Hippie Influence: 50 years ago to today: Part II: “Make Love Not War”

Hippies in the turbulent 60’s and 70’s provided America with an expansive view of “Free Love” and a strong anti-war sentiment. This view spread spread across the country and laid roots in New Jersey.


The Free Love movement’s initial goal was to separate the state from sexual matters such as marriage, birth control, and adultery – a process still continuing in New Jersey, aided by our governor, and throughout the USA, often hindered by the current administration. Sex gradually became less of a taboo. 

In 1967 the Beatles came out with “All you need is love, love is all you need.”  The first Grateful Dead album, just after Jerry Garcia had visited Haight Ashbury in 1967 was the Golden Road: “Well everybody’s dancin’ in a ring around the sun, Nobody’s finished, we ain’t even begun.” Garcia sits comfortably on my hippie couch above. The Youngbloods provided an even clearer message: “Come on people now. Smile on your brother. Everybody get together. Try to love one another right now.”

The movement spurred a rising sexual revolution, which for many meant “You were free to love whomever you pleased, whenever you pleased, however you pleased.” – Utopian and radical at the time. One way its influence was felt was in a nascent gay rights movement. At the time it was still taught in  school textbook that gay was a disease. Most hippies, like the general population, were not gay, but they were the first group in society to openly tolerate gay people and to argue about giving them more rights. To the left is the hippie peace symbol in a gay rainbow swirl resting on my wall.

In New Jersey there had been a law to revoke the liquor license of bars serving alcohol to “female impersonators or other persons of ill repute.” In 1967 a state court invalidated this interpretation as being too vague and discriminatory. A seminal moment for the LGBTQ community was the 1969 riots against police who started a mass arrest at NYC’s Stonewall Inn. It was populated in part by some fierce drag queens who fought back. Attending the riots were many who crossed the Hudson River to participate. 


Born in the “Cold War” era starting in the late 40’s, they were living as children under the constant fear of atomic bomb blasts from Russia. In 1965 outraged by the atrocities being committed in Vietnam, they started chanting “Make Love, Not War.” Mostly poor American men were being drafted, sent to fight a fruitless battle, and returning home in coffins. Soon that sentiment was taken up by college students and average Americans. Their concern extended more broadly to anti-violence on our own soil when in 1970, four students protesting President Nixon’s decision to invade Cambodia, were shot dead by the National Guard at Kent State.

Music guided them in their anti-war sentiment and in their quest for meaning. Without drugs music can get you high. With drugs, well, let’s just say, music can be a fabulous experience. John Lennon sang, “Imagine there’s no countries. It isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for. No religion, too. Imagine all the people living life in peace.” Pete Seeger was singing, “If you love your Uncle Sam, bring ’em home, bring ’em home.” Referring to Kent State, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young sang, “Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, We’re finally on our own, This summer I hear the drumming. Four dead in Ohio.” 

The early anti-war protest started by hippies soon engaged a broad swath of New Jerseyans. At the the Democratic convention in Atlantic City in 1964 people demonstrated against President Johnson. At Fort Dix in 1969 they protested imprisonment of 38 antiwar soldiers. (See photo on the left.) Such protests continue today. New Jerseyans recently gathered in Newark to demonstrate against the hostile threats of the Trump Administration made at the United Nations, as well as the financing of those threats through a $700 billion war. Here is a list of what one writer says are the ten most hippie towns in our state. To the list I would add Asbury Park and Lambertville. 

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