Hippies were the primary social group behind the 1960s cultural revolution in America, which is also called the 1960s youth revolution. However, in Continental Europe it's called a 1970s cultural revolution.
Two different spellings of "hippie" are used on this site i.e. the word "hippie" is also spelled "hippy". The spelling "hippy" is older, and it's rarely used, now. It was used in the 1960s as a noun refering to original hippies or old hippies. The most popular spelling today is "hippie", and it's used both as a verb and a noun in reference to all hippies.
The hippie movement was a peace and love movement at a time when families in the U.S. gathered in their living-rooms to watch cowboy movies on TV. It was a time of the Cold War, a nuclear threat, equal rights movement, sexual revolution, assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and the Vietnam War.
So, why from among 2% of American youth did I become a hippy? In the beginning, I didn't know that I was a hippy until I was called a hippy.
But before I go on... Hope you'll find this form of avant-garde blog style literature and Web art interesting, and that you won't mind the author's lack of formal literary skills. This is a personal website; not a book, in the formal meaning of the world. Hence, the informal and Blog style character.
So, to continue... I don't know why I became a hippy because I never really became one. It was just the way I was that defined me as a hippy. The main reason was probably because I was born in the middle of the 20th Century, at the beginning of the Atomic Age, and I was into Folk music, Jazz music, Blues music and also a Beatles fan. So, it was like the Karma of those times that turned a percentage of young people toward the peace movement, anti-nuke movement and sexual revolution, all of which were at the core of the hippie movement.
The oldest symbol associated with hippies is the peace sign. Even today, the peace sign is widely associated with the peace movement, human rights, and with hippies. It's one of those few signs that has retained its original symbolism. The Peace sign was used for the first time at anti-nuclear demonstrations in England. It was created in 1958 by Gerald Holtom for the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in England, and quickly caught on among peace activists and hippies.
Few are aware that only about 2% of American youth participated in the hippie movement and that it wasn't such a mass movement before the Woodstock 1969 festival. I never chose to become a hippy. I was called a hippy by others, and got my hippy name "The Polish Hippy" from a Belgium friend in school. I became most widely recognized as a hippy after I was taken to a nearby barbershop by the school Principle/ Director and given a hair cut. My hippie name stayed with me until the end of the 1960s, and hardly anyone called me by any other name. In 1968, I even managed to write two articles about hippies for the school press.
Since then, other hippies have adopted that name on both continents; especially if they were of Polish ancestry. It's a unique name in that it refers to a specific nationality. The name spread through some 1960s media productions for some time; until that name was later removed in response to protests from the Polish Embassy in Washington, who took it as another insult.
I like to call those early days of hippies "the pure days". I was a Beatles fan, a fan of American folk music, Blues music, Allen Ginsberg, Beat writers and abstract avant-garde art, among other things. I suppose many Beatles fans began like I did, after the Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, and by following the other British bands that invaded America. The British music played by the Beatles, Rolling Stones, Animals, Led Zeppelin and many other bands was largely a transformation of Afro-American music. Those British artists also brought new fashions to America.
The main fashion that distinguished boys, who were Beatles fans was long hair styles and high heel boots, which replaces our traditional Converse sneakers, moccasins and loafers for a while. The artists from Great Britain looked like spoiled boys from good British homes. So in the beginning, it was a bit snobbish to imitate them. The new fashions from London were called Mod Fashions. They were lush, colorful, abstract and stood out in contrast to the toned down and conservative fashions of those days. And it wasn't until the 1960s that the bikini, and so called Swedish movies caught on in America, which became symbols of the sexual revolution.
Mod fashions from London gave rise to a more budget friendly and casual hippie styles called the hippie look. Towards the end of the 1960s, Bell-bottoms were introduced in California by a fashion designer. Today, they are widely associated with hippies and 1970s Disco culture.
So, one thing in Britain led to another in America, and other things were added to that. Thus, a hippy was born. The hippie movement was a pacifist movement at a time when most Americans were brought up on cowboy movies, wore neatly cut short hair, crew-cuts and used lots of brilliantine (Vitalis) to keep their hair in place. Hippies were a small minority in those days. Perhaps the exotic hippie worldviews and Bohemian type lifestyle didn't appeal to most hard working Americans. When I was a kid, I remembered seeing students with longer hair, sandals, guitars and bongos on trips across Europe and America with my family; especially around university campuses. Many of those were early beatniks and hipsters that preceded hippies. Many people identified with ideas spread by anti-Vietnam War and human rights movements. The hippie movement was so strongly connected with those that it ended almost at the same time that the Vietnam War ended; though many hippies continued to remain hippies at heart.
The hippie movement started in America but incorporated many ideas from other places and cultures. Hippies formed an informal political movement, and have been recognized as social reformists that changed the world. Many of those achievements are now taken for granted. As hippie ideas spread around the world, hippies became identified with different things in different parts of the globe. Unfortunatily, not all of those were as positive as those in the USA. European hippies were often involved in different issues then American hippies. For example, they didn't have to deal with the Vietnam War or the draft. They also traveled around the world a lot more, esp. to Asia and the Indian subcontinent, for example.
I was brought up in a cosmopolitan
European family. An average American was not so
cosmopolitan as we were. My Parents spoke Polish, German,
Czech, English, and Latin. That was not too common among
most Americans. My Dad was an businessman and a
professional artist. Some members of my family were
imprisoned in Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp. Those
and many other things had a great influence on my
worldviews. So the life experiences and worldviews I was
exposed to were different from those of most Americans.
Hence, it was inevitable that I would support the peace
movement and become a hippy because it was the only
movement that shared ideas that were dear to me.
I remember Old Town best for the parties, Piperís Alley, Folk Music Cafes that I couldn't afford to visit too often at that time, and Lincoln Park where hippies used to gathered on various occasions. There was also a lot going on at the University of Chicago Campus, The Coffeehouse on 54th Street in Hyde Park near the Museum of Science and Industry and also in Grant Park. But that would be another story..
But I grew up on the South East Side of Chicago, in a working class neighborhood, not far from where The Memorial Day massacre of 1937 took place at a steel mill on Burley Avenue. It was an event, in which many demonstrators were brutally beaten and shot dead by the Chicago Police. That was also a keystone event for the labor movement. It inspired any artists such as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, who became involved in the labor movement. Artists such as Bob Dylan, Donovan and many others continued that mission through their works. The demonstrations at the 1968 Democratic National Convention began in Grant Part. They were also met with brutal Chicago Police force on orders of Mayer Richard J. Daley. That was followed by the trial of the Chicago Seven and gave birth to the Yippie Movement which was initiated by Abbie Hoffman in Chicago. My neighborhood was also the last place Mayer Richard J. Daley payed an official visit to on the day he died.
After the U.S. backed out of the Vietnam War, hippies lost their main cause and went their own separate ways. Some joind various other causes such as ecology, gay rights, civil rights, women's rights etc. Some turned on to the Glam Rock or Glitter Rock scene that was forming in New York, also the underground Disco Music scene of the early 1970s esp. in Chicago. Disco music grew around Motown and Soul music, which were very popular during the hippie era. But its characteristic rhythm and beat came from the classic soul/disco song by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes called "The Love I Lost" and others such as "Love Boat" by Earl Young from Philadelphia in the late 1960s. The disco scene was gay, colorful and psychedelic. Chicago developed its own disco music style that is called House Music, and which spread to discos in Detroit and New York. House Music also influenced European Techno music; especially became popular in Amsterdam and in Berlin.
The early 1970s was a happier time when hippies achieved many of their goals. That's why I believe the 1970s was a time of celebration, dancing and overindulging. Just as the hippies scene came to an end, I got an update from Jeff, a younger friend I met at a party. He introduced me to a different music scene, mainly to David Bowie, Elton John and to Disco music.
The early Disco scene united gays, blacks, Latinos and people from other backgrounds. In the beginning it was a happy movement that started in underground clubs and bars located in former hippie centers of Chicago, New York and San Francisco. One of those early historic Chicago discos was Dugan's Bistro also called Bistro Chicago at 420 N. Dearborn Street. Others were around what is now called the Boystown neighborhood. Disco clubs and bars also openned in Chicago's Old Town on Wells Street near Schiller. So, one could say that "Sex, drugs and Rock & Roll" of the 1960s was replaced with "Sex, drugs and Disco" in the 1970s.
The disco movement literally burned itself out by the early 1980s when disco records were burned at a Chicago stadium. The idea for that event came from a Chicago radio DJ. Similar events were held elsewhere in 1950s against Rock & Roll music, and in 1960s with burning of The Beatles' vinyl records. But those ones were not as successful as the one with Disco music in 1970s. So, the free spirit of the 1950s, 1960s, and even the 1970s lives on. Rock on!
And then, the 1980s followed. The '80s was a bleak decade marked by the spread of deadly HIV virus, economic problems, oil crises and unemployment. Not until the 1990s did I realize how important the hippie movement was for the formation of modern music, art, lifestyles, worldviews, technologies, ecological awareness and for my personal development. That's also when I was encouraged to create this Web site.
Here is a well written and very informative article from 1967 that was published in The Atlantic, which shows a different side of the Flower Children in San Francisco, and the various social complexities involved.
Many hippies were runaways attracted to the bay area through media publications and music. So, one can't expect anyone who's without an income or a home to dress in clean clothes, Mod fashions and look well. There were many efforts made to help hippies like free food, clothes, medical care etc. But those were not enough to meet the needs, and not available everywhere.
What I call the "pure years" were on a decline by the end of the 1960s. What lasted just a few years had an enormous affect for decades if not hundreds of years to come. It was a time when the great creative power that lays dormant at the base of everyone's deepest existence was unleashed, a creative force called Kundalini in classical Yoga.
In 1969, I went to Europe and stayed there for about half a year. That experience helped me become more cosmopolitan and solved some of my other issues. But I missed a chance to go to Woodstock with my buddies, and sliding with them through the mud. But who would have guessed that it would turn out to be such a historic event.
I visited Canada, England, Holland, Denmark and Poland. So, that was a lot more interesting and educational in a way. My worst experience was behind the Iron Curtain, in Poland where I was kept on the border for hours, had my luggage searched and sniffed, had many personal things confiscated by a crooked Customs Officer. After all that, I was made to pay a ridiculous costumes tax on used clothes. All this probably because the officer found a Peace button and Zig-Zag rolling papers in my luggage. I still have, the rolling papers, a roach clip and a few other things that weren't confiscated on that trip to remind me of that bad trip.
It was a year after a wave of 1968 student protests in America and across Europe. It was also a year after the January and March 1968 student protests in Poland, which I wasn't aware of at that time. But I didn't find any hippies in Poland; though it was one of the countries that Allen Ginsberg used to visit. But years later, I did meet some people there, who knew Ginsberg.
Life behind the Iron Curtain was like stepping into a time warp and travelling a few decades back in time. But in spite of the initial bad experiences, life there wasn't as bad as people in the West thought it was. It certainly was very budget friendly and relatively safe. I'd be unable to compare it to any place in the world other then India, if you know what I mean. But this was in the center of Europe, and a great place to kick back, to do Tantra Yoga, meditate, taste some vodka and repair the condition, in which my condition was in.
There, I was also subjected to some propaganda. That gave me an opportunity to learned a bit more about Marxism. I found that it had nothing to do with the Marx Brothers or Marks & Spencer. Best of all, my modest budget went a long way behind the Iron Curtain, which is important no matter what ideology one follows...
Here's a piece of music I recorded inspired by those times.
Karol Marx was a romantic, who believed that the working class should have social benefits and more time to enjoy music, art and culture. And he certainly lived well enough in England to do all those. Marx was greatly influenced by Adam Smith, a well known 19-century Scottish Economist. Marx believed in globalization and that socialism was for highly developed, industrialized capitalist countries. He did not recommend socialism for developing countries like for example Russia, China, Poland or India. Perhaps that's why it failed behind the Iron Curtain. Socialism is now widespread throughout Europe, especially in Germany, Holland, England, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden. What they had behind the Iron Curtain was not socialism but communism. But that would be another long story. Yes, the 1960s altered the course of our lives forever.
The Peace Movement was over by the mid 1970s, underground FM radio stations turned commercial, head shops closed and so called hippie neighborhoods turned into popular tourist traps. The War was over. Lennon got married, the Beatles broke up and the 1960s Peace Movement was over. Many hippies returned home, graduated, got jobs, married, joined political parties, climbed up the social ranks of the decked out world, became successful, joined the Rotary Club, became the establishment and turned into Yuppies i.e. Young Urban Professionals. But not all hippies became that successful. Though many may not look like hippies any more, many do remain hippies at heart. Keep on truckin'... Keep the faith... Peace
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