In one of the earlier comments, Andy of the blog Law School Is So Over weighed in with a perspective I want to revisit:

Jnana, I think you’ve left out one critical element – music. If you were a participant in/listener to certain kinds of music, you were a hippie. I’d include some types of rock (clearly, the Grateful Dead/Jefferson Airplane, for starters) and folk/bluegrass.

Oh, and organic food (on January 1st, 1980, the New Riverside Cafe in Minneapolis’ West Bank neighborhood had soaped on its windows “1980, and the ’60s aren’t over yet!”).

This came in reaction to my argument that opposition to the Vietnam conflict and its military draft, that the acceptance of marijuana, and that the availability of the Pill were the three defining elements of a hippie – and that any one of them would be sufficient for an individual to cross the line into a range of outlaw.

Andy now has me looking closer at my concept of outlaw in regard to hippie and admitting it runs along the lines of civil disobedience or benign rejection of the imposed legal boundary rather than out-and-out rebel and rebellion, especially as that side whoops and hollers in Dixie. I’m already seeing how the outlaw side of runaways fit in with a hippie identity, for some, as well as the welcome they found.

The music, like the dress, was definitely a part of the scene. My question has long been whether it was a sufficient defining element – one that took you over the line – or was instead something you took up superficially just on weekends, like a wig. But then we might also ask about arrests and jailings, which definitely defined some in our circles.

So the plot thickens, and I’m now weaving music and food – not just organic but natural, vegetarian, and Zen macrobiotic – to the identity. Not that these were essential for everyone but rather that they fit many in the movement. OK, I did name one of those novels Hippie Drum now, didn’t I?


One of the things I wanted to avoid in my Hippie Trails novels was frequent quotation from rock lyrics or even mention of the singers or groups. Yes, they could form a backdrop or superstructure of reference, but they’d also be too much of an inside code for many potential readers and, besides, there’s that sticky issue of copyright. On the other hand, the Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco was the center of a lot of the early hippie action – Rolling Stone magazine’s West Coast origins no doubt sprang from its motions – and the opening of the East Coast hall simply amplified that role. The Fillmore’s concert posters, we should note, remain graphic icons of the era.

In retrospect, who would have expected John Lennon rather than Bob Dylan to have emerged as the senior spokesman for the hippie movement? Or the Grateful Dead to be its longstanding house band? The Deadheads, after all, stayed loyal to the vibe.

So to continue this look, which bands or vocalists would you pick for your Top Ten list of hippie experience? (And forget the ones you think should be there – go for your gut reaction, please. If no one else has ever heard of them, all the better.)




  1. I’m glad you didn’t ask for a fixed number! For me: The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin (Let’s just go with Big Brother & The Holding Company), The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel (to an extent), Fairport Convention, Mason Proffit, various combinations of CSN and/or especially Y, Jefferson Airplane, Ry Cooder, Clapton (in various combinations), Dylan (of course), Otis Redding, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Judy Collins, Melanie, Arlo Guthrie (where would we be without Alice? Remember Alice?), The Band. And the odd ones, too, like Larry Norman.

    Those are the ones that come to mind right now, and I realize, looking at the list, that they’re not terribly obscure. We can throw in groups I’ve never heard, like The Heavenly Breakfast, but which I’m certain belong in there.

    I may be back with more, later on. But a key thing too is that people *made* music at the time. Just about everyone had a guitar, a harmonica, a banjo, or a book and their hands to use as a drum. Music was, in that sense, rather democratic and democratizing–nobody worries about copyright when you’re just trading licks.

    • Oh. You *did* specify a number. In point of fact, I think one is enough. If you heard “If you’re going to San Francisco” and it stirred your soul, that would be enough. Feeling yourself convicted by “Two Hangmen” or “Ohio” would be enough.

      Music was almost certainly not a sufficient defining element, but it may well have been a necessary one…

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