What Is Hippie Music?

The hippie movement was concerned with expressing itself in a physical, spiritual and political manner. The hippie movement deals with music from the 1960s and started in San Francisco before branching out to the rest of the United States. The music of this time dealt with political themes, interpersonal relationships and the idea of living communally with other people. Additionally, there was a large amount of experimentation within the realm of music, new chords and methods of expressing music.


The original Woodstock took place in 1969 on a farm in Bethel, New York. Jimmy Hendrix played a rousing version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" on solo guitar, and half a million people gathered to listen to the music, take part in the cultural expression of community and belonging to something larger than yourself. The festival lasted for four days from August 15 to August 18 and musicians felt free to experiment in front of a willing and captive audience. The influx of people was so huge that performing artists had to arrive by helicopter since the roads were clogged. In total, there were 32 acts by the participating groups.


Several bands and performing artists helped to shape the music of this period. Sweetwater, Ravi Shankar, and Joan Baez performed on the first day of Woodstock. Santana, Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane played on the second day. Johnny Winter, Jimi Hendrix and Country Joe and the Fish performed in the final days. These groups brought messages of freedom and treating other humans with respect and equality through original music and chordal harmonies.


Haight-Ashbury eventually became the center for hippie music before branching out to the rest of the world. This cultural center had much more than music, though; there were painters, artists, performance art, poets and other artists with artistic ability. The living situation was inexpensive and several people often shared the same space. Haight-Ashbury attracted university students from the University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco State University. These young kids came together at Haight-Ashbury to form the basis for an entire cultural revolution that was fueled by the music of the time.


1965 is the year that hippie music first came on the scene in a big way. Rock bands started to form in California such as The Grateful Dead and the Fugs in New York. The music used basic tonal harmonies such as major and minor chords, which can be viewed as the vertical aspect of music. In hippie music, the focus was placed on the message and the horizontal aspect of music, the melody.


The harmony was secondary to the melody and message. Because of this, chords were typically basic and based on the main beats of the melody. Basic chord progressions, such as I - IV - V - I allowed complex melodies and improvisation to occur. A I - IV - V - I progression refers to scale degrees. For instance in the key of C, I - IV - V - I would have chords built on C, F, G and C. The V chord was always major, and required an interval of a major third between the root note and the third, and a minor third between the third and the fifth.


Rockument: Haight-Ashbury in the Sixties [http://www.rockument.com/Haight/Haight-Ashbury.html]
Woodstock: The Woodstock Festivals [http://www.woodstock.com/themusic.php]
Hippie; Barry Miles


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