Who Were the First Hippies?
- In 1948, jazz crooner Nat King Cole was on Top of the Pops for eight straight weeks with the single “Nature Boy.” The song became a standard and was recorded by Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, and Peggy Lee. (Much later, director Baz Luhrmann had a haggard Ewan McGregor type out the chorus at the end of his 2001 film Moulin Rouge.)
The record set off a brief journalistic frenzy in 1948 over its hitherto unknown lyricist eden ahbez, who had long hair and a beard, dressed in a robe and sandals, ate only fruits and nuts, had given himself a Book of Genesis first name and cosmic A-to-Z last name, and lived in a tent under the first “L” in the “Hollywood” sign.
In other words, years before the word was coined in the 1960s, this guy was a hippie. He and the dozen or so other robe-wearing proto-hippies who hung around a German couple’s health-food store in Laurel Canyon called themselves “Nature Boys.” Hence the song’s odd title.
[I might mention at this point that Count Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy's anarcho-Christian tome The Kingdom of God Is Within You, which I stumbled upon at the 1988 Anarchist Survival Gathering in Toronto, led me back to my baptismal faith. This leads me to note Mr. Sailer's failure to mention that Abbie Hoffman famously canonized Servant of God Dorothy Day as "the first hippie." The founder of the Youth International Party was probably wrong and should have known better and called her "the first yippie."]
Mr. Sailer ends by quoting a hippie author who suggests, perhaps rightly, that "the actual anomaly was mid-20th-century mass culture," and concludes:
- Hippiedom is really just a perennial sub-culture…as old as the first humans that ever walked upright.…That’s why hippies will never go away…because they’ve always been here anyway.