Learn American History through 50 pop songs

Child of the Sixties


With the emergence of student activism in the early 1960s, American youth reorganized the political conscience of the nation. By protesting against the Vietnam War, fighting for civil rights, and introducing looser social restrictions to a younger generation, the counterculture movement impacted both political and social practices in America.


© Copyright 2010 by Mr. and Mrs. Gillenwater

Faded jeans, groovy scenes
I wore tie-dye, I flashed peace signs
I was a child of the Sixties

Just a boy, just a city
San Francisco in the Sixties
It was magic
It was tragic
Sometimes surreal
Sometimes too real
For a boy in the city
Of San Francisco in the Sixties

In a bug, a red vee dub
We traveled hills, down and up
Hippies chanted
Idealists ranted
Psychedelics swarmed the Haight
Sheli and I played at Golden Gate
In a bug, my pop’s vee dub
I saw it all, down and up

Faded jeans, groovy scenes
I wore tie-dye, I flashed peace signs
I was a child of the Sixties

US at war a world away
Draft cards pulled everyday
Some were burned
My neighbors’ weren’t
One fled to Canada
On bled in Cambodia
US at war a world away
But it seemed closer everyday

Doves and hawks, hawks and doves
Spreading war, spreading love
And it played out nightly on TV
Anti-war college campus
Anti-war sit-ins and protests

Doves and hawks, hawks and doves
Soon most Americans had had enough (of the Vietnam War)

Faded jeans, groovy scenes
I wore tie-dye, I flashed peace signs
I was a child of the Sixties

And during this decade while war was debated
Two Kennedy’s were assassinated
And the Black Panthers cried out “Black Power!”
While Malcolm X shed light on a very dark hour
But he was shot dead in 1965
And Martin Luther King never saw ‘69
Yes these turbulent times led us right to the brink
At least the music back then made us think

In the late Sixties we came of age
Turned on by Purple Haze
First Monterey Pop
Then Woodstock
Music was the tapestry
Music was the energy
In the Sixties when we came of age
With Jimi Hendrix and his Purple Haze

Faded jeans, groovy scenes
I wore tie-dye, I flashed peace signs
I was a child of the Sixties!

Faded jeans, groovy scenes
I wore tie-dye, I flashed peace signs
I was a child of the Sixties
Yes I was


Peace signs— The "peace sign" is a hand gesture with the index and middle fingers open while all others are closed and the palm is faced out. In the sixties young people often made this gesture while saying "Peace" to protest the war in Vietnam.

Hippies— The hippie subculture was a youth movement that arose in the United States during the mid-1960s. The root of the term 'hippie' is from hipster, and was initially used to describe beatniks who had moved into New York City's Greenwich Village and San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury district. These people inherited the countercultural values of the Beat Generation, created their own communities, listened to psychedelic rock, embraced the sexual revolution, and used drugs such as marijuana and LSD to explore alternative states of consciousness.

“Psychedelics swarmed the Haight”— Haight-Ashbury is a district of San Francisco, California, USA, named for the intersection of Haight and Ashbury streets. It is commonly called The Haight. The neighborhood became the center of the rock-and-roll lifestyle by the mid '60s. College and high-school students began streaming into the Haight during the spring break of 1967. This became known as The Summer of Love.

Draft cards— Conscription, or the draft, is a general term for involuntary enrollment in the service of a country. During the Vietnam War men between 18 and 26 were drafted by means of a lottery.

“Fled to Canada”— During the Vietnam War there was opposition to the draft. Many people opposed to the war chose to evade the draft by fleeing to a neutral country, such as Canada.

Cambodia— The Cambodian Campaign was a series of military operations conducted in eastern Cambodia by the United States and the Republic of Vietnam during the Vietnam War.

“Anti-war college campus/Anti war sit-ins and protests”— Opposition to the war arose during a time of unprecedented student activism which followed the free speech movement and the civil rights movement. As a result many of protests occurred on college campuses.

Vietnam War— The Vietnam War was a Cold War military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from September 26, 1959, to April 30, 1975.

“Two Kennedy’s were assassinated”— The assassination of John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, took place on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, at 12:30 p.m. CST. The assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, a United States Senator and brother of assassinated President John F. Kennedy, took place shortly after midnight on June 5, 1968 in Los Angeles, California.

Black Panthers— The Black Panther Party was an African-American revolutionary left-wing organization working for the self-defense for black people. It was active in the United States from the mid-1960s into the 1970s. The Black Panther Party achieved national and international fame through their deep involvement in the Black Power movement and in US politics of the 1960s and 70s.

Malcolm X— Malcolm X (born Malcolm Little; May 19, 1925 – February 21, 1965), was an African-American Muslim minister, public speaker, and human rights activist.

“But he was shot dead in 1965”— On February 21, 1965, in Manhattan's Audubon Ballroom, Malcolm X began to speak to a meeting of the Organization of Afro-American Unity when a disturbance broke out in the crowd. As his bodyguards moved to quiet the disturbance, a man rushed forward and shot him in the chest. Malcolm X was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m., shortly after he arrived at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital

“Martin Luther King never saw ‘69”— At 6:01 p.m., April 4, 1968, a shot rang out as King stood on his motel's second floor balcony. A bullet entered through his right cheek, smashing his jaw, then traveled down his spinal cord before lodging in his shoulder. After emergency chest surgery, King was pronounced dead at St. Joseph's Hospital at 7:05 p.m.

Monterey Pop— The Monterey International Pop Music Festival was a three-day concert event held June 16 to June 18, 1967 at the Monterey County Fairgrounds in Monterey, California.

Woodstock— Woodstock was a music festival held at Max Yasgur's 600-acre dairy farm near the hamlet of White Lake in the town of Bethel, New York, from August 15 to August 18, 1969.

Jimi Hendrix and his Purple Haze— James Marshall "Jimi" Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix; November 27, 1942[1] – September 18, 1970) was an American guitarist, singer and songwriter. He is often considered to be the greatest electric guitarist in the history of rock music. After initial success in Europe, he achieved fame in the United States following his 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Later, Hendrix headlined the iconic 1969 Woodstock Festival. Purple Haze is a classic Jimi Hendrix song.

Tiered Questions

Tier 1 Questions

What were two important events that occurred in the 1960s.

Tier 2 Questions

Draw a picture of how you picture Haight Ashbury in 1967 or Woodstock in 1969.

Tier 3 Questions

Compare and contrast media coverage and public awareness of the wars in Vietnam and Iraq.

Test Prep Questions

1) During the 1950s and 1960s, which civil rights leader advocated black separatism?

  • (1) Medgar Evers
  • (2) Rosa Parks
  • (3) James Meredith
  • (4) Malcolm X

2) The Berkeley demonstrations, riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and the Kent State protest all reflect student disapproval of

  • (1) the Vietnam War
  • (2) increases in college tuition
  • (3) the unequal status of American women
  • (4) racial


Historical Context: Since World War II, conflicts in Asia have played a major role in the Cold War. One of these conflicts arose in Vietnam. United States involvement in this conflict was sometimes controversial. The decision to send troops to Vietnam had a major impact on American society and on United States foreign policy.

Task: Using information from the documents and your knowledge of United States history, answer the questions that follow each document.

  • Explain the reasons for United States involvement in Vietnam
  • Discuss the impact of the Vietnam War on American society
  • Discuss the impact of the Vietnam War on United States foreign policy

This article appeared in the New York Times three days after the Kent State shootings.

Illinois Deploys Guard
More than 80 colleges across the country closed their doors yesterday for periods ranging from a day to the remainder of the academic year as thousands of students joined the growing nationwide campus protest against the war in Southeast Asia. In California, Gov. Ronald Reagan, citing “emotional turmoil,” closed down the entire state university and college system from midnight last night until next Monday. More than 280,000 students at 19 colleges and nine university campuses are involved. Pennsylvania State University, with 18 campuses, was closed for an indeterminate [indefinite period]. In the New York metropolitan area about 15 colleges closed, some for a day, some for the week, and some for the rest of the term. A spokesman for the National Student Association said that students had been staying away from classes at almost 300 campuses in the country. . . .

Source: Frank J. Prial, New York Times, May 7, 1970

Based on these documents, state two ways the Vietnam War affected American society.