LF Excerpts: Music, Spirit & Protest: The Hippie Idea & Climbing Poetree

Can music make a movement? This week legendary music producer Danny Goldberg takes us back to a time when all you need is love was not meant to be ironic. Danny will reflect on the 50 years since the summer of love and go in search of the lost chord the title of his new book. Then from today's music movement scene, Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman of Climbing Poetree talk about their new album Intrinsic and perform live in studio. 

Laura Flanders: This summer marks the 50th anniversary of the summer of love, the hippie revolution. It's also the year that Muhammad Ali was convicted of failing to report for the draft and Dr. King came out against the Vietnam war. In 1967, Stokley Carmichael championed black power. Rebellions in Newark and Watts left those communities in flames. In a time not unlike our own, the establishment was on the rocks it seemed but its critics spoke in no single voice. Would change come through love, through rage, through be-ins or sit-ins? Long time music executive and author Danny Goldberg has returned to 1967 in his new book In Search of the Lost Chord. What was lost, what was found and why go back there? Goldberg is also the former CEO of Air America radio and the author of Dispatches from the Culture Wars: How the Left Lost Teen Spirit. Danny, welcome back to the program. Glad to have you.

Danny Goldberg: Hi. Thanks for having me.

Laura Flanders: Good to see you. Were you a hippie? Do you think of yourself as having been a hippie?

Danny Goldberg: I identified with the hippies. It was a funny word. It was really a media creation of some columnist in San Francisco and people always had mixed feelings about calling themselves hippies at the time but in retrospect, of the different tribes as they said that existed then, I'd probably identified a little more with the hippies than the others.

Laura Flanders: So what did the media get wrong in our understanding of hippie, that word, media creation or not?

Danny Goldberg: Well, I think over the years it's become dumbed down to a kind of cartoon version that consists of just long hair on guys and slang like "groovy" and "cool" and "far out" and the Cheech and Chong type stoners and those things were part of it. People did get stoned. The guys did have long hair. We saw the Beatles were attractive to girls with longer hair so we all said "Let's try that."

Laura Flanders: Reason enough. 

Danny Goldberg: But to me, at its core and the subtitle of the book is 1967 and the Hippie Idea and why I coined that phrase was that behind those symbols which very quickly became passe, co-opted by commercialism and predators, behind it to me was a spiritual movement, a reaction against materialism and in some part for some people a reaction against the religions they were born into, but one of the reasons to go back in time, hopefully not just nostalgia although there are people of my generation that we do like kind of reliving those moments, is to identify human things that aren't dependent on the 24 hour news cycle or the fashions of the day that are the same really in some ways from decade to decade and century to century and that ebb and flow in mysterious currents. And the idea that there was more to life than just how much money you made or what university degree you got was a revelation to a lot of people in the sixties which was coming out after all of the fifties which were known as the sort of Mad Men materialistic time and between the suspicion of authority that was bred by the war in Vietnam which for many of us was incomprehensible, the upheaval involving race relations, trying to finally remedy this horrible legacy of segregation, slavery in the country, the early stirrings of feminism and the gay rights movement which came a little bit later in terms of the public eye but were obviously bubbling up in the culture at that time and the sudden availability of psychedelics. It was a lot going on. 

Laura Flanders: Well, so that goes back to sort of what's the relevance of that moment to this one and one of the things you didn't mention was the way that this hippie idea was also a reaction against I think you described it as the grim grounded leftists of that era.

Danny Goldberg: Well, I think that's another truth is that there was sort of the existentialist Jean Paul Sartre, Camus, beatnik, black and white aesthetic, stern, grumpy hipness that was a reaction to the post-war period and which contributed greatly to the intellectual life of the West, but it still felt limited to a lot of people and one of the things about the hippie era was the embrace of joy and the Beatles song All You Need is Love was not meant ironically.

Laura Flanders: Came out in '67, right.

Danny Goldberg: It wasn't a jingle. It came out in '67. It was the first satellite broadcast in history of any kind. I think a billion people saw it and John Lennon later said he wrote it as propaganda in the same spirit that he'd written Give Peace a Chance and the idea that it was okay to be happy and that didn't mean you were stupid was to me as a kid a revelation and I think that the tension and the mixture of the left and the psychedelic movement at its best was that lost chord in my title, but those two energies mostly were at each other's throats and a lot of the political people thought that anybody that was too involved with meditation or tripping was kind of abdicating the responsibility to fix the world and a lot of people in the psychedelic world, Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead in particular, felt that the anger and polarization coming from some of the anti-war people was not actually going to solve the problem. It was going to perpetuate the polarity and the truth is my mind is somewhere in between and the quest is to balance these two things.

You can't as I think Joan Baez said be effectively screaming for peace through clenched teeth, that there has to be an inner peace in order to motivate others and you can't demonize and dehumanize your opponents and expect to win. On the other hand, if you're just thinking about yourself all the time, that's kind of ethically not okay.

Laura Flanders: And what difference did race make?

Danny Goldberg: When there's a lot of suffering in the world.

Laura Flanders: Because there were people inside the black power movement and the civil rights movement who didn't appreciate people talking about be-ins as opposed to sit-ins. They felt like it was some kind of white dig or just...

Danny Goldberg: Well, people a lot smarter than me haven't been able to summarize in a few sentences racial legacy of America which is one, again, informed by slavery and legal segregation and de facto segregation and things that go on right as we're speaking here now and unfortunately likely for some time to come, but it was a more complicated dynamic. There were dozens of different things going on at the same time. Certainly in the musical arena there was more merging of black and white. The Beatles and The Stones launched onto the world's stage covering Marvin Gaye songs other R&B songs. The Philmore shows, the psychedelic shows were very integrated because of the insistence of people like The Jefferson Airplane. There were people like BB King, Albert King, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, Sun Ra and many others were exposed to white hippie audiences. Otis Redding became a massive pop star as a result of being at the Monterey Pop Festival which also happened in '67 and Sly and the Family Stone was one of the few artists that was like ambidextrous. They were played on the R&B radio stations and on the rock stations and in Woodstock and in discos.

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