Country Joe McDonald may be back for Vancouver's 50th anniversary Be-In
The Summer of Love will be remembered in Vancouver next year with a 50th-anniversary rendition of a concert modelled on the original Human Be-In.
Famous Artists Limited producer Bill Allman and author and long-time concert promoter Jerry Kruz have set a date of July 29, 2017, for the event. It will revive the spirit of Vancouver’s hippie-dominated Be-Ins, which took place for several years in Stanley Park during the late 1960s and the 1970s.
Kruz told the Georgia Straight that he attended the world’s first Be-In in San Francisco in January 1967, where he came up with the idea of holding a similar event in Vancouver on Easter Sunday, March 26, 1967.
The main attraction was Country Joe McDonald, whose “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” became an anthem for opponents of the Vietnam War.
“It got known as the Easter Be-In but it was never intended as an Easter Be-In,” Kruz said. “It was only when Country Joe was available. That’s what we built it around, so it was an accident that it happened at Easter.”
Allman and Kruz are not ready to reveal the location of the 2017 Be-In. But Kruz guaranteed that next year’s event will include a strong First Nations component as well as legacy acts and younger musicians. And, yes, Country Joe McDonald has expressed an interest in performing.
“I’ve talked to him and he’s indicated that he wants to come,” Kruz said.
Kruz pointed out that hippies were often disparaged in the late 1960s, but he said they left a lasting mark on Vancouver.
They included the founders of Greenpeace, who helped put the environmental movement on the global stage. In addition, he noted that many hippies supported the aspirations of indigenous peoples.
“Chief Dan George was a very good friend,” Kruz said. “I remember getting many wise words of wisdom from Chief Dan. I had great admiration for him.”
The first Be-In took place in the area near Second Beach called, variously, Ceperley Meadows, Ceperley Park, and Ceperley Playground. In addition to Country Joe McDonald, there were a few local bands, lots of balloons, kites, impromptu drum sessions, free drugs, and, surprisingly, no rain.
About 1,000 of the city’s freaks and flower children showed up for the event. Police mostly kept a respectful distance, even though they were usually encouraged by the city’s anti-hippie firebrand of a mayor, Tom Campbell, to put longhairs in their place whenever possible. And this despite “organizers” of the Be-In having had permission for the event previously denied by Vancouver’s park board.
Kruz pointed out that Canada was approaching its 100th birthday when the first Be-In was held. And he noted that one of the attendees was Margaret Sinclair, who later became Margaret Trudeau.
“Now her son is the prime minister,” Kruz said. “I’m pretty excited about that. She was there, and now look what’s happened.”
The first issue of the Georgia Straight hit the streets of Vancouver about six weeks after the first Be-In. The Woodstock Music & Art Fair: An Aquarian Exposition was still two years away.
As the Straight’s Dave Watson wrote on the 30th anniversary of the Be-In: “The Be-ins were more than just free concerts. They served as an opportunity to gather as a community, a means of keeping in touch, an annual general meeting for people who felt they were onto something that mainstream society wouldn’t give them credit for. The rest of the year, you might be a freak, some weirdo with long hair, the subject of derisive jokes, but at least at the Be-in you knew you weren’t alone. At the beginning, there was no industry to design, package, and market some form of channelled rebellion for you and your peers. That came later.”
With files from Martin Dunphy.