Rare Footage of the “Human Be-In,” the Landmark Counter-Culture Event Held in Golden Gate Park, 1967

Inves­tiga­tive reporter Steve Sil­ber­man awe­some­ly flagged this video for us today. He writes:

This seems to have just sur­faced: the most com­plete record­ing of the Human Be-In in Gold­en Gate Park in 1967 that I have ever seen, by far. It opens with Allen Gins­berg and Gary Sny­der chant­i­ng, Michael McClure fol­lows, and the Grate­ful Dead (with adorable footage of Allen danc­ing) pop up at about 14:00. At 18:00, Dizzy Gille­spie is smil­ing in the audi­ence. So much myth­i­cal noumenon has piled up around these events over the decades it’s almost inevitable that the real thing seems a lit­tle banal com­pared to one’s imag­i­na­tion, but it’s still cool.

If you’re not quite famil­iar with what the Human Be-In, held on Jan­u­ary 14, 1967, was all about, let me refer you to this suc­cinct descrip­tion by a web site called Mag­ic Bus San Fran­cis­co: “Announced on the cov­er of the first edi­tion of the counter-cul­ture zine San Fran­cis­co Ora­cle, the ‘Gath­er­ing of the Tribes’ or ‘Human Be-In’ as it came to be known, was the pro­to­type of all 1960s counter cul­ture cel­e­bra­tions. The Human Be-In pre­cip­i­tat­ed the leg­endary Sum­mer of Love, and made San Francisco’s Haight-Ash­bury the epi­cen­ter of the bur­geon­ing hip­pie move­ment.

The Be-In fea­tured all the lumi­nar­ies of psy­che­del­ic counter-cul­ture, includ­ing Tim­o­thy Leary, Allen Gins­berg, Gary Sny­der, Richard Alpert (Ram Dass), Dick Gre­go­ry, Lenore Kan­del, and Jer­ry Ruben.  Many of the Haight’s best musi­cal acts also per­formed, includ­ing the Grate­ful Dead and Quick­sil­ver Mes­sen­ger Ser­vice.” As a curi­ous side note, the Dead did­n’t get a men­tion in the poster pro­mot­ing the event. Is that because they were a late addi­tion? I’m not sure.


Relat­ed Con­tent:

The His­toric LSD Debate at MIT: Tim­o­thy Leary v. Pro­fes­sor Jerome Lettvin (1967)

The Night When Miles Davis Opened for the Grate­ful Dead in 1970: Hear the Com­plete Record­ings

8,976 Free Grate­ful Dead Con­cert Record­ings in the Inter­net Archive

The Acid Test Reels: Ken Kesey & The Grate­ful Dead’s Sound­track for the 1960s Famous LSD Par­ties

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Comments (16)
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  • LegsLambert says:

    The poster “pro­mot­ing the event” is an obvi­ous fake, print­ed many years after the fact as part of a siz­able indus­try devot­ed to hawk­ing bogus mem­o­ra­bil­ia, includ­ing posters for con­certs that nev­er actu­al­ly hap­pened. While the Human Be-In did, in fact, hap­pen, and had some beau­ti­ful posters and hand­bills designed by the same great artists who did such mem­o­rable work for the Fill­more and Aval­on, that cheap-look­ing thing depict­ed here was not one of them. One bla­tant give­away: the adver­tised appear­ance of “San­tana,” when no band by that name even exist­ed at that point, let alone played the Be-In. The Car­los San­tana Blues Band had just been formed, did­n’t start get­ting noticed in the Bay Area until lat­er in 1967 and did­n’t change its name to just plain San­tana until 1968.

  • Tracy says:

    the above poster (!) is absolute­ly cor­rect about the POSTER (!) it is a fake.

    If you want to see one of the orig­i­nals (there were sev­er­al at the time) which does list the grate­ful dead, there is a reprint of it in Mar­tin Lee and Bruce Shlain’s excel­lent book “Acid Dreams.” I think this poster, with the Native Amer­i­can play­ing a gui­tar while rid­ing a horse, was done by Stan­ley Mouse. cor­rect me if I’m wrong.

  • Pat says:

    Sad, very sad. For some rea­son this was made out to be a sem­i­nal event in the his­to­ry of Amer­i­ca, when in real­i­ty it was a mess. Sil­ly men dressed up in their guru out­fits pre­tend­ing to be great spir­i­tu­al leaders,crowds of gawk­ers wan­der­ing the board­walk of psy­che­delia, out of tune rock bands grind­ing away while stoned out kids lost their real­i­ty (and many, their vir­gin­i­ty) in a vul­gar car­ni­val of stink­ing think­ing. As Shake­speare once said, “A tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and sig­ni­fy­ing noth­ing.”

    And what did it amount to? 50 years lat­er we end up with Hillary Clin­ton run­ning for pres­i­dent. Change the world? I think not.

  • henri_cervantes says:

    i doubt that any­one there would now con­nect it with the cur­rent polit­i­cal cli­mate. the obvi­ous chain of con­se­quences leads in a dif­fer­ent direc­tion. the peo­ple here and inspired by this line of think­ing were respon­si­ble for the com­put­er rev­o­lu­tion. i sup­pose you could blame the Google bus on them.

  • Carl Russo says:

    Well, Pat, I dare­say reac­tionary atti­tudes like yours was exact­ly what the kids were rebelling against, to the point of drop­ping out alto­geth­er.

  • Linda kelly says:

    Fan­tas­tic arti­cle and footage! Thank you Dan Cole­man! Would live to have you write for new mag dig­i­tal and print, The Haight Street Voice on FB now and month­ly print hits the stands Jan­u­ary 27, 2017!

  • GabbyCadaver says:

    Good catch on the bands. The actu­al orig­i­nal pos­er designed by Stan­ley Mouse (it’s on the Wikipedia page for the Human Be-In has in large type at the bot­tom “ALL SF GROUPS”

  • Harold Scroggy says:

    No won­der Ker­ouac had a break­down … with fruity friends like that.

  • Billius says:

    It’s amaz­ing that this was 50 years ago when I was mere­ly 8. Tkink of the coun­try 50 years before that. Then what will be 50 years from now?

  • Diana says:

    I was there, though I recall noth­ing about the pro­gram. I went with my two old­er sis­ters and we dressed for a fes­ti­val and sat on the grass away from the crowd but with plen­ty going on around us, glad to be part of a move­ment that val­ued free­dom, greater con­sious­ness, love, peace and beau­ty. Very fun to see this! Thanks for post­ing it.

  • Scott Appleton says:

    The event start­ed a larg­er move­ment of peace­ful folks try­ing to com­mu­ni­cate accep­tance and human warmth. those who do not see the val­ue in these things are counter pro­duc­tive to the sur­vival of us all. I was one of the many in SF par­tic­i­pat­ing in open­ing hearts and minds to the beau­ty of cre­ation. If all this seems imma­te­r­i­al to cur­rent trends i think your soul is stuck in sur­vival mode. I would sug­gest med­i­ta­tion and pey­ote may help you to see past the road­blocks in your evo­lu­tion. YMMD

  • Martin says:

    The video depicts the scene well. I was there. Diana’s com­ment from a year ago says it well. What I recall is how lit­tle atten­tion I and the peo­ple around me were giv­ing to what was hap­pen­ing on the plat­form. The event was not hap­pen­ing in front of the micro­phones. It was sim­ply to Be there. The “gath­er­ing of the tribes” I remem­ber as hav­ing the intent of join­ing Berke­ley “politi­cos” with Haight “hip­pies” (though not called that at the time). I recall sit­ting on the grass. Peo­ple were wan­der­ing around, as in the video, look­ing for some­thing to hap­pen. But noth­ing did: some poems, some bands, some peo­ple try­ing to get atten­tion and most­ly not get­ting it. Gary Sny­der and Allen Gins­berg set the tone. This was not to be a “star pro­duc­tion” with an audi­ence. Of course a lot of peo­ple were more or less stoned in a mel­low, some­what bored way. We gath­ered. And then we went home.

  • Henderson Wallace says:

    Is this Scot­ty Apple­ton from El sciroc­cos in Burlingame.….Henderson

  • Tom Spiro says:

    I’ve been watch­ing videos and read­ing up on events like this and the Mag­ic Moun­tain fes­ti­val since I have been wait­ing for our lit­tle pan­dem­ic to pass on. It’s great to have this insight into the Be-In, espe­cial­ly the walk through the crowd which give a great feel for the gath­er­ing. Love hear­ing sto­ries from those days, and wish I had­n’t been so young as to miss out(8 yo at the time). Maybe one day we will actu­al­ly see the world as our gar­den instead of our dump­ing ground. Peace! PS. WFT! Pat?

  • Terry Lutts says:

    I was there. I was going to U.C. Berke­ley at the time. It was a very cool event.

  • Jeff says:

    The one with the Indi­an on a horse was done by Rick Grif­fin. The one was Stan­ley “mouse” Miller had a pho­to of a yogi look­ing guy with a green tri­an­gle and a third eye in his fore­head that was drawn in.

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