What Happened to the Hippies?
I have to confess that I have always wanted to be a hippie. I am drawn to the free feeling and peacefulness that hippies represent. Although I dress in modern clothes, I once had a friend tell me out of the blue that I should have been a hippie, she said that I radiated a kind of peaceful earthiness that made her think of a hippie. Although I did grow up in the 70’s, I was too young at the time be a hippie. I always felt connected to what a hippie represented though, and to me this meant peace, love, unity and some cool threads. In actuality there was more to being a hippie, including drugs like LSD and marijuana, communal living and radical political beliefs.
I have often wondered where hippies originated; what happened to them and whether their counterculture has had a lasting effect on the world.
Origin of Hippies
Here is what I learned; hippies of the 60’s most likely originated from a group that first emerged in Germany between 1896 and 1908 when a youth group began to reject organized social and cultural clubs that centered on German Folk music. Instead they encouraged amateur music, creative dress, communal living and outdoor activities like camping and hiking. Inspired by the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, Goethe, Hermann Hesse, and Eduard Baltzer this group, called “Wandervogel” (migratory bird), attracted thousands of young Germans who rejected the rapid trend toward urbanization and yearned for the pagan, back-to-nature spiritual life of their ancestors. During the early 1900’s the Wandervogel settled around the United States bringing these values with them. Many Wandervogel were attracted to California where they could follow their lifestyle in a warm climate.
What was the Hippy Ideology?
Over time, groups of American youth adopted the beliefs and practices of the Wandervogel and these groups grew in numbers. These groups would gain popularity and come to be called hippies. Both the words "hip" and "hep" come from Black culture and denote awareness. To say, "I'm hip to the situation,” means, "I am aware of the situation." Thus the word "hippie" means "one who is aware," and expanded awareness was a goal of the movement.
These groups of hippies continued to grow in numbers especially in San Francisco and New York’s Greenwich Village. It was during this time that hippies as a counterculture movement began to:
- reject established institutions
- criticize middle class values
- oppose nuclear weapons and the Vietnam War
- embrace aspects of Eastern philosophy such as Buddhism, meditation and yoga
- champion sexual liberation
- follow a vegetarian and eco-friendly way of life
- promote the use of psychedelic drugs, which they believed expanded one's consciousness, and created intentional communities or communes
- use alternative arts, street theatre, folk music, and psychedelic rock as a part of their lifestyle and as a way of expressing their feelings, their protests and their vision of the world and life
- oppose political and social orthodoxy, choosing a gentle and nondoctrinaire ideology that favored peace, love and personal freedom
What happened to the hippies from the 60’s?
While many hippies made a long-term commitment to the lifestyle, others "sold out" during the 1980s and became part of the materialist, consumer culture. Hippies may still be found in bohemian enclaves around the world, while others settled down to have families but remained true to the hippie ideology through their lifestyle choices and community involvement. We have all benefited from the positive effects of this era.
Drug side effects
Let’s not however, forget the drugs that were an integral part of the hippie culture for many but not all hippies. These drugs had negative side effects and could even result in death. Sadly, many musicians of that era died from using drugs, some of these include:
Jimi Hendrix died of a barbiturate overdose. Janis Joplin died from a heroine, alcohol and valium overdose. Jim Morrison died of a heart attack brought on by heroine use. Who drummer Keith Moon, Rolling Stones guitarist Brian Jones, Grateful Dead guitarist and singer Jerry Garcia all died from drugs or complications caused by chronic drug use.
What remains today?
Lasting Effects of the Hippies
Laws that protect the environment became part of the U.S. Government and global agenda. Earth day, the Green Movement and concern about a person’s carbon footprint all have roots in the hippie culture. Interest in organic food, herbal remedies and vitamins all go back to this time. Due to the hippie movement we now have acceptance of multiple personal lifestyle choices including acceptance of unmarried couples, rights of homosexual, bisexual and transsexuals. Frankness regarding sexual matters also originates with this movement. Hippies, like their Wandervogel predecessors, encouraged a wide range of clothing options that live on today. The option for men to wear mustaches, beards and long hair was not only a fashion statement, but a form of rebellion against the norms and expectations of society, and has remained acceptable due to the hippie movement. Many people now attend free music festivals. The open access to information that the Internet offers is also believed to stem from Hippie influences. Websites like Napster, which offered music for free to all, and Wikileaks, which promotes government transparency all, share a connection to the hippie influence and mindset.
The Legacy of Hippie Style
The legacy of Hippie style is alive and well. I am often amazed at how the looks of this era seem to come back year after year. The fashion of the time signified rebellion to authority and a feeling of living simply. Many of the clothes were hand made. Today we can see many celebrities and fashion designers following the legacy of hippie styles. There seems to be a lingering connection to the psyche of the hippie era, which is reflected in the clothes still being worn today. Some catalogs that that sell these styles include Free People and Sundance Catalog. 'Boho' is the updated term used to describe the hippie look today.
- Tune in, turn on!
- America, Love it or Leave it.
- Get it? Got it! Good!
- Flower Power
- Far out
- Drop acid not bombs
- Don’t be part of the problem, be part of the solution.
- Far out man
- Love the one you’re with
- Peace out bro
Hippie Music Then and Now
The explosion of music during the hippie era was like none other. There were many great musicians that wrote meaningful heartfelt songs that offered a strong message and emotional connection to the listener. Writer, Skip Stone states, in his book Hippies A to Z “These songs had an impact on the consciousness of not just hippies but all society. Some of these songs also broke new ground musically. One way or another they hit us deeply, made us think, made us dream, made us feel as one people” Some critics believe that the music world has not produced song writers and musicians of the same caliber since. It is a testament to the long lasting effect of the message and music of this time that we still listen to many of the songs today. (see more about hippie music today)
Bob Dylan singing "Blowin' in the Wind" which became an anthem for the US civil rights and anti-war movements
Woodstock, A famous hippie rock festival
Questions & Answers
© 2011 Tracy Lynn Conway