06 May 2009

What I Learned from Hippies

If you hear the song I sing, you will understand -- listen.
You hold the key to love and fear, all in your tremblin' hands...
Just one key unlocks them both, it's there at your command...
C'mon, people now, smile on your brother --
Everybody get together, try to love one another right now. - "Get Together", the Youngbloods

One of my monthly pleasures while growing up was riding to the state capital, where my parents and I would enjoy the advantages of the 'big city" -- for my parents, stores, and for myself, the zoo. The state capital, the closest "big city", was an hour away and along the way, we would listen to what my father termed "oldies": rock and folk music from the fifties and sixties. Since we were fundamentalist Pentecostals, I was barred from listening to 'worldly', or non-church, music. My father relaxed the rules when it came to the music of his youth, however, and so his childhood bands became my childhood bands. My mother, much more conservative in that area than my dad, would be very uncomfortable at this prospect, but grudgingly admitted a certain affection for the Monkees. Although I relished in all of the music -- it was, aside from sneaking around and listening to country music when my parents weren't around, my only source of "real" music -- I especially liked the folk songs done by the beats and "hippies".

Their message -- peace, love, tolerance, and understanding -- was very attractive to a social misfit like myself, much the target of bullying and jeers. In retrospect I can't say I regret that those things happened to me: for whatever reason, they gave me a humanist heart and I have benefited enormously from the lessons learned. My appreciation for the message of the hippies grew when I hit high school and learned what the counterculture was actually about. Although since childhood I had regarded the 1960s with very romantic eyes, understanding the racism, intolerance, and indifference of the conservative fifties made me realize how necessary the hippies were. Although I was subscribing more and more to my parents' religion and becoming even more fundamentalist than they in certain aspects of my life, I found myself preferring the world of the hippies. Even though I wanted the typical suburbans dream, I could understand why the hippies wanted to get away from it.

As I've grown older still, my relationship with hippies has become more complicated. I've since learned about the drug abuse, for instance, and how they popularized horoscopes and so on. At the same time, as I have grown -- have started to question consumerism and have started practicing a philosophically spiritual life rather than a religiously dogmatic one, my appreciation for them has grown in those aspects. I understand the motivation behind the "back to the land" movements, and as something of a free spirit myself, I 'get' living outside cultural norms. Although the way I have looked at hippies has changed, I still love their music.

Some of songs I regarded as"hippie" songs from my childhood:
  • "Get Together", the Youngbloods
  • "For What It's Worth", Buffalo Springfield
  • "Turn, Turn, Turn", the Byrds
  • "California Dreamin'", the Mamas and the Papas
  • "Blowin' in the Wind", Bob Dylan
  • "All You Need is Love", John Lennon/the Beatles
  • "If You're Going to San Francisco", Scott McKenzie


bklyn6 said...

There's a Time Life compilation called "The Folk Years." A few of these songs are on it like, "Turn, Turn, Turn", "Get Together", "California Dreamin'" and "If You're Going to San Francisco." I have these songs on my mp3 player.

The hippies understood.

Hey! I recognize the Stoic emblem. :-) Cool.

Chrissey said...

This makes me giggle. I feel like you view hippies the way I view...I don't know, upper eastside rich bitches? Romantically and maybe slightly enviously.

I know that you've done a lot of learning regarding the era, so it's not like you're totally unaware of the scene. However, with hippie parents like mine, the hippie/yippie movement was still very present in my upbringing. There's not a lot of romance to it from my perspective, just a lot of reality. Are the values and ideals favorable? Absolutely. But the drugs and the idealism and the anger...there was a lot about the hippie lifestyle that wasn't so great.

And the music? Boy do you need some education! ;) There's so much more excellent music created in that era that you've yet to hear!

smellincoffee said...

bklyn6: That collection looks to be very interesting -- there are some songs listed on the Amazon page I've never heard of!

Chrissey: I will easily own that my view of the hippies is romanticized: it was a view largely formed in my childhood and teenage years. In the past few years, my opinion of them has grown more...nuanced. On one hand I recognize more and more the necessity of rebelling against a needlessly oppressive order of things, and on the other I can't appreciate the horoscopes and 'alternative medicine' and that sort of thing.