“Hippie Anthems” – The Music We Grew Up To!
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, America’s young people were fed up with all of the ugly, political violence. They were in search of a more accepting, loving and peaceful world. At the height of the counterculture era, (young) people were questioning authority, both political and in general. The majority of people that identified with the “peace movement” were generally and typically classified as hippies. At the time, hippies were not highly thought of by mainstream America because their thought process challenged all that was known to be pure and wholesome. They were thought to be rebels of the “American way.” Little did conservative America know… “The times, they [were] a-changing...”
Young people of the hippie generation and mindset were growing tired of rigid social expectations, war and the intolerance that was taking over American civilization. They were devastated that war and cultural politics were claiming the innocent lives of young men and women. It seemed so needless. The hippie mantra was, “Why can’t we all just get along?” It is hard to argue that that wasn’t a valid question.
During this counter-cultural time, liberal Americans were pushing socially accepted limits and doing their share to get the attention they needed to get the word out about intolerance. Make love, not was, was a popular mantra of the 1960’s. The “average Joe” was not the only one advocating the cause, though. Many celebrities, including musical artists, were getting on the “bandwagon.”
Many progressive American musicians, during this era, publicly denounced violence and joined the anti-war cause that was negativity taking over the country. Songs promoting peace and love for fellow human beings, rather than intolerance and hate, were being released in support of the anti-war movement. It was the era of new found freedom and smiling on your brother.
Several songs come to mind when I think about this particular time in American history. Many of them are feel-good songs about spreading love. Listed below are just a few of the songs spawning from this era:
Blowin’ in the Wind/Bob Dylan
Let it Be/The Beatles
Give Peace a Chance/John Lennon
If I Had a Hammer/Peter, Paul & Mary
Turn! Turn! Turn! /The Byrds
Love the One You’re With/Crosby, Stills & Nash
Peace Train/Cat Stevens
Although the majority of these anthems were “deep” and thought-provoking, one song in particular that really strikes me is Bob Dylan’s, Rainy Day Woman. Unlike some of the other songs, it was simple and light-hearted. It was just about getting stoned! People loved it! The song was released on Dylan’s Blond on Blond album. When asked about his inspiration for the lyrics, Dylan recalled that he was thinking of Ray Charles’ song, Let’s Go Get Stoned. He had heard it on a jukebox somewhere and was pleasantly surprised to hear a song, “that free and that explicit”. He was referring, of course, to the lyrics, “getting stoned” being an invitation/suggestion to indulge in drugs and alcohol.
The words, “Rainy Day Woman” were nowhere to be found in the song’s lyrics. When asked about the meaning of the song, he stated that the song was about "cripples and orientals and the world in which they live... It's a sort of Mexican thing, very protest... and one of the pro-testiest of all things I've protested against in my protest years.” Well, that was clear as mud! I guess we will never know for sure!
As the song hit the top of the charts, there was a controversy about Rainy Day Woman being a song about drugs. Time magazine printed an article in 1966 which stated, in part, "In the shifting multi-level jargon of teenagers, 'to get stoned' does not mean to get drunk but to get high on drugs... a 'rainy-day woman', as any junkie [sic] knows, is a marijuana cigarette." Bob Dylan flatly denied their assessment of the song, saying, “I never have and never will write a drug song." Hmmm….
Dylan thought it would be prudent, if not fun, to record the song while actually being stoned. They reportedly drank alcohol and smoked marijuana before recording the hit song. If you listen, you will hear the backup singers/band members laughing, as if they are intoxicated. Controversy or not, it was a great party song!
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