The Summer of Love was the summer of 1967 and was centered in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco. Thousands traveled there from all over the world as the hippie counterculture movement grew in popularity. Some were hippies, many were wanna-bees, and like many other rock culture events, a lot more claim to have been there than actually were.
The beginning of the Summer of Love was actually the Human Be-In at Golden Gate Park on January 14th. It was billed as “A Gathering of Tribes” and set the stage for the year. The Be-In was where Timothy Leary declared “turn on, tune in, drop out” and that pretty much described the underlying attitude. It was the first mass hippie gathering. Two young producers named James Rado and Gerome Ragni were there, let their hair grow with the rest, and captured some of the excitement in their musical “Hair” that is still being performed today.
John Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas wrote the song “San Francisco” that was originally supposed to be a promotion for The Monterey Pop Festival in June, but is remembered as The Summer of Love theme. It was recorded by Scott McKenzie and became a worldwide hit:
If you’re going to San Francisco,
be sure to wear some flowers in your hair…
If you come to San Francisco,
Summertime will be a love-in there.
The Summer of Love crowd peaked during the summer vacation season. Altogether, an estimated 100,000 hippies and others from around the world flocked to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, Berkeley and other San Francisco Bay Area cities to see what it was like to be a hippie.
Flower Power became one of the Summer of Love themes. Originating with some Haight-Ashbury children who wore flowers in their hair while selling paper flowers, the flower became a sign of peace and love, and Flower Power became the name of a political movement.
As the Summer ended, many of the attendees headed back to school. There they were seeds for the growing hippie movement. Some went the Leary way of turning on and tuning out, others went the Flower Power way of promoting love and peace through political movements.