The Gathering of the Tribes, also known as the Human Be In, took place on this day 50 years ago, on January 14th, 1967. The event symbolically kicked off 1967, which ultimately came to be known as the Summer of Love. In so doing, it gave the rest of America a glimpse into the counterculture, the hippies, and psychedelia.
Unlike other events that became celebrations of the counterculture, the Human Be-In was that and more. It brought together diverse elements of the counterculture in San Francisco, with their differing philosophical views. They attempted to bridge those differences so they could work together toward their common goals. On one hand, you had the hard-left radicals who were working towards an end to the war in Vietnam, with an increasingly militant approach. On the other hand, you had the largely non-political hippies with a focus on peace and love. Throw in a dash of civil rights, women’s rights, Eastern religion, and the Hells Angels. This gives you an idea of the diversity of thought that came together that day.
The brain-child of Michael Bowen, the Be-In was advertised in the San Francisco Oracle, an underground newspaper that was still relatively new. Held at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, an estimated 20,000 to 30,000 attended. Video footage shows people near the stage packed in tightly, but everyone seems okay with it.
The list of speakers is quite impressive, all invited by Bowen. Timothy Leary give his famous line inciting everyone to “turn on, tune in, drop out.” Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder chanted and read poetry. Other counterculture luminaries to appear included Michael McClure, Richard Alpert (later known as Ram Dass), Dick Gregory, Lenore Kandel, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and Jerry Rubin.
The Be-In began with Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder chanting mantras, and ended with chants to the setting sun. In between was a rich mixture of poetry, music, dancing, speeches, and even a birthday wish to Lenore Kandel. By all accounts, a peaceful time was had by all, setting the stage for future counterculture events.
Musical entertainment that day was provided by the best of the local bands. They included Jefferson Airplane, The Grateful Dead, Big Brother and The Holding Company, and Quicksilver Messenger Service. Quite the legendary lineup!
A fascinating video of the Human Be-In can be seen HERE. It is obviously incomplete and unfortunately with little focus on the music. Enjoy a time capsule look back at one of the countercultural events that has attained something of a mythical status through the years.
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