The Age of Aquarius

I was listening to the Broadway channel in the car on my way home from work the other day when The Age of Aquarius came on, a recording from the most recent Broadway revival of Hair. The Broadway cast recording came out in 1969, and I remember buying it at the record store in Sioux Falls not long after. I was about 12, I think. I never saw a production of it until I saw the Milos Forman movie from 1979.

Our public library had a set of Broadway Yearbooks that I just loved to look through. It was so fun to read about these productions through the decades. I read all about Hair, and felt a sort of affinity to it, as my zodiac sign is Aquarius and it made me feel like I was part of the whole anti-war, hippie culture as a Middle School student from middle of nowhere Southwest Minnesota. My parents hated long hair on men and the anti-war protests, but they also hated the war, and never minded what books I read or what music I listened to. Oh, for the time when I could really believe in:

Harmony and understanding Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation

Things like this musical and the popular music and literature of the times fueled my youthful idealism that I try to maintain at least a bit of in these most trying times.

What fueled your youthful idealism? What were your favorite Broadway musicals in the 1960’s and 1970’s? What did your parents think about your choices in dress, music, and literature when you were a teenager?

38 thoughts on “The Age of Aquarius”

  1. Kelly and I worked for a theater that put on a production of Hair in 1986. It was the first sold out show this young theater company had produced. The cast was a mix of ages with half the people knowing the show well and half not knowing the show at all. It was great fun, and created some wonderful memories. I know two performances that were bought out for private parties. And now whenever we hear a song from Hair we have those memories.

    I know my dad didn’t think too much of long hair. Being the youngest of five, I missed out on most of that kinda drama. Mom did not want me reading Joseph Heller‘s ‘Catch 22’, so I just hid it from her.
    Mom and dad liked their polkas. And didn’t care much for screaming guitars. But neither did I for the most part.

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I got to see Hair twice in San Francisco, 1969, which actually was in part what fueled my youthful idealism. These are my favorite lyrics in the show – My Conviction – after this introduction:

    You know kids, I wish every mother and father in this theater would go home tonight and make a speech to their teenagers and say kids, be free, no guilt, be whatever you are,do whatever you want to do, just so long as you don’t hurt anybody.
    Right? Right!

    I would just like to say that it is my conviction
    That longer hair and other flamboyant affectations
    Of appearance are nothing more
    Than the male’s emergence from his drab camoflage
    Into the gaudy plumage
    Which is the birthright of his sex

    There is a peculiar notion that elegant plumage
    And fine feathers are not proper for the man
    When ac—tually
    That is the way things are
    In most species

    Liked by 6 people

  3. My mom seemed to be pretty on board for the new fashions – at least the bright colors. I remember her encouraging me to get the really wide bell bottoms with accompanying shirt (billowing sleeves). Of course I was living in California soon after, and she didn’t see that my uniform was a pair of washed-out denim bell bottoms with an off-white muslin tunic… again, great sleeves.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. And for other Broadway musicals, I loved them all – my mom would buy the Vocal Selections so I could play the simple stuff on the piano – Sound of Music, My Fair Lady, Camelot, Fiddler on the Roof, Music Man, Oliver… In the 70s I wasn’t as engaged, but did get to see Pippin and Chicago on Broadway, and saw the movie versions of Grease, A Chorus Line, Annie.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. Rise and Shine, Baboons,

    Peace, Man.

    Hair and Godspell were the musicals of the day during my high school years. My Sunday School teacher (also our HS band director) brought both cast recordings (LPs) which he played for us during Sunday School, and then we listened to the words and compared some of the Godspell lyrics to Biblical references. My parents did not ever monitor or critic what I was listening to or reading.

    In my family, fashion was also liaise faire. Sometime in High School, girls and female teachers were finally allowed to wear jeans and pants to school after decades of dresses and skirts were required. However, the mini-skirts got so short and so distracting that wearing pants came to be more modest than the skirts. For example, I could sew a mini-skirt out of a 1/2 yard of fabric. Said mini-skirts were hemmed at my finger tips with my arms at my side.They were very, very short. My uncle, the town history teacher, welcomed the pants because he always had a full view of girls’ wardrobes and told us that he was seeing “way too much” while teaching.

    However, the debate about wearing pants was so overheated and passionate in favor of the modesty and tradition of dresses and skirts, that the policy-makers did not seem to notice that the skirts revealed all and that the principle of the “modesty” of dresses had been left behind as the hemlines inched upward. At a music competition in which a piano accompanist wore skirts Even Shorter Than Mine, the dress she wore inched upward as the piece went on and required more movement from her torso. Her derrière was finally fully revealed by the end of the performance, but no one noticed the music performance while we all gossiped about the revealed hind end. I saw her at the 50th class reunion this summer, and she did not remember the incident.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Yes to Godspell. Same theater has done that twice, but never Jesus Christ Superstar, while another local theater has done JCS a few times, but never Hair or Godspell. We had ‘All Good Gifts’ sung at our wedding by the fabulous Kevin Moore.

      Mom got Disney record albums when I was a kid, recordings of their musical movies. I had ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ memorized. Still do. Started my love of musicals I guess.
      Course there was nothing very objectionable in Disney musicals back then.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Thanks for the ear worm, Renee!

    I have a refrigerator magnet that says, “Where have all the hippies gone?” I wonder about that a lot. Younger people sometimes like to call themselves hippies these days but I don’t think they really get it. The ideals you listed in your post seem to have vanished over the years and they’ve been replaced by consumerism and other forms of self-indulgence. I’m pretty cynical today, I guess.

    I enjoyed The Sound of Music and the music from the Age of Aquarius. It was always about the the music for me.

    I had a pair of red, extra wide bell-bottoms and my mom indulged my desire to grow my hair, as long as I took care of it. My dad was intolerant of most of the music, ideals, and events from the 60s. Young men should never grow their hair long. He had a list of objections to that. I think my mom may have had more influence than I gave her credit for though. I’ve been looking through some old family photos and can’t help but chuckle at the pictures of my brothers with mullets.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. I’m a Gen-Xer, and we had a lot less youthful idealism than the Boomers–or at least that’s what we were constantly told. While I was in high school and college, a lot of 20th anniversaries were happening–Sgt. Pepper’s album, Woodstock, Earth Day–so I ended up adopting a bit of that era’s idealism, especially when it came to feminism, ecology, and animal rights. My dad was very conservative politically and religiously, so he would have preferred me to be much more feminine (instead of long hair, I had very short hair!); later I discovered Goth and started wearing dresses again, but I doubt that was much of an improvement in his mind. When it came to music, I had the obligatory rebellion with heavy metal while I was in parochial high school, but switched to folk, Celtic and then classical music soon after, so I don’t think there was much to complain about on that score (pun intended).

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Thanks, BiR! I can’t help but feel envious sometimes of all the changes the Boomers were able to accomplish or at least to witness. I particularly regret having missed the heyday of the radical feminist and women’s culture movements; they were largely in the process of tearing themselves apart with political infighting and emotional exhaustion by the time I was a teenager, though some things like women’s bookstores, women’s music, and women’s religion survived into my adulthood. To be a young person and confident that what you and your friends are doing is changing the world, that must have been a wonderful feeling!

        NB–all of you Boomers need to get involved in Oral History, or otherwise record what your lives were like in the 60s and 70s. My roommate is on Tumblr and regales me with tales of the horrific mistakes younger folks are making about the fairly recent past. If your kids don’t care, your grandkids or great-grandkids might!

        Liked by 5 people

  8. OT: Wanted to finish responding to Ben’s weekend post (loved the header photo). Hardly any figurines here, but I do have a couple of “comfort” items: a small tree “mushroom” with the word Gratitude carved into the surface, given by Nephew who lived with us for a year and a half as a child, and camped at our place again circa 2002.

    And a tiny (shot) glass where I keep a bouquet of feathers that I find on walks, tucked into a bed of tiny round shell discs I collected in Maui when we were there for Step-son’s wedding in 2019. They are white or peachy little hemispheres and have a subtle spiral embossed on the flat side – someone told me what they are, but I didn’t write it down…

    (I have more time than usual this morning, as Husband is at a Habitat gig – they haven’t been happening in January, so alone time is rare, and precious. We tested negative for Covid last week, but had cold symptoms till the weekend.)

    Liked by 5 people

  9. By the time I was a teen, it was pretty much a given that at least one of my parents didn’t approve of something I was or wasn’t doing. They never really censored anything, just expressed their disapproval of it. Neither of them took enough interest in what I was reading to notice that I was reading some pretty controversial stuff. My teens, in the last half of the 1950s , wasn’t exactly a hotbed of youth rebellion, things were pretty boring.

    My youthful idealism was inspired mostly by people like Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, plus various explorers, especially of the arctic and antarctic. I was also keenly aware of the uprising in Hungary in 1956, and for the first time started paying attention to politics and the budding feminist movement. By the time I was fifteen or sixteen, I was all in, much to my father’s chagrin. Admittedly, I was pretty clueless as to most of the deeper issues, but it was a start.

    Liked by 5 people

  10. Oh, about musicals. The first musical I ever saw live was “My Fair Lady,” in Danish. It was wonderful. On film I saw “Oklahoma” and “West Side Story,” and I enjoyed both of them. The only two professional productions of musicals that I’ve seen in the States that I can think of are “Hair” and “Jesus Christ Superstar,” both in Chicago.

    Liked by 4 people

  11. Four guesses each for both the Wordle and Nerdle for me today. But I approached today’s Nerdle with a loss less trepidation than yesterday, and solved it in about five minutes. Good challenge.

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      1. I thought today’s Wordle was tough. I was lucky to have the both the first and last letter right on my first guess, but there were still a lot of options left.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Long hair and whimsical clothing were never more than a fashion trend and like any fashion, destined to be replaced by other trends. It served in its time as a kind of self identification for a certain group of mostly young people and was seen as an affront by more conventional, usually older, generations. In itself, it meant very little and was not in itself a token of idealism.

    And hippies were never monolithic. There were music-oriented hippies, drug-focused hippies, back-to-the-land hippies, suburban weekend hippies—most of them shared commonalities, like opposing the war, but they never represented an organized movement. Some were more politically active and others were simply seeking the liberties that the identity afforded.

    The preceding generation, who had come of age during the 1940s and WWII, were the last generation that didn’t, for the most part, question the things they had been taught. They accepted the social, political, religious, gender and sexual conventions of previous generations as the way things ought to be. They believed the government was righteous, was owed allegiance right or wrong, and existed for their welfare. To them, visible change was threatening.

    The generation from which hippiedom sprang was exposed to a wider, more nuanced view of the world than their parents had been given. They had seen agents of the government acting violently against civil rights protestors. The military had been shown to have lied to advance its interests. For draft-age men, the war was not an issue one could choose to ignore. Once you start challenging traditional values, where do you stop?

    In the late ’60s, I lived in an apartment on the West Bank, as hippie an enclave as any in the Twin Cities. My roommate and I and the other young men in the adjoining apartments were students and artists of one kind or another and shared many of the predispositions of the folks down on the street. Our hair was longish, our clothing varied, our attitudes generally nonconventional and definitely antiwar. But I don’t remember any of us styling ourselves as a hippie. My sense was, that was a label outsiders applied.

    If you ask what happened to the hippies, I would say they have melded into society. If you see a man with long hair now, nobody gives him a second look. Other attitudes and positions that once were specific to “hippies” are now integrated into the social fabric. There is still opposition from retrograde factions but change has taken hold.

    I was never a fan of musicals and of those I’ve seen, there are a few I can tolerate. Others, not so much.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I didn’t come to the US till late in 1965, so I wasn’t here during the height of the Civil Rights movement.

      As you know, my first couple of years were spent in Wyoming as an outsider connected to a large air force base, and it was pretty obvious even to me, blue eyed and bushy tailed as I was at the time, that this was a pretty conservative place. It wasn’t till I arrived in Carbondale in 1968 that I was confronted with some of the major issues of the time, again as an outsider connected to a large university in a pretty conservative place.

      At S.I.U. being a hippie, with all of the stereotypical trappings associated with that group, definitely meant that you were anti war, smoked pot, and, if you were a woman, part of the women’s liberation movement.
      I really didn’t fit in that group with my ultra short hair, mini-skirts and anti-smoking attitude, and was viewed with a great deal of suspicion by a lot of my compatriots. Maybe she’s a narc? People were pretty paranoid about that in those days.

      I agree with Bill, that change has taken hold. Despite the fact that in recent years there seems to have been a tendency toward some backtracking, I’m optimistic that we’ll continue to move forward. There’s still lots of work to be done for sure, but I’m encouraged by the engagement of the younger people that I know.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. It’s easy to forget how things were as recently as the ’60s (not so recently I guess), but when I was in high school in the mid-60s, a suburban high school of about 2400 students, only two or three were students of color, no student I was aware of had come out as gay or other gendered, “sports” for girls was limited to cheerleading, and denim in any form was prohibited in the dress code, along with slacks for girls. I once was sent to the principal for wearing a denim shirt. He rebuked me, saying that denim was inappropriate, that it was working class. That constituted a world my father, his father and his father’s father would have recognized.

        I’m not giving Boomers or specifically hippies credit for all the changes that have taken place in the last half century, but that’s where it started. Idealism is seeing past the way things are to how they could be, and starting to live that way.

        Liked by 5 people

      2. Mention of pot and paranoia of narcs, etc. reminds me of a time, about 1967 or so when I was living in a dormitory and there was a lot of talk about pot and the comically zealous narcotics investigators.

        We had discovered in the dorm an access panel that led, via ladder, down into a steam tunnel. I went out and bought a box of loose Lipton green tea, which we bagged and placed at the bottom of the ladder. Then we wrote a note disclosing that “the stuff is in the steam tunnel” and arranged to have the note “accidentally” be pushed through a mail compartment (they were open in the back to the postman) so that it would fall on the floor. In about a day, there was news of the big pot seizure the agents had made, with estimates of street value, etc. Then, about a day later, the announcements abruptly stopped.

        Not very mature, I know, but then we weren’t.

        Liked by 4 people

    1. I tested positive for covid but I’m doing very well. As a participant in the Pfizer trials, I’ve had all three shots. Also I had to await the results from the testing kit they gave me. The local tests are not allowed in reporting. In March, I will be having blood drawn as part of the 2nd anniversary shot.
      My temperature topped at 100 for 24 hours. Not bad. Some cough remains as the debris of disease is cleared out.
      I was quite proud of myself for not having any illness for at least 2 and a half years. I took the mask and social distancing seriously. Lots of hand sanitizer. Then I received Door Dash delivery of pink lemonade and chicken. I had NOT ordered it but the delivery person had my apartment number so since a friend had a few months ago gifted such an order and my sister had also sent food to me, I accepted it hand-to-hand. Soon a neighbor knocked wondering if I’d heard or seen a delivery person. “Yes”
      Here it is.
      One little slip up and it’s embarrassments galore.

      Liked by 5 people

      1. Glad you’re doing okay, Wes. If embarrassment is the worst of it, that’s something you can live with. It’ll be interesting to see if your 2nd anniversary blood draw reveals a heightened immunity due to your infection. If so, perhaps it was worth it.

        Liked by 2 people

  13. Growing up mainly in St. Louis I saw a fair number of musicals at the Municipal Opera (The Muni) down in Forest Park. But nothing risqué or even controversial. Hair would never have Made it to The Muni in those days.I remember seeing Finian’s Rainbow at a local high school in the 70s and being mesmerized by it. I love that song Glocco Mora.

    I do remember that when I was in eighth grade my father, the atheist, taught my eighth grade Sunday school class and one of the things that we studied that year was the soundtrack to Jesus Christ superstar.

    Liked by 3 people

  14. My parents were fairly liberal and they really left a lot of choices to me when I was in high school. I think I’ve talked about the reading before — they did not believe in censorship and if I wanted to read it, they let me read it.

    I wanted to be a hippie in the worst way but but always felt like I was a little young. But I loved jeans and tie-dye and hair with beads in it and my parents thought that was just fine. For a couple of years I slit open the legs of my jeans and added colorful fabric inserts so that they were not just bellbottoms but massive bellbottoms.

    Liked by 3 people

  15. My mother always said her favorite musicals were Hair and Cabaret. As far as I know, she never saw them on stage, only as movies. They were good movies, though. I was always fond of Fiddler on the Roof.

    I remember Earth Day in 1970. Words like “ecology” and “environment” were not used very often up until then. I’m still a little impressed with my generation, even though sometimes I wonder about what’s become of that idealism. There was a time when a lot of people thought it was important to save fuel, and that ethic seems to have gone out the window. I still try to drive 55 on highways, if it is practical to do that. Not many people do, though. I see people sailing by at 75 mph, with no consideration at all for fuel economy. Plus, they sit in parking lots with their SUV’s running. I’m pretty sure the people who complain the loudest about gas prices are those who burn up fuel most indiscriminately. Some of them are about my age.

    I suppose my youthful idealism has morphed into curmudgeonitude.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That reminds me that the first live musicals I saw, even before My Fair Lady, might well have been Irma la Douce and The Threepenny Opera.
      I know both were part of a package deal offered through my high school during my junior or senior year, and just about everyone in my class went to see them. Loved both of them.

      Liked by 2 people

  16. Unfortunately I was born in the 80’s so this questionnaire doesn’t apply to me, however… cats and Chicago were the big broadway musicals that were out when I was young. I remember belting the lines to several songs with my friends but I was always more of a country music girl 😅

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