I try to balance the edgier news with calmer stories. I know that my Dialogues With The Devil serialization may appear as a series of evil storm clouds, but I see it as possessing somewhat of a gothic and even humorous tone with the whole idea of Lucifer and Michael the Archangel pitching a fit with each other over the fate of our earth (Terra) by penning letters to one another. What happens to us after death? Do our actions while alive play a role? Surely we’re all at least a bit curious for the answers that will only come with – the final episode.
In a similar vein as the old Vincent Price movies that a boy would take his date to so she would be scared and cuddle closer, the story could also be eerily reminiscent of the goofy 1966-1971 Dark Shadows soap opera (which I loved and watched regularly).
More seriously, it’s like happening upon a fatal car accident on the highway and not wanting to look but looking anyway. One way is looking to purposely be chilled in order to cuddle closer to loved ones. The other way is looking – and seeing – to make aware, to make more cautious and courageous toward an extended journey along life’s road for us all. Courage and fright. Yin and yang. Broken lines dividing the highway. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
Life is like that, not all roses but not all fertilizer either. It’s good to consider that roses rise from out of fertilizer. We can’t have the bouquet scent of one without the other, nor can we have either without stopping to take notice, to inhale the moment.
By now, I’m sure many are wondering what this all has to do with hippies. Flowers? Yin and yang? A bummer?
I worry a bit that I may seem like a bummer sometimes with my posts that remind us of the other side of this highway that we all travel.
So, I thought I would post a much lighter (still heavy as in “heavy, man!” though not heavy as in “bummer, man!”), brief history of hippies that I wrote back in December in an email response to my lovely sister, who called me a hippie after receiving a new photo of me last Christmas [see photo at: Helplessly Hoping…for each other]. In fact, most of my family and friends have been calling me a hippie lately. I don’t mind. I just want to dance!
Hippies are mostly to the left. Politically, I’m non-partisan. I can’t for the life of me understand why people would poke themselves into a political box, right or left. It’s like convincing oneself that truth only exists inside one’s four walls and everyone outside is stupid and just doesn’t get it. How is it possible for each of all of the political boxes out there to contain exclusive rights to the truth? It’s not.
If the American election were held today, however, I would vote for Ron Paul. He represents nearest to my political beliefs, although I’m not in the Libertarian box. I’m not in the hippie box either, despite the below photo which was taken within the four walls of a carnival photo booth in 1973 when I was eighteen. 🙂
I researched the meaning of hippie recently with fascinating results. The word itself, according to Malcolm X’s 1965 autobiography, comes from white zoot-suiters in early twentieth-century Harlem who loved “Negro” music and fashion and wanted to associate with them at clubs — to be hip like the Negroes.
Jack Kerouac, in his iconic 1955 book, On The Road, stated it quite starkly: “I walked with every muscle aching among the lights of 27th and Welton in the Denver colored section, wishing I were a Negro, feeling that the best the white world had offered was not enough ecstasy for me, not enough life, joy, kicks, darkness, music, not enough night“.
Negroes like Malcolm X referred to these jumpin’ whities as “hippies.”
Similarly, there were many cover versions of Negro music by whites such as Elvis, Pat Boone, The Beatles, British Invasion musicians like The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton and The Animals. They played the hell out of Negro music in order to live the Negroes’ hell. Sounds fairly messed up to me at this point in my life.
Brett Dennen, one of the newest hippie musicians, released a single in 2006 entitled “There Is So Much More,” in which he sang “I wonder how so many can be in so much pain / while others don’t seem to feel a thing / then I curse my whiteness / and I feel so damned depressed / in a world with suffering / why should I be so blessed.” It’s an incredibly beautiful and well-written song with undeniable talent at its heart. I just think his lyrics are somewhat off-center from the true hippie path.
Kerouac embraced the art of pain by seeing the Negro world as blessed with ”life, joy, kicks, darkness, music” and plenty of “night.” He saw the life of whites as boring. True hippies, like Kerouac, just wanna dance.
Brennen sees the non-white’s world as full of too much pain and suffering and calls the life of whites “blessed.” He sees inequality and seems to want to extinguish the pain from which the joy pushes it’s way out of in order to equal things out. People are, I believe, equal in nature — by common birth, regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation, but there is no equaling out of pain or joy. There’s joy in life, along with the pain — or there’s no joy. No fertilizer. No roses.
Aside from the word itself, there’s the edenic, hippie lifestyle which begins (no surprise) with the garden of Eden before the fall of Adam and Eve. They were nude, ate fruits, veggies and basically a vegan diet. There were no barbers in Eden, so long flowing hair was the norm. After the fall, clothiers, meat-eaters and barbers set up shops.
Individuals who thought that an Eden-like, pre-fall existence more perfectly manifested the ideal of living a Godly life began to congregate. These congregations, which eventually included some of the first-century Gnostic groups, worshiped God through nudism, eating and living off the land and letting their hair grow free.
More groups followed, such as the Adamites and followers of mystics such as Meister Eckhart (c.1260-c.1327) in Middle-Ages Germany, as well as the Brothers and Sisters (Brethren) of the Free Spirit.
In the late nineteenth century, groups formed in Germany such as the lebensreform (life-reform) movement.
Many of them immigrated to America in the early twentieth century. They mainly congregated in various canyons near Los Angeles such as Topanga and Laurel Canyons where many counterculture musicians such as The Doors, Alice Cooper, Randy California of Spirit, Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills and Nash later hung out. They called themselves the Nature Boys, living off the land, practicing nudity and wearing their hair long — free spirits, all of them.
The two most famous Nature Boys were eden ahbez (he purposely used all lower-case letters in his name and created a last name beginning with “a” and ending with “z” — alpha and omega) and Gypsy Boots.
Eden, in 1947, penned the one-hit wonder of one-hit wonders ballad “Nature Boy,” first and uncomparably recorded in 1948 by Nat King Cole. The recordings followed by a seemingly unending stream of A-list artists such as Cher, Grace Slick, David Bowie, Shirley Bassey, Frank Sinatra, Jose Feliciano, Celine Dion, Johnny Mathis, Miles Davis, Stan Getz and George Benson to name a few.
The song has also been used on the soundtracks of film-after-film-after film, first in the 1948 movie The Boy With Green Hair (based on a 1946 Betty Beaton short story specifically about racial tension and prejudice toward Negroes but in the movie involving a war orphan whose hair suddenly turned green (color of nature), making him a greenish alien before his red, white and blue, war-supporting peers, somewhat as an American communist might have metaphorically appeared during that McCarthyist era of our country).
Since then, the song has been used in the 2001 films Angel Eyes with Jennifer Lopez and very beautifully in Moulin Rouge with Nicole Kidman. On last year’s American Idol program, Casey Abrams (to his mentors’ disbelief) performed a stunning rendering of the tune: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GNRvnoDt82E&feature=related .
The song is the essential ballad of the hippie ideal, written by the essential forerunner of the California, 1960s hippies — eden ahbez, and he was the most prominent link between the historical edenites and the contemporary hippies. Ironically, this song, so important to the history of hippies was written by a white artist and first recorded by a black artist, as contrasted to all the white performers of songs written by black artists at that time.
“Nature Boy” had only fourteen lines, one of which repeats: “the greatest thing you’ll ever learn / is just to love and be loved in return.” Hippie philosophy if ever there was!
It was lifted, however, from Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “Annabel Lee”: “And this maiden she lived with no other thought / than to love and be loved by me,” used prominently in the 1971 Clint Eastwood, Poe-esque thriller, Play Misty For Me. [see: To love and be loved: An ode to disevered soulmates and St. Valentine for more on “Nature Boy” and “Annabel Lee.”]
The second most famous Nature Boy was Gypsy Boots, who became a sort of spiritual presence for early California psychedelic groups such as The Seeds, The Grateful Dead and The Jefferson Airplane, performing on the same bill with many of them at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Both eden and Gypsy Boots became gurus of sorts during the psychedelic hippie era. Eden died tragically in a car accident in 1995 at the age of 86. Gypsy Boots died in 2004 just days shy of 90.
Afterwards, and presently, “Stevie” Boots became the spiritual inheritor of the hippie mantel. He now gives 15-minute consultations each morning at sunrise for a modest contribution of one blueberry-pomegranate croissant, one banana and a Grande Cafe Americano, no space. 🙂
“Peace, Love and Happiness” and “long beautiful hair” throughout 2012 to my lovely sister “of the free spirit” and her two groovy daughters, son and granddaughter.
For more fun with the daze of hippies, see: Revolution du Jour and Another Slice of American Pie ; Malcolm X’s “The Ballot or the Bullet” ; and Dion: Life and Near-Death On The Long and Winding Road .
Much of this information on hippies, I found at: http://www.hippy.com/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=243 , which was excerpted from: Kennedy, Gordon. Children of the Sun; A Pictorial Anthology From Germany To California, 1883-1949. Nivaria Press, 1998.