The Tree of Life with its nourishing power of Mother Earth (pictured above in my 1960’s room) was an important symbol for hippies. It represented nature, fertility, balance, learning, growth and harmony. “Golden living dreams of visions, Mystic crystal revelation, And the mind’s true liberation,” was proclaimed in the opening song of the musical Hair, now enjoying a 50 year revival. Being a hippie was about rejecting middle-class materialism in favor of a more spiritual, more environmentally conscious approach – one which many are adopting today.
Hippies were among the first of America’s environmentalists. in the late 60’s I would find Joni Mitchell on a bench in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park singing and strumming her guitar. “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot with a pink hotel, a boutique and a swinging hot spot. They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum and they charged all the people to see ‘em. Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’till it’s gone.”
“Hair, Hair hair. Let it fly in the breeze and get caught in the trees. Give a home to the fleas in my hair, a hive for bees,” was another melody from the Hair musical. (See the rastafari lion left.) However, hair and colorful clothing were just an outward manifestation of their rebellion. They were in favor of peace and a loving attitude to all mankind while against war and the government of their day. Gradually the culture of these hippie youths in the 60’s continued on to be infused into today’s American culture. There are still millions of us in America who are hippies, only not necessarily with long hair.
IN THE GARDEN STATE
Here we are carrying on their legacy. With US troops deployed in some 150 countries, many of them in harms way, we are standing up against military entanglements and the threat of wars while our President brandishes his big button. We are seeking a government more responsive to our concerns as we try to overthrow entrenched congressmen. We are campaigning for a more liberal society on issues such as marijuana legalization, environmentalism, transgender rights, equal rights for women, animal rights, helping the poor, ending excessive incarceration of minorities, reducing income inequality, and ending the inhumane treatment of immigrants. As with the hippies, we are taking a stand against the status quo on matters that remain important and unresolved.
One travel site in 2016 said that most people think New Jersey is all sprawl, suburb, turnpike, and shore. But there’s a slice of Jersey, Lambertville, the states’ de facto hippie capital, which draws congregants to downward dog at DIG Yoga and to gather crunchy groceries from Big Bear Natural Foods. Then they head back into the country for drum and/or knitting circles. Lambertville might seem to be for the purists, but like seeds from the Tree of Life, the hippie spirit has spread throughout our state.
Fresh from a performance at Woodstock in 1969, Janis Joplin, a profound influence on hippie singers, headed to Asbury Park for two shows at Convention Hall. There she spied the 19 year-old, long-haired Springsteen who was also performing that evening. They exchanged a few words – Joplin who was to die of a heroin overdose the next year and Springsteen who went on to become our Boss. He says in his book “We were all hippies in those days.” Judging from his songs I would say he continues to espouse many hippie concerns.
As a conclusion to this series on hippie influence, Fleetwood Mack sang, “Can the child within my heart rise above? But time makes you bolder, Even children get older.” While drugs remain a remnant of the hippie youth culture, today’s older hippies have families, children to raise and are often more responsible, cautious about drugs, while still being concerned with social and political matters. Judy Collins used to sing, “To everything there is a season. Turn, turn, turn. A time of love, a time of hate. And a time of peace. I swear it’s not too late.” The hippie ideals live on in New Jersey. Its legacy of music, anti-war activism, challenging the government, removing taboos of sex, and seeking peace remains with us.
To read other parts of this series: go to SEARCH above and enter: Hippie Influence: 50 or on the front-page slider click on the image for this series.