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The counterculture of the 1960s refers to a period between 1960 and 1973[1] that began in the United States as a reaction against the conservative social norms of the 1950s, the political conservatism (and perceived social repression) of the Cold War period, and the US government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam.[2][3]

As the 1960s progressed, widespread tensions developed in American society that tended to flow along generational lines regarding the war in Vietnam, race relations, sexual mores, women's rights, traditional modes of authority, experimentation with psychedelic drugs and a predominantly materialist interpretation of the American Dream. New cultural forms emerged, including the pop music of English band the Beatles, which rapidly evolved to shape and reflect the youth culture's emphasis on change and experimentation.

Social anthropologist Jentri Anders has observed that a number of freedoms were endorsed within a countercultural community which she lived in and studied: "freedom to explore one’s potential, freedom to create one’s Self, freedom of personal expression, freedom from scheduling, freedom from rigidly defined roles and hierarchical statuses…" Additionally, Anders believed these people wished to modify children's education so that it didn't discourage "aesthetic sense, love of nature, passion for music, desire for reflection, or strongly marked independence…"

Civil Rights Movement

Main article: American Civil Rights Movement (1955-1968)
See also: Timeline of the American Civil Rights Movement

British Invasion

Main article: British Invasion

The British Invasion was the term applied by media - and subsequently by consumers - to the influx of rock and roll, beat and pop performers from the United Kingdom who became popular in the United States, Australia & Canada. The classic British Invasion period was 1964 to 1967,[4] but the term has also been applied to later "waves" of UK artists that had significant impact on the North American entertainment market. Template:Section-stub

Free Speech Movement

Main article: Free Speech Movement

In one view, the 1960s counterculture largely originated on college campuses. The 1964 Free Speech Movement at the University of California, Berkeley, which had its roots in the Civil Rights Movement of the American South, was one early example. At Berkeley a socially privileged group of students began to identify themselves as having interests as a class that were at odds with the interests and practices of the University and its corporate sponsors. However, other rebellious young people who had never been college students also contributed to counterculture development. The beatnik café and bar scene was a tributary stream.

New Left

Main article: New Left

The New Left is a term used in different countries to describe left-wing movements that occurred in the 1960s and 1970s. They differed from earlier leftist movements that had been more oriented towards labour activism, and instead adopted a broader definition of political activism commonly called social activism. The U.S. "New Left" is associated with college campus mass protest movements and radical leftist movements. The British "New Left" was an intellectually driven movement which attempted to correct the perceived errors of "Old Left" parties in the post-WWII period. The movements began to wind down in the 1970s, when activists either committed themselves to party projects, developed social justice organizations, moved into identity politics or alternative lifestyles or became politically inactive.

Anti-war Movement

Main article: Opposition to the Vietnam War
See also: Students for a Democratic Society, Free Speech Movement, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Vietnam Day Committee, National Coordinating Committee to End the War in Vietnam, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Youth International Party, 1968 Democratic National Convention, Chicago Seven, and Kent State shootings

Opposition to the Vietnam War began in 1964 on United States college campuses. Student activism became a dominant theme among the baby boomers, growing to include many Americans. Exemptions and deferments for the middle and upper classes resulted in the induction of a disproportionate number of poor, working-class, and minority registrants. Countercultural works such as MacBird by Barbara Garson encouraged a spirit of nonconformism and anti-establishmentarianism. By 1968, a majority of Americans opposed the war.[5]

LSD and other Psychedelics

See also: History of LSD

Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters helped shape the developing character of the 1960s counterculture when they embarked on a cross-country voyage during the summer of 1964 in a psychedelic school bus named "Further." Beginning in 1959, Kesey had volunteered as a research subject for medical trials financed by the CIA's MK ULTRA project. These trials tested the effects of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and other psychedelic drugs. After the medical trials, Kesey continued experimenting on his own, and involved many close friends; collectively they became known as "The Merry Pranksters." The Pranksters visited Harvard LSD proponent Timothy Leary at his Millbrook, New York retreat, and experimentation with LSD and other psychedelic drugs, primarily as a means for internal reflection and personal growth, became a constant during the Prankster trip. The Pranksters created a direct link between the 1950s Beat Generation and the 1960s psychedelic scene; the bus was driven by Beat icon Neal Cassady, Beat poet Allen Ginsberg was onboard for a time, and they dropped in on Cassady's friend, Beat author Jack Kerouac—though Kerouac declined participation in the Prankster scene. After the Pranksters returned to California, they popularized the use of LSD at so-called "Acid Tests", which initially were held at Kesey's home in La Honda, California, and then at many other West Coast venues. Experimentation with LSD and other psychedelic drugs became a major component of 1960s counterculture, influencing philosophy, art, music and styles of dress.

Black Power Movement

Main article: Black Power

Hippies

Main article: Hippies

In 1967 Scott McKenzie's rendition of the song "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" brought as many as 100,000 young people from all over the world to celebrate San Francisco's "Summer of Love." While the song had originally been written by John Phillips of The Mamas & The Papas to promote the June, 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, it became an instant hit worldwide (#4 in the United States, #1 in Europe) and quickly transcended its original purpose. San Francisco's Flower Children, also called "hippies" by local newspaper columnist Herb Caen, adopted new styles of dress, experimented with psychedelic drugs, lived communally and developed a vibrant music scene. When people returned home from "The Summer of Love" these styles and behaviors spread quickly from San Francisco and Berkeley to all major U.S. cities and European capitals. A counterculture movement gained momentum in which the younger generation began to define itself as a class that aimed to create a new kind of society. Some hippies formed communes to live as far outside of the established system as possible. This aspect of the counterculture rejected active political engagement with the mainstream and, following the dictate of Timothy Leary to "turn on, tune in, and drop out", hoped to change society by dropping out of it. Looking back on his own life (as a Harvard professor) prior to 1960, Leary interpreted it to have been that of "an anonymous institutional employee who drove to work each morning in a long line of commuter cars and drove home each night and drank martinis .... like several million middle-class, liberal, intellectual robots."

The hippie ethos posed a considerable impediment to the success of alternative movements growing within the counterculture. At the extremes, "doing one's own thing" could lead to rejection of values imposed from without and adamant avoidance of other people's expectations. As a result, the individual tends to be isolated, which may or may not be much of a problem for that individual – but it does threaten collaborative actions or accomplishments.

As members of the hippie movement grew older and moderated their lives and their views, and especially after all US involvement in the Vietnam War ground to a halt in the mid 1970s, the counterculture was largely absorbed by the mainstream, leaving a lasting impact on philosophy, morality, music, art, lifestyle and fashion.

Sexual revolution

Main article: Sexual revolution

Beginning in San Francisco in the mid 1960s, a new culture of "free love" arose, with millions of young people embracing the hippie ethos and preaching the power of love and the beauty of sex as a natural part of ordinary life. By the start of the 1970s it was acceptable for colleges to allow co-educational housing where male and female students mingled freely. This aspect of the counterculture continues to impact modern society.

In Europe

The counterculture movement took hold in Western Europe, with London, Amsterdam, Paris and Berlin rivaling San Francisco and New York as counterculture centers.[citation needed] One manifestation of this was the general strike that took place in Paris in May 1968, which nearly toppled the French government. Another was the German student movement of the 1960s.

In Central Europe, young people adopted the song "San Francisco" as an anthem for freedom, and it was widely played during Czechoslovakia's 1968 "Prague Spring," a premature attempt to break away from Soviet repression.

As this newly emergent youth class began to criticize the established social order, new theories about cultural and personal identity began to spread, and traditional non-Western ideas – particularly with regard to religion, social organization and spiritual enlightenment – were more frequently embraced.

In Mexico

Main article: La Onda Chicana
See also: Tlatelolco massacre

Rock music was tied into the youth revolt of the 1960s, Mexico City as well as northern cities such as Monterrey, Nuevo Laredo, Ciudad Juarez, and Tijuana, were exposed to American music. Many Mexican rock stars became involved in the counterculture. The three-day Festival Rock y Ruedas de Avándaro, held in 1971, was organized in the valley of Avándaro near the city of Toluca, a town neighboring Mexico City, and became known as "The Mexican Woodstock". Nudity, drug use, and the presence of the American flag scandalized conservative Mexican society to such an extent that the government clamped down on rock and roll performances for the rest of the decade. The festival, marketed as proof of Mexico's modernization, was never expected to attract the masses it did, and the government had to evacuate stranded attendees en masse at the end. This occurred during the era of President Luis Echeverría, an extremely repressive era in Mexican history. Anything that could possibly be connected to the counterculture or student protests was prohibited from being broadcast on public airwaves, with the government fearing a repeat of the student protests of 1968. Few bands survived the prohibition; though the ones that did, like Three Souls in My Mind (now El Tri), remained popular due in part to their adoption of Spanish for their lyrics, but mostly as a result of a dedicated underground following. While Mexican rock groups were eventually able to perform publicly by the mid-1980s, the ban prohibiting tours of Mexico by foreign acts lasted until 1991.

Feminism

Main article: Second-wave feminism

The role of women as full-time homemakers in industrial society was challenged in 1963, when American feminist Betty Friedan published The Feminine Mystique, giving momentum to the women's movement and influencing the second wave of feminism.

Alternative media

Main article: Alternative media

Underground newspapers sprang up in most cities and college towns, serving to define and communicate the range of phenomena that defined the counterculture: radical political opposition to "The Establishment," colorful experimental (and often explicitly drug-influenced) approaches to art, music and cinema, and uninhibited indulgence in sex and drugs as a symbol of freedom. The papers also often included comic strips, from which the underground comix were an outgrowth.

Music

See also: Music history of the United States (1960s and 70s)

During the early 1960s, Britain's new generation of blues rock gained popularity in its homeland and cult fame in the United States. Folk singers like Peter, Paul & Mary ("Puff the Magic Dragon") and Bob Dylan (The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan) influenced the British groups, and popular music became more closely aligned with the counterculture.

An international sound developed that moved towards an electric, psychedelic version of rock. In 1962 (see 1962 in music), The Beatles (Please Please Me) emerged from England and popularized British rock, while The Beach Boys' success brought harmony-laden surf music to the forefront of the American scene. With country and soul musicians unable to maintain their hipness, both faded from mass consciousness.

The Beatles went on to become the most prominent commercial exponents of the "psychedelic revolution" (e.g., Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band) in the late 1960s. American bands that achieved commercial success include the The Mamas & the Papas (If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears), Big Brother and the Holding Company, (Cheap Thrills), Jimi Hendrix (Are You Experienced?), Jefferson Airplane (Surrealistic Pillow) and The Doors (The Doors). The Grateful Dead are considered the first jam band of the 1960s. Psychedelic rock came to dominate the popular music scene for both black and white audiences.

While the hippie psychedelic scene was born in California, a more (?)edgy and ?hardcore scene emerged in New York City that put more emphasis on avant-garde and art music. Bands such as The Velvet Underground came out of this underground scene predominantly centered at Andy Warhol's legendary Factory club. The Velvet Underground have now been seen as one of the most influential bands in music history and developed the protopunk sound that would lead to punk rock.

As the psychedelic revolution progressed, lyrics grew more complex and long playing albums enabled artists to make more in-depth statements than could be made in a single song. Even rules governing single songs were stretched--singles lasting longer than three minutes emerged for the first time (Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" was the first of these).

Though not unheard of before the 1960s, the idea that popular music could and should lead social change came into its own during this period. Most existing musical styles were influenced, and new musical genres came into being, including heavy metal, punk rock, electronic music and hip hop.

Film

Main article: 1960s in film

The Counterculture Revolution also had a significant effect on cinema. Movies began to break social taboos against explicit depiction of sex and violence causing both controversy and fascination. They turned increasingly dramatic, unbalanced, and hectic as the cultural revolution was starting. This was the beginning of the New Hollywood era that dominated the next decade in theatres and revolutionized the movie industry. Films such as Arthur Penn's Bonnie and Clyde (1967), Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), and Roman Polanski's Rosemary's Baby (film) (1968) are examples of this new, edgy direction. Films of this time also focused on the changes happening in the world. Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider (1969) focused on the drug culture of the time. Movies also became more sexually explicit, such as Roger Vadim's Barbarella (1968) as the sexual revolution progressed.

Environmentalism

Main article: Environmentalism

Counterculture environmentalists were quick to grasp the early (i.e., 1970s) analyses of the reality and the import of the Hubbert "peak oil" prediction. More broadly they saw that the dilemmas of energy derivation would have implications for geo-politics, lifestyle, environment, and other dimensions of modern life.

Technology

In his 1986 essay From Satori to Silicon Valley, cultural historian Theodore Roszak pointed out that Apple Computer emerged from within the West Coast counterculture. Roszak outlines the Apple computer's development, and the evolution of 'the two Steves' (Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, the Apple's developers) into businessmen. Like them, many early computing and networking pioneers – after discovering LSD and roaming the campuses of UC Berkeley, Stanford, and MIT in the late 60s and early 70s – would emerge from this caste of social "misfits" to shape the modern world.

The counterculture had representatives in the sciences, the trades, business, and law. Many counterculture participants were stable, dedicated, and persistent. Much was done in the area of the human interface with the natural environment (in connection with science, technologies, community planning, parks, and other spheres). While ad hoc action groups sprang up frequently, usually fading away just as quickly, some established themselves as ongoing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) dedicated to working toward particular goals. The counterculture gave rise to many lasting NGOs.

Legacy

The legacy of the 1960s Counterculture is still actively contested in debates that are sometimes framed, in the U.S., in terms of a "culture war." Jay Walljasper, a commentator and the editor of Utne Reader — though not himself from the so-called '60s Generation, and having grown up in American-Heartland farming country — has written, "From the great gyrations of the counterculture would come a movement dedicated to the greening of America. While many once-ardent advocates of radical ideas now live in the suburbs and vote Republican, others have held fast to the dream of creating a new kind of American society and they've been joined by fresh streams of younger idealists."

References

  1. Anderson, Terry H. (1995). The Movement and the Sixties. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195104579. 
  2. Hirsch, E.D. (1993). The Dictionary of Cultural Literacy. Houghton Mifflin. ISBN 0-395-65597-8. p 419. "Members of a cultural protest that began in the U.S. in the 1960s and affected Europe before fading in the 1970s...fundamentally a cultural rather than a political protest."
  3. "Rockin' At the Red Dog: The Dawn of Psychedelic Rock," Mary Works Covington, 2005.
  4. Sweers, Britta (2005). Electric Folk: The Changing Face of English Traditional Music. Oxford University Press, 39. ISBN 0195158784. 
  5. Gallup, Alec; Frank Newport. The Gallup Poll: Public Opinion 2005. Rowman & Littlefield, 315-318. ISBN 0742552586. 

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