In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed piece today, geezer rock guitarist Ted Nugent puts on a three-piece suit and utterly disses the summer of love as the summer of drugs. Many of his points related to drug abuse and premature death are valid, but I think Mr. Nugent is missing the point. The drugs, the free love, the mind altering intentions were the jewelry, the adornments, of the time. The summer of love was a cultural phenomenon. It was an expression of freedom. Kids attempting to change the course of their future. A way to delay turning into their parents. Rebellion with a lower case “r.”
Yes, it went too far eventually. Acid and acid rock were found to be debilitating. American music quickly morphed from acid rock to a mellower countrified, acoustic sound, right around the tipping point time of Altamont.
“Tune in, turn on and drop out” was Timothy Leary’s call to arms for the summer of love. At my college, our tribal mantra was “Get as loose as you can without falling apart.” Kids will always need to be free, to stretch their wings. Drugs, alcohol and various lawbreaking devices will always be expressions of freedom. The adornments will change (read piercing and tattoos), but the need to express freedom will not.
The summer of love culture was one of acceptance, inclusion, freedom and getting along. Some were free to make poor choices and they did. Jimi, Janis, Jim and Pig Pen may not have lived long enough to write an Op-Ed piece, but I’m betting their expressions of freedom, their art, outlast those of Mr. Nugent.