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 Grand 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 1970s was a happier time when hippies achieved many of their goals. For that reason. I believe the mid 1970s was a time of celebration, dancing and overindulging. The Disco scene united gays, blacks, Latinos and people from other social groups that were not that well united just a decade earlier. In the beginning it was a happy movement that started in underground clubs and gay bars located in former hippie centers of Chicago, New York and San Francisco. One of those early and historic Chicago discos was Dugan's Bistro also called Bistro Chicago at 420 N. Dearborn Street. Others opened around what is now called the Chicago Boystown neighborhood. Discos and gay bars openned also on Wells Street near Schiller Street in Chicago's Old Town.
So, one could say that "Sex, drugs and Rock & Roll" of the 1960s was replaced with "Sex, drugs and disco music" in the 1970s.
The disco movement burned itself out by the early 1980s and ended also in Chicago with the burning of disco records at a sports stadium. The idea came from a Chicago radio DJ. Similar events were held earlier elsewhere in 1950s against Rock & Roll music and in 1960s The Beatles' music. But those earlier ones were not as successful as that one in 1970s against disco music. Still, the free spirit of the 50s, 60s and 70s lives on.
And then, came the 1980s, which was a bleak decade marked by the spread of the 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 and ecological awareness. And it was towards the end on the 1990s that I was encouraged to create this Web site...
But in 1969, I went to Europe and ended up staying there for half a year. That experience helped me become more cosmopolitan and solved my draft problem because I forgot to register for it. But I missed a chance to go to Woodstock with my buddies, and sliding with them through the mud. But who would have guessed it would turn out to be such a historic event. Besides that, I was in Canada, England, Holland, Denmark and Poland. So, that was a lot more interesting and educational. My worst experience was in Poland where I was kept on the border for hours, had my luggage searched and had many personal things confiscated by a crooked Customs Officer. And after all that, I was made to pay a ridiculous costumes tax on used clothes. All this 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 those days. That 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. There were many more in England, Denmark and Holland. Life behind the Iron Curtain was like stepping into a time warp and travelling many decades back in time. But in spite of the initial bad experiences, life there wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. Best of all, it was very budget friendly. I wouldn't be able to compare it to any place because I don't know of any place where one could live so well on such a modest budget today. So, it turned out to be a good place to kick some bad habits and to repair the condition, in which my condition was in. I also learned a bit about Marxism, which I found had nothing to do with the Marx Brothers or Marks & Spencer. The best of all, the few bucks I got from home went a long way there, which is important no matter what ideology one followed.
Yes, I learned that Karol Marx was a romantic, who believed that the working class should have social benefits and more time to enjoy music, art and culture like he did. He was greatly influenced by Adam Smith, a well known 19-century Scottish Economist. Marx believed in globalization and that socialism would be good for highly developed and industrialized capitalist nations. He did not recommend socialism for developing countries like, for example Poland, Russia or India. Perhaps that's why it had failed behind the Iron Curtain, and caught on in neighboring Germany, Denmark, Finland and Sweden.
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, too. Many hippies returned to their family homes, graduated, got jobs, married, joined political parties, climbed up the ranks of the decked out world, became successful, joined the Rotary Club, became the establishment and became Yuppies. But not all hippies become Young Urban Professionals. Though many of us may not look like a hippies any more, many of us do remain hippies at heart. So, lets keep on truckin' and keep the (hippie) faith.
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