Saturday, September 3, 2011


Flower Power: Part 2
First debuting Off-Broadway in 1967, Hair was a controversial yet revolutionary rock musical that tells the story of a "tribe" of politically active, long-haired hippies of the "Age of Aquarius" living in New York City. Many of the songs were big hits on the charts and became anthems of the peace movement of the time. With a book and lyrics by James Rado and Gerome Ragni and all music written by Galt MacDermot, here are some of the musical's best-known songs performed by top artists in the late 1960s.

An American pop music vocal group from Los Angeles, The 5th Dimension formed in 1966 and recorded several hit songs in the style of sunshine pop, R&B, soul, and jazz. From the late 1960s through 1975, the original five members helped popularize Flower Power music with both white and black middle-class Americans. One of the most popular songs in 1969 (worldwide) was their single "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In," a medley of two songs from the musical (the first medley to ever top the charts). Remaining at #1 on the U.S. charts for over 5 weeks, this sunshine pop song won both the Grammy Award for Record of the Year and Best Vocal Pop Performance by a Group in 1970. Eventually certified platinum in U.S., it is listed at #57 on Billboard's "Greatest Songs of All Time."

First introduced during Harp Week at The '60s Beat, The Cowsills were a popular American singing group from Newport, Rhode Island, a talented family of siblings joined by their mother Barbara. Initially formed in 1965 by brothers Bill (guitar), Bob, (guitar), Barry (bass), John (drums), and Bob's twin brother Richard as their road manager, the Cowsills extended its family membership by 1967 to include the two youngest siblings, Susan and Paul, thus sibling ages ranging from 8 to 19 years old. Between '68 and '72, they played an average of 200 performances a year and were one of the most popular acts on the American concert circuit. In 1969, they released one of their biggest hits, the title song from Hair, which reached #2 on the charts and sold over a million copies. This footage is poor quality, but here's the group that was the inspiration for the 1970 TV show The Partridge Family.

From North Carolina, American pop singer Oliver was known for his soaring, baritone voice. Having a few hit songs in the late '60s like "Jean," his first big single was actually "Good Morning Starshine" from the second act of Hair. With his clean-cut looks and vocal talent, he was the perfect vehicle for this July 1969 single, which went to #3 on the charts, selling over a million copies and earning him a gold disc by that August. He performed this tune on several TV variety shows and specials, including The Ed Sullivan Show. (The live performance I originally posted has been removed from YouTube, bummer as usual.)

Best known for their music from 1968 through 1975, the American rock band, Three Dog Night, earned 13 gold albums and charted the Top-40 Billboard chart 21 times, including three #1 hits. Formed by three lead vocalists, Danny Hutton, Chuck Negron, and Cory Wells, the band's name comes from the story that indigenous Australians would sleep in a hole in the ground with a dingo (wild dog) to keep warn on cold nights, thus a "three dog night" meant the night was freezing (and my husband thought I made this up)! From their second studio album, the group released their soulful version of "Easy to be Hard" from the musical, and it reached #4 on the singles chart in the summer of '69. These guys are great and continue to rock live performances today.
And of course, since this is a "Hair Day," we'll conclude with the final scene from the 1979 film adaptation of the musical. Altered from the original stage production's plot, this version is about Vietnam War-draftee Claude, who, while on his way to the Army induction center in New York City, befriends a tribe of hippies led by Berger. After Claude is inevitably sent off to recruit training, Berger and his prankster friends plan to visit him by sneaking him off the base for a day. Berger cuts his hair and trades places with Claude, but while disguised as a soldier, the troops are told they're being shipped out immediately. That's where this scene begins. Starring actors Treat Williams and John Savage, this final scene tends to give me goosebumps.

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