Beginning tonight and periodically over the next several weeks our oldie will focus on the summer of 1967.
Fifty years ago, thousands of young Americans descended on San Francisco to join a cultural revolution known as the Summer of Love. It marked a fusion of political protest, art and music and introduced the world to groundbreaking local bands that hadn’t yet made it big, like the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane…
Young people from all over America flocked to the City by the Bay, and major motivation was supplied by Scott McKenzie who had a hit recording at the time, advising the hippies to wear a flower in their hair if they were headed west.
San Francisco’s Haight/Ashbury district soon became bursting at the seams with hordes of homeless, drug-dazed teens. McKenzie sang of “gentle people with flowers in their hair” when that wasn’t even close to being an appropriate description.
He also sang “There’s a whole generation with a new explanation,” and “people in motion.” Far better assessments, or at least sentiments that people wanted to feel about that summer’s San Francisco atmosphere.
June of 1967 featured the Monterey International Pop Festival highlighted by the San Francisco explosion. Performing at the festival were the Who, Big Brother and the Holding Company (featuring Janis Joplin), Jefferson Airplane and, in their US debut, the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
McKenzie’s biggest hit was released one month before the festival, written by the Mamas & the Papas’ John Phillips. It would go to #1 in August.
“Scott sang like an angel. He had one of the most beautiful voices that ever had a rock ‘n’ roll hit,” said Phillips.
Lou Adler produced the festival.
“He (McKenzie) was comfortable with the success of the record, but not what it made him, sort of iconic to that movement,” said Adler.
McKenzie and the Mamas & the Papas would go on a world tour when the song was at its peak, and he dressed the part of the flower-power time with robes. When their plane landed at a stop in Amsterdam, everyone got off except McKenzie.
“It took him awhile, and when he got off he was dressed as a cowboy,” said Adler. “He was never willing to accept the role as the leader of that movement. He was a very gentle soul.”
McKenzie died in August of 2012 at the age of 73. He had been ill with Guillain Barre syndrome, a disease affecting the nervous system.
Here he is, singing at the Monterey festival during the Mamas and Papas set, introduced by Mama Cass Elliot.