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Counterculture Kaleidoscope

Musical and Cultural Perspectives on Late Sixties San Francisco

Nadya Zimmerman

Publication Year: 2010

Forty years after the fact, 1960s counterculture---personified by hippies, protest, and the Summer of Love---basks in a nostalgic glow in the popular imagination as a turning point in modern American history and the end of the age of innocence. Yet, while the era has come to be synonymous with rebellion and opposition, its truth is much more complex. In a bold reconsideration of the late sixties San Francisco counterculture movement, Counterculture Kaleidoscope takes a close look at the cultural and musical practices of that era. Addressing the conventional wisdom that the movement was grounded in rebellion and opposition, the book exposes two myths: first, that the counterculture was an organized social and political movement of progressives with a shared agenda who opposed the mainstream (dubbed "hippies"); and second, that the counterculture was an innocent entity hijacked by commercialism and transformed over time into a vehicle of so-called "hip consumerism." Seeking an alternative to the now common narrative, Nadya Zimmerman examines primary source material including music, artwork, popular literature, personal narratives, and firsthand historical accounts. She reveals that the San Francisco counterculture wasn't interested in commitments to causes and made no association with divisive issues---that it embraced everything in general and nothing in particular. "Astute and accessible, Counterculture Kaleidoscope provides thought-provoking insights into the historical, cultural and social context of the San Francisco counter-culture and its music scene, including discussions of Vietnam and student protest, the Haight-Ashbury Diggers, the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Altamont, and Charlie Manson. A must for students and scholars of socio-musical activity and for all of us to whom music matters." ---Sheila Whiteley, author of The Space Between the Notes: Rock and the Counter-Culture and Too Much Too Young: Popular Music, Age and Gender "The hippie counterculture has never garnered the scholarly attention accorded the new left and the black freedom struggle. Overviews of the period ritualistically mention it as part and parcel of that apparently incandescent era---the Sixties---but rarely capture its distinctiveness. Counterculture Kaleidoscope is a timely and provocative intervention in Sixties scholarship that significantly deepens our understanding of this important but understudied phenomenon." —Alice Echols, Associate Professor, University of Southern California, and author of Scars of Sweet Paradise: The Life and Times of Janis Joplin

Published by: University of Michigan Press


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Title Page and Copyright

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p. vii

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1. Refusing to Play, Pluralism, and Anything Goes: Defining the Counterculture

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pp. 1-21

In the American popular imagination, the sixties are remembered as a time of widespread political upheaval and social unrest, fueled by both fervency and idealism. The torchbearer of these mythologized sixties was an emergent youth culture, actively...

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2. The Outlaw Persona: Joplin, Big Brother, and Pluralism in Black and White

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pp. 22-51

From Henry David Thoreau to John Brown, James Dean to Malcolm X, the outlaw-rebel persona has been prominent in America’s cultural memory. It played a part in literary movements and western expansion and, for the counterculture, ignited...

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3. The Exotic Persona: Absorbing the Postcolonial Political Pill

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pp. 52-90

On September 2, 1945, Ho Chi Minh proclaimed Vietnam independent from its French colonizers. The French had ruled Indochina—including Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and the colonies of Tonkin, Annam, and Cochin China—for over ‹fty...

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4. The Natural Persona: Freedom, the Grateful Dead, and an Anticommercial Counterculture

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pp. 91-123

In July 1969, Columbia Pictures released the movie Easy Rider, cowritten by the ‹lm’s two starring actors, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper, directed by Dennis Hopper in his directorial debut, and aurally illustrated by a rock-and-roll soundtrack...

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5. The New Age Persona: Sex, Spirituality, and Escaping to the Now

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pp. 124-154

In February 1967, soon after the Human Be-In—where acid guru Timothy Leary uttered his “Tune in, turn on, drop out” phrase—Leary and poets Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg, along with comparative religion philosopher Alan Watts, met...

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6. Helter Skelter: Lessons from the End of the Counterculture

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pp. 155-175

In 1968, a relatively new band named Steppenwolf released their first album and earned huge popularity with the album’s hit track, “Born to Be Wild.” Taking advantage of the spotlight, the band quickly released their second album that same year,...


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pp. 177-206


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pp. 207-220

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pp. 221-222

Grateful acknowledgment to Ida Griffin for permission to include a reprint of the 1967 “Human Be-In” poster by her late husband, poster artist Rick Griffin; to Ashleigh Brilliant for permission to reprint the lyrics of his song, “How Delinquent Can You Be?” as well as the first verse and chorus of his song “The Intercourse Song”; and to...


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pp. 223-230

E-ISBN-13: 9780472025978
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472115587

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 593295445
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Counterculture Kaleidoscope

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Haight-Ashbury (San Francisco, Calif.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.
  • San Francisco (Calif.) -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.
  • Haight-Ashbury (San Francisco, Calif.) -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • San Francisco (Calif.) -- Intellectual life -- 20th century.
  • Counterculture -- California -- San Francisco -- History -- 20th century.
  • Rock music -- California -- San Francisco -- History and criticism.
  • Rock musicians -- California -- San Francisco -- History -- 20th century.
  • Youth -- California -- San Francisco -- Social life and customs -- 20th century.
  • Social change -- California -- San Francisco -- History -- 20th century.
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