Dad: here’s the music, love and flowers
8 min. read
By Linda T. Kennedy, with Rebecca K. McConnell
Picking up a hitchhiker was about the only time my family had a brush with the counterculture revolution of the 1960s and 1970s, and that was before my parents heard stories about hitchhikers killing and robbing drivers. My dad likely gave that hitchhiker the benefit of the doubt – she was carrying a baby she named “Dawn Rain.” (She said the baby was born at dawn, in the rain. And who is more trustworthy than a mom carrying a baby?)
Other than that experience, the only other way we connected to the hippie movement immortalized in the 1967 song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Some Flowers in Your Hair)” was with The Silver Lining News.
At first reading this, my father would yell (is yelling right now), “WHAT? You’re connecting something like our publication to those, those, those DAMN HIPPIES?!” Yes dad, I am. Have a chair here for a moment, while I illustrate how SLN’s ideals resonated with some of theirs during that era.
For the Summer of Love
During the summer of 1967, the citizens of Monterey, Calif. were singing your “Damn Hippies” song too, dad. They were terror-stricken at the thought of hosting the Monterey International Pop Festival, an event spearheaded by John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas, and producers Lou Adler and Alan Pariser.
Phillips planned to produce the first successful rock music festival in history in Monterey, like the popular jazz and folk festivals there. The festival was a huge success. It featured debut performances of bands that would that shape the history of rock and pop culture. But Phillips was initially challenged with convincing Monterey to host the festival.
“The town of Monterey was sort of frightened by the thought of 250,000 hippies coming,” said Phillips in a 1995 interview with Scott McKenzie, a recording artist and friend of Phillips who recorded “San Francisco,” and was a co-organizer of the festival. (The entire interview is published on McKenzie’s website.)
“Sort of frightened?” responded Scott McKenzie. “Well, they were terrified. I was hanging out with John and Lou and going up to Monterey. John was on acid most of the time, and he gave a speech to the property owners and the fathers and the mothers and all the relatives of the town, in which he tried to convince them to hold the pop festival there. And he did, somehow. I don’t know how he did that.”
For Love, Not Money
Phillips and McKenzie wrote and recorded “San Francisco” to advertise the festival and send a message to young people who would descend upon Monterey for the festival: come to the festival, but leave any trouble behind. “The idea [for the song] was that they would come in peace to the pop festival, which they did. There was not one arrest during the whole pop festival,” said Phillips. The song was a success above and beyond influencing peace at the festival, ranking top on the charts in the United States and Europe. (The original video is posted with this story.)
Phillips not only committed to promoting a peaceful event, but a charitable one; every participating artist agreed to perform for charity to raise funds for The Monterey International Pop Festival Foundation (MIPFF) a non-profit charity organized with the festival “to empower music-related, personal development, creativity, and mental and physical health.”
The first grant from the June 1967 festival went towards a music instruction program in Harlem championed by Paul Simon. MIPFF continues to generate funds and make donations today; each one is made in the names of those artists who performed at The Monterey International Pop Festival.
Grants have been awarded to organizations such as Friends of Saban Clinic, L.A., a medical home for the underserved, and The MusiCares MAP Fund, which provides financial and supportive assistance for music people in need of addiction recovery services. MusiCares also focuses the resources and attention of the music industry on human service issues that directly impact the health and welfare of the music community.
And MIPFF has supported the development of tomorrows musicians with donations to The Rock and Roll Forever Foundation, which helps schools address the challenges of cuts to arts education budgets. Steven Van Zandt, founding member, guitarist and backup vocalist for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, worked with a team of educators to create Rock and Roll: An American Story (RRAS), a history of rock and roll curriculum that features celebrated music writers and historians and legendary musicians.
For Headlines and Scare Tactics
The Silver Lining News was created to be a portal for stories like this one – the silver linings from a generation marked by hard drug abuse, war and civil rights turmoil. During the hippie counterculture revolution, it was difficult for my parents, the citizens of Monterey and many others to see or imagine anything positive or even redemptive about that time. That’s despite the talk and images then about peace, music, love and flowers.
While my parents watched the slaughter in Vietnam on TV – the new media rage then – the psychedelic drug stories and what was happening at the junction of Haight and Ashbury streets in San Francisco hit closer to home. Hippies’ beliefs about illegal drug use and the positive benefits from mind-altering experiences created panic in my parents, and for good reason:
According to Gallup’s “Trend in Percentage of Americans Who Have Tried Marijuana, by Age” widespread experimentation with marijuana among adults aged 18 to 29 surged in the early 1970s, rising from 8 percent to 35 percent between 1969 and 1973.
The Gallup report said the problem may have been exacerbated by irresponsible media content and inaccurate information about the effects of illegal drugs (scare tactics were commonly used then to fight drug abuse rather than educational facts).
Consequently, Rebecca McConnell, my mom and founder of The Silver Lining News, said incidental positive events in the 1960s and 1970s, such as a hit song and a successful charity event, were likely overshadowed by fear-generating news reports. “Drug use all seemed so new then,” she said. “When I was a child in the forties, you never heard about drug problems. But then, every newscast included a story about weed and I worried about someone getting my children hooked on drugs.”
The lasting impact, though, that Phillip’s “San Francisco” and the Monterey International Pop Festival Foundation would have on societies worldwide, are silver linings from the drug issues created during the late 1960s.
From Chaos to Catalysts
The hippie beat still resonates on Haight and Ashbury in positive ways now. Gentle remnants of good intentions less effectively executed in the 1960s are found in places such as The Red Victorian Haight. The call for peace there now is not found in protests, but in opportunities for creatives to collaborate together under the concept of co-living in a hotel setting. The Red Victorian and MIPFF illustrate how, historically, difficult times and events are catalysts for expression and actions that can create change for the better and reinvention for the future.
Whether your views of hippies in that era are rooted in conservative or liberal values, SLN sees the music, love, flowers and peace signs that hippies identified themselves with then as emblematic of their positive efforts to deal with the political and social issues of their time, not just emblematic of their political and social rebellion.
“When San Francisco was first released in the spring of 1967, my country was in chaos,” said McKenzie. “Already reeling from political assassinations, we were bitterly divided over the escalating war in Vietnam and hemorrhaging from acts of hatred and violence, many of which were in reaction to nonviolent civil rights demonstrations and protests. On the one hand, bigots, tyrants and oppression flourished, while young artists overdosed.” (In 1970, Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix, both 27 and performers at the Monterey Pop Festival, died from drug overdoses within three weeks of each other.)
“On the other hand, new young social, political and musical leaders also flourished, as did their calls for courage, compassion and commitment to social and political reform.”
News reports about that chaos were also the catalyst for Rebecca’s Silver Lining News concept. “I kept wondering how we could hear something positive about these events, if there were any silver linings in them,” she recalled. “That’s when I decided a news outlet associated with identifying those silver lining stories was needed.” Rebecca wanted to see more of the “on the other hand” stories that McKenzie referred to.
For the Good of It
Hippies staged political sit-ins, McKenzie and Phillips recorded a song in an all-night session at the L.A. Sound Factory, and Rebecca sat at her kitchen table and doodled a logo, a name and a plan for good news. And so dad, this is what they had in common: hopes that their efforts would influence positive change in a tumultuous world.
“One thing is certain,” said McKenzie. “The new pop music that emerged from those times was indeed wonderful. Never before or since, with the exception of rap, has popular music contained such sheer poetic and social power. Even at the end of the decade, when so many of us had lost hope, when the summer of love had turned into a winter of despair, our music helped keep us alive and carry us forward into a world we had hoped to change. And so it still does.”
John S. Knight, American journalist, publisher and co-Founder of Knight Ridder Newspapers group in 1974 said, “Get the truth and print it.” Rebecca figured the truth is found in positive perspectives and results as much as negative ones. “I wanted to feel the “hope” in news. It’s part of the reality just as much as the rest of the story,” she said. So she registered her business name to carry her forward. And so it still does. John S. Knight, American journalist, publisher and co-Founder of Knight Ridder Newspapers group in 1974 said, “Get the truth and print it.” Rebecca figured the truth is found in positive perspectives and results as much as negative ones. “I wanted to feel the “hope” in news. It’s part of the reality just as much as the rest of the story,” she said. So she registered her business name to carry her forward. And so it still does.
“San Francisco,” The Monterey International Pop Festival Foundation and The Red Victorian are just a few examples of good-news stories for which their time has come.