Steve Eighinger

Fifty years later, Summer of Love lives on

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Aug. 11, 2017 9:40 am

For those who are a part of my generation -- a.k.a. "old people" -- the "Summer of Love" is forever embedded in a special part of our memory banks.

This is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love, which at the time meant different things to different people, most of them young. I was in between seventh and eighth grades, so I was kind of on the fringe of the whole change in culture. I was old enough to watch and take in what was happening, but not necessarily understand it all until a few years later.

The Summer of Love was represented by distinct music, attitude, political views and overall social unrest. In many ways, it was a generation coming of age. Stands were taken and some mistakes were made along the way.

Beards, long hair and the hippie movement were all flourishing. You think there is a major abyss separating the political left and right today? If you were around during the Summer of Love, you'll likely attest that chasm was even wider.

Thinking back on that summer, I remember my life being divided into equal thirds as far as what piqued my interest: the music, sports and news of the time.

Here are three quick observations on each:

Music

To this day, some of my all-time favorite songs came from the Summer of Love:

1. "Brown-Eyed Girl," from Van Morrison: The perfect song for an imperfect summer. Fittingly, this remains his signature work.

2. "The Letter," by the Box Tops: One of the shortest No. 1 songs ever at just 1 minute, 57 seconds, but an important part of a period that was a watershed for pop music.

3. "San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)," from Scott McKenzie: This was more or less the anthem for the Summer of Love. This was the only hit for McKenzie, who passed away earlier this year.

Sports

1. The Impossible Dream: I was not a Red Sox fan, but enjoyed watching Carl Yastrzemski lead the BoSox to the American League pennant. The season was called "The Impossible Dream" because Boston had finished ninth the year before.

2. The Golden Bear: Jack Nicklaus won the U.S. Open at Baltrusol, earning $30,000. This year's winner, Brooks Koepka, pocketed $2.16 million.

3. El Birdos: Featuring four future Hall of Famers in Lou Brock, Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton and Orlando Cepeda, the Cardinals went 10160 and won the National League pennant by 10 games over the San Francisco Giants. The "El Birdos" went on to win the World Series in seven games over the Red Sox.

News

1. Vietnam: The conflict in Southeast Asia was dividing the nation. Daily newscasts were filled with bloody battle reports from Vietnam and America's ongoing involvement.

2. Race riots: U.S. cities were becoming battle zones.

3. Six-Day War: Israel turns back invasion attempts by numerous neighboring Arab countries. At the time, some biblical scholars felt the start of this abbreviated war may have signaled the beginning of Armageddon. Fortunately, it was not, but it did not lessen the impact of an eventful summer.