The Summer of Love Experience: Music

 This is the fifth in a six-part series on The Summer of Love, inspired by The Summer of Love Experience exhibit at the deYoung Museum in San Francisco.


Chuck Berry set off a time bomb in 1957 that took a decade to fully detonate. In the intervening years, Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs brought the social consciousness of Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger to a new generation; Motown and Stax artists blew gaping holes through music’s boundaries; and The Beatles and Beach Boys filled the world with strange, wondrous new sounds.

It’s hard to hear the phrase “The Summer of Love” without thinking about music. More than just a pivotal year in music, 1967 marked the awakening of a new dimension in music that is still being explored. The only completely original form of music created after that season, hip-hop, uses looping and sampling technology that can be traced back to psychedelic sonic experimentation.

On June 18, 1967 Jimi Hendrix kicked off the Summer of Love down the coast from San Francisco in Monterey, along with some of San Francisco’s greatest talent – Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother & The Holding Company, and The Grateful Dead, all of whom either had or would release their debut albums within the year. Other artists who released their first albums within a year on either side of the summer of love include James Taylor, Randy Newman, Joni Mitchell, The Band, Fairport Convention, Fleetwood Mac, Buffalo Springfield, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Cream, Sly & The Family Stone, The Doors, Traffic, Os Mutantes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, Velvet Underground, and David Bowie. The sounds on those albums were not incremental steps forward – they were staggering leaps. They moved ahead at the speed of sound. You could hear the foundations of popular music creaking. 

On June 1, 1967 The Beatles released their groundbreaking album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Three nights later Jimi Hendrix opened his show with the title track.

Guitars squealed in frightening, painful, uncontrollable, ecstatic, inescapable new ways. Manipulation of sound was as important as any other part of the performance. Grace Slick and Janis Joplin sang with a ferocity that their foremothers had not.

It’s hard to believe that music once had such impact. A new song from The Temptations or Rolling Stones sent ripples across the globe as a generation experienced immediate mass communication in a way that hadn’t been possible before. This music belonged to a new global community, especially to the generation making the transition from adolescent to adult.  

Music reverberates deepest with people having their first taste of love. Not all songs are love songs but when you’re falling in love for the first time they all sound that way. When all-encompassing love evolves from fantasy to reality it feels like nothing can stop it. It feels like there ain’t no mountain high enough. It makes you feel like a natural woman. It feels like all you need is love.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: