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1967-2007 Parallels: Uh, Really?

June 11, 2007

A few weeks ago the Chicago Tribune‘s Stevenson Swanson forwarded some comparisons of the U.S. in 1967 and 2007. With the “Summer of Love” in mind, here are some excerpts from his piece (especially from the beginning):


– “The generation that came of age in the 1960s will spend the coming months recalling a summer four decades ago, when rock music, drugs and sexual liberation fused to create the Summer of Love.”
– “From New York, where Janis Joplin’s psychedelic Porsche is on display at the Whitney Museum of Art, to the Bay area, where Joplin’s band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, will play at an anniversary tribute to the Monterey Pop music festival, the calendar will be flipped back to an earlier time that, in some ways, foreshadows the present:
*A Texan — Lyndon Johnson — was president.
*American troops were fighting an increasingly unpopular war.
*In California, the epicenter of the Summer of Love, an actor — Ronald Reagan — had recently been elected governor.”
– “The events for the 40th anniversary — a mark not usually celebrated as noisily as a 25th or 50th anniversary — might reflect the fact that the Baby Boomers who were teenagers or young adults in the summer of 1967 are now well into their 50s or 60s, and they don’t want to wait another 10 years to bask in the memories of their youth.”
” ‘It was a very special moment of optimism and idealism,’ said Amalie R. Rothschild, a photographer who amassed an archive of 20,000 photos of the era’s rock musicians, mainly from their performances at the legendary Fillmore East concert hall in New York’s East Village.”
– “But the similarities between 1967 and 2007 could be an equally important factor, said Jason Fine, deputy managing editor of Rolling Stone, which published its first issue in November 1967 and is celebrating its anniversary with three issues, including one devoted to the Summer of Love to be published in June.”
– ” ‘I think there are a lot of parallels between 2007 and 1967, culturally and politically,’ said Fine, citing a recent crop of protest songs by such performers as Norah Jones, Bright Eyes, Linkin Park and Randy Newman. ‘That’s one reason the Summer of Love is sort of worth paying attention to now.’ ”
– “Among other anniversary events planned for the coming months are a concert performance of ‘Hair’ by New York’s Public Theater, which presented the original production of the ‘tribal love rock musical’ in 1967; several CD releases, including a two-disc set of live performances from the three-day Monterey festival; and a documentary on cable channel VH1, ‘Monterey 40,’ about the landmark concert, where Jimi Hendrix set his guitar on fire and Pete Townshend of The Who smashed his to bits.”

The rest of the piece consists of an historical recounting of the events of that summer, and a few conclusory paragraphs on conservative disdain for the Summer of Love’s legacy.


Of course I love applying the lessons of the past to the present. But, other than the symmetry of forty years, what are the substantial virtues of comparing 1967 to 2007? I can barely understand how Rolling Stone, with its particular interest in music and aspects of popular culture, will find a lot of legitimate, non-trivial parallels.

And in accordance with the article’s introduction, will “the generation that came of age in the 1960s” really “spend the coming months recalling a summer four decades ago?” How will they be recalling that summer? Politically? Culturally? I just don’t see it. – TL


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One Comment
  1. One wonders exactly what canonizing the sixties all over again could have anything to do with except $$.

    So much of popular culture is about nostalgia nowadays — reselling things that have already sold well.

    I'm writing a piece now about the sexual revolution in which one of the themes is how one might escape the narrative of the sixties as a narrative of liberation, when clearly so many conservatives, and ironically so many radical feminists, saw it differently.


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