In the summer of 1967, music and popular culture changed forever. The Vietnam War and race riots caused the new generation to question social norms and the women’s movement was burgeoning. The result was a counterculture that used music and art as a form of activism and protest.
In the new book “1967: a complete rock music history of the Summer of Love,” writer and journalist Harvey Kubernik breaks down the iconic year through photographs and personal accounts. His interviews stretch back to the mid 1970’s. “The oldest one is 1975 with Johnny Crash,” Kubernik says, “Bill Graham, Jerry Garcia, Carlos Santana were done in 1976 in Mill Valley at Bill Graham’s house.”
The highlight of the Summer of Love was perhaps the Monterey Pop Festival, held between June 16th and 18th in 1967. The band line-up was a who’s who of the era’s most influential musicians. The music documentary of the festival by D.A. Pennebaker would go on to influence non-fiction filmmaking for years to come.
Below are some highlights from The Frame’s conversation with Harvey Kubernik.
Tech evolutions in the mid ’60s set the stage for 1967’s music and pop culture explosion.
A lot of things are changing even in ’65 and ’66. Households are getting their first color televisions pretty much. By ’67, the album outsells the single format. FM radio was around before 1967 but largely for classic music and stuff like that. And so radio becomes central to the journey.
The women’s movement influenced women performers in the 1960’s:
By the 60s, women are at least getting to write songs, their own material, front bands the way jazz canaries sang in groups, but they become focal points. They become the energy source. And all of a sudden we start seeing Lydia Pense and Cold Blood and Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company. You start seeing pop music, soul, R&B, you sing along to the girls more than you sing along to the guys.
Pre-internet, the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival connected bands and audiences alike:
Lots of people in the audience — they knew about Big Brother (and the Holding Company), they knew about Quicksilver (Messenger Service), they knew about Jefferson Airplane because these groups had been around six months to a year, a year and a half already. But there was no internet back then. They were a regional phenomena. So there are artists like Laura Nyro (New York) or even the Paul Butterfield Blues Band (Chicago) that play at Monterey that people haven’t really heard. Then, in the case of Otis Redding (Memphis) — he had played once before in San Francisco in ’66 and comes back with this Stax band and Booker T. behind him and basically galvanizes everybody. Jefferson Airplane had a light show onstage and so that even amplifies Otis’ set because they kept the light show up, so Otis is singing and projecting against a light show. And that is psychedelic, my friends! So all of this was colliding, and by the weekend after Monterey, the world had changed.
Listen to ‘Iconic performances from the Monterey International Pop Festival:’
To hear John Horn’s interview with Harvey Kubernik, click on the player above.