Hippie Influence: 50 years ago to today Part I

Dawn is a feeling, a beautiful ceiling.  You’re here today, no future fears. This day will last a thousand years. You look around you, things they astound you. So breathe in deep, you’re not asleep, open your mind.“ – Moody Blues: Days of Future Past (1967)

After I graduated from the university, in the mid and late sixties I had a job in San Francisco where I spent many a night and weekend with my partner in the Haight Ashbury district. A hippie guy and registered nurse, he always welcomed me in the evening with a reefer and on the weekends with LSD (later proved injurious to one’s health) and sometimes an assortment of mysterious pills. Frequently wafting in the background was the beautiful, mysterious, symphonic Days of Future Past.

Entrance curtain to room

His apartment was a riot of bright, flashy, mishmash of colors with roommates alive with opinions on politics, war, mysticism, music, free love, and drugs. They worked during the day but relaxed with weed during the evening. Maybe because of nostalgia, in the past month I decided to recreate in my house a room with a hippie decor of the era. With the imaginative design skill of my friend Elier Leon we created this space which you see in these photos.  

The hippie attitude speak to us today. With the Vietnam War, the constant threat of nuclear attack hanging over Americans’ heads, hippies brought with them a rebellious radically new worldview – one with love, peace and the therapeutic use of psychedelics and marijuana, coupled with their own music and mysticism. Much of what we associate with far-out hippies has now become decidedly mainstream. 

Today in New Jersey we sense the dawning of a new era with a progressive governor and a legislature often, but not always, in agreement. It is not the dawning of the Age Aquarius with “Harmony and understanding, Sympathy and trust abounding. No more falsehoods or derisions.” Nonetheless, our spirit here has been lifted. Over the years more of the hippie way of way life has seeped into our culture and is taking on a stronger force today. We are re-examinining our norms, taking on activist positions, showing more tolerance toward people of different races, ethnicities and sexual orientation, gradually accepting the value of marijuana, and seeking to redress wrongs.

However, even here we cannot escape our angst and anger against our president, concern for the environment, disgust of corruption in the administration, concern about entanglements in foreign wars, anxiety over our jobs, despair over income inequality, upset over a rise of White Supremacy, and fear of what may come. In 1968 the musical Hair, distilled from cultural turmoil, was launched on Broadway: “How can people be so heartless. How can people be so cruel. Easy to be hard, easy to be cruel.”  

In forthcoming parts to this series we will look at how the hippie revolution 50 years ago contributed to today’s attitudes on drugs, sex, war resistance, politics, mysticism and music. Values, lifestyle, and social institutions that were under intense scrutiny then began to change over the years, but many of the issues remain unresolved today.

The use of weed is just one of those unresolved issues. Yesterday’s WNYC/NPR radio report indicated that despite the sea-change in attitude and usage, the passage of legalization in our legislature remains five votes short in the Senate and ten votes in the Assembly. Furthermore the bill is being used as leverage against the governor, and there is no immediate likelihood of passage. The Assembly has been holding public hearings, and the last one is at Bergen County College on May 12.

Sun Moon Planet Bohemian Tapestry




Comment (1)

  1. Rosi Efthim

    Bill, you are so damn interesting. I was never a hippie, some day maybe over drinks we’ll have that convo. But someday soon, I’m going to have to get up to Bergen to see that gorgeous room of yours, bank on it. Best Friday post ever.


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