All was possible during 'Summer of Love'
July 04, 2007
While some may not want to admit it, one can surmise there are still a few old hippies lingering out there who can relate to the cultural dynamics of the mid- to late 1960s.
And for those who can still recall the Summer of Love, it's a fitting time to acknowledge a slice of American history that will never again be repeated.
It was 1967; a glorious, albeit brief moment, when a naive generation of young idealists and upstarts thought they could actually change the world for the better.
While most hippies eventually resigned themselves to reality, leaving their idealism behind and assimilating more traditional American values like the pursuit of wealth and social status, there remain some remnants of a movement that believed that peace and love could conquer all.
It's been 40 years since the political and cultural revolution united segments of the population, while dividing them on issues such as race, government, women's rights, the Pill and of course, the Vietnam War.
At the forefront of the counterculture were the bands whose music and lyrics reflected the philosophy and spirit of the movement. Groups and performers like Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Crosby, Stills and Nash set the tone for a generation whose mantras were 'free love,' 'flower power,' 'make love not war,' and 'turn on, tune in and drop out.'
Support for the counterculture eventually waned as segments of the movement began to splinter and abandon their original pursuits in favor of drugs and violent anti-establishment activities.
For those swept up in the whirlwind of change and possibility that reigned over the land that summer, there exists a shared understanding that they took part in something that was doomed from the start.
Now they can share in the regret that they failed to accomplish their fleeting dream for a more peaceful world. For all the good intentions of the "love generation," Americans are as greedy, self-involved, bigoted and war mongering as the generations that preceded us. Worse yet, we still haven't been able to find a better way to resolve our differences than by killing one another. So much for the theory of evolution.
We could say, then, that the Summer of Love was just another short-lived exercise in human futility.
By 1968, the hippies had mutated into "yippies" who saw fit to disrupt the Democratic Convention in Chicago to the point of violence.
The results were a lot of bashed-in heads, black eyes and soiled images for the Chicago Police Department and what was left of the counterculture movement. Combined that same year with the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, the Summer of Love came to a screeching halt.
Another summer of love
Personally, 1968 would be my preference as the summer of love.
It was the year that, against all odds, the Detroit Tigers beat mighty Bob Gibson and the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.
It was also the year I met the love of my life, with whom I would later have two beautiful children whose lives have greatly enriched mine.
I vividly remember driving downtown with her the night of the Tigers' World Series win, joining tens of thousands of others who had assembled en masse to celebrate the victory.
I recall that I was driving on Gratiot Avenue in the midst of throngs of people; with the windows down, yelling, shaking hands and slapping high fives (before they were called that) with complete strangers of every ilk and color.
I recall thinking at the time that just about anything must be possible. Not only because the Tigers had miraculously beaten the Cardinals after being down three games to one, but because only a year earlier the City of Detroit was ablaze with racial tension, culminating with the 1967 riot.
Although 40 years have passed, the belief that love can prevail over all else still offers reason for hope. Like the hope those naive hippies once had for the future.
Maybe they weren't so bad. Once you got past their preoccupation with drugs, loud music, outlandish clothes and irreverent behavior, they may have been on the right track after all.
At least that's what some of us would like to think.
Email Tom Wearing at