniversary, it's important to put it in the context which people had at the time, those long hot summers and the riots
in Detroit and Newark," Isserman said. "Every week what you heard about was killings of thousands of Americans and Vietnamese."
David Smith, who co-founded the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic in 1967 to serve the unwashed masses who descended on San Francisco that summer, would like to think the Summer of Love anniversary is generating such widespread attention this year because of the parallels between now and America four decades ago when the nation was embroiled in an unpopular war and the harm humans were causing to the global environment pricked the public's consciousness.
"I'm 68, and sometimes I remember '67 better than I remember yesterday," said Smith, who parted ways with the Free Clinic last year in a dispute over its increasingly profit-driven direction and now works as medical director of the Prometa addiction treatment centers.
Politics were far from Don Oriolo's mind, though, when he started organizing a Summer of Love music festival that took place at the Sussex County (N.J.) Fairgrounds this past weekend. Oriolo, who lined up Dr. Hook, Spencer Davis and former members of Iron Butterfly, Sugarloaf and Rare Earth for the show, said he was more interested in recreating the San Francisco sound without
the social distortion. Some of the proceeds will be donated to charity, including the Boy Scouts and the Knights of Columbus.
"The 60s had a look and feel that was the beginning of something. It's never going to come back nor should it," he said. “There is no statement. It's just one fun day to sort of reflect back and enjoy what that music was. People will be wearing tie-dye and bellbottoms and that will be it, then they'll go back to worrying about how much gas costs."
When planning this year's Out of Doors festival at Lincoln Center, artistic director Jenneth Webster originally planned to build the program around love songs. Then a friend reminded Webster, herself a former 1960s flower child, of the Summer of Love anniversary. She was inspired, but rather than limit the tribute to
what came out of San Francisco, Webster decided to showcase the "melding of thoughts and artistic forms and social forms" she thinks the 1960s represented.
In the end, that meant lining up folk singer Arlo Guthrie as well as gospel and world music groups, a Disney-sponsored Playday that will include a 1960s Dance-in and a Hippie Flash Sideshow Fashion show, and avant-garde legends such as choreographer Paul Taylor and composer Pauline Oliveros.
"In a sense, we have the Summer of Love without any of the heart-wrenching, pounding blood that was going on then. We have a kind of sanitized version of it," acknowledged Webster. "I felt it would be interesting to concentrate not so much on the radical, politicized part of it the overall spirit of it, the fun of it, the rambunctious aspects of it."
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.