Country Joe's Place

The 60s


Children of the flower age, were you a boy or girl?
   The present's now, the past is past
   And it don't matter any more.
You get yours and I'll get mine
   Hey now, don't you fret.
Just gimme, gimme, gimme,
   I want all I can get.
And it seems like such a short while ago
I was so happy like most folks you know,
But now somehow I just can't remember then,
Oh god, I'd like to live my life over again.

— "Memories"
Country Joe McDonald © Alcatraz Music Co.

The day of the first Human Be-In was clear, beautiful and sunny. I know now it was January but it was like a spring day that day back then. I arrived very early with friends. We drove over from Berkeley. It must have been important; we never leave Berkeley to go to the City unless it is very special. I put on my best paisley-patterned shirt, painted Hopi Indian designs on my face, slipped into my sandals and jeans, took a dose of LSD and off we went. We were excited. Something was going to happen in the city. In the park. It was free and it was going to be great...we just knew it.

I remember Lenore Kandel reading poetry at the Human Be-in. As she finished each poem she tore it off her clipboard and threw it away as if it were yesterday's trash. Such boldness I had never seen before. I loved it.

We took the music that we loved and played it the best we could on instruments and equipment that was all new and experimental. No one could teach us how to do it so we did it ourselves and learned as we went along. We wrote about what was on our minds and important to us: sex, drugs, war, love, revolution. And we did it with the passion of living our lives day by day. We fought the strangling death grip of the establishment with TRUTHS and non sequitur and gloried in our secret knowledge that part of life should be fun.

We defended with our lives the great new knowledge that we owed no allegiance to the left-wing communists nor the right-wing war-mongers. After all what had they ever done for us? We prayed to New Gods: Huey Newton, Timothy Leary, Joan Baez, Dr. Spock. We blasphemed with joy. We watched with glee as each old icon fell: HUAC, Joseph McCarthy, J. Edgar Hoover, Pat Boone, Arthur Godfrey, Richard Nixon, Lyndon Johnson. But we watched with terror and horror as our own heroes fell: Malcolm X, JFK, Robert Kennedy, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison. And so many, many who are not remembered by history but by friends, relatives, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers.

What had started as fun and games, had ended in a bloodied battlefield that spread to every corner of the United States and much of the "freed-world." It changed us, the world and America forever.

Peace buttonThe vast majority of the Viet Nam generation sat it out on the side lines. They can now be found secure in the American establishment telling 60s war stories over cocktails, coke and expensive buds to an audience that has no idea of what is fact or fiction. Well, some of us were there and cannot so easily forgive and forget. Although sometimes I have the feeling that if I were to forget, some things would never have happened.

Like Bob Dylan said, "living through the 60s was like seeing a UFO."

I am proud that I chose to do something back then and I can say I was a part of it all. I would not want to do it again because it was too intense. I do miss all of those who are gone and not alive now. It was very rough on family life and we are paying dues now. It was a family affair. I would like to say with typical bad attitude "it don't mean nothin'" but I must admit with hindsight that it meant everythihg. At least now there seems to be an attitude to listen to us old "war horse" veterans of the era and I hope that our words can help us to better understand each other and to temper our actions as a nation and as a society so that we all can live happier healthier lives.


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