Dangerous hair

Attacked and beaten because of our hair. 1966 revisited.

This week’s prompt, “Hair” is extremely well timed. On my 60th birthday, my wife and son successfully orchestrated a surprise party for me. As part of the surprise, they dug up a lot of stuff from my many years in both R&B and Rock bands.

One of the things they dug up was a small handful of surviving lyrics I’d written back in the 60’s; among them, these lyrics I’m including as part of my July 15th, Sunday Scribblings post. They also dug up a few old photos.

These were written when I was just 19 years of age, to accompany rock music – they are not terribly polished, but they are earnest. These words came from the bottom of my heart, at the time.

What you need to realize is in the Midwest United States, there were few long-haired bands. We were called freaks, hippies – and taunted, accosted, sometimes even beaten for our hair. Our hair was a very powerful and dangerous statement for us to make – it threatened conservative America.

There were a great many places our band would play were we did not dare walk the streets, unless we did so as a group – including our roadies — a couple of pretty tough dudes. I also played football, so I was reasonably able – but we still adhered to “safety in numbers”.

We were expressing our right to be free, and we were expressing our opposition to the war in Viet Nam, and the general intolerance and prejudice that was prevalent in those times. Our hair was not only us speaking out as free individuals, it was also a political and social statement.

Those were very ’strange days’! Our hair made us targets for considerable verbal and physical abuse – but we were committed to our statement of freedom.

Anyway, following here is a 42-year-old photo I attempted to restore digitally. The hair is tame by today’s standards, but in the mid 1960’s, in Middle America – I was threateningly radical.

Below the photo are the lyrics to “Flowin’ Free”, which I penned 41 years ago, at age 19. They are not here because they are great verse – they are shallow and naïve. Rather, they are here for their nostalgic interest, and their relevance to the prompt for today.

rob-at-18.jpg

Flowin’ Free

(lyrics by: Rob Kistner)

My hair — I grow and grow it
Though the fearful tell me stow it
But instead, I’m proud to show it
I’m young and free – and you should know it

Frightened anger, I rise above it
Aren’t you getting tired of it
Despite your taunts, I’ll never shove it
Cause my hair, I really love it

______________________
(chorus:)
My hair means freedom
To you it’s strange
My hair’s my anthem
It sings out change
______________________

You’re screamin’ at me cut it
Instead I’m gonna strut it
Your hateful mouth, why don’t you shut it
Cause my hair – I’ll never cut it

______________________
(chorus:)
My hair means freedom
To you it’s strange
My hair’s my anthem
It sings out change
______________________

My long hair is flowin’ free
I’m being all that I can be
But when you look, you don’t see me
You see some kind of enemy

It’s time you understand
We all must lend a hand
Join with our peaceful, hairy band
And we’ll build a better land

______________________
(chorus:)
It’s time for freedom
That’s not so strange
Let’s raise our voices
And sing out change
______________________

So everybody grow your hair
I want to see it everywhere
Time to be brave if you dare
Show your fellow man you care

______________________
(chorus:)
It’s time for freedom
That’s not so strange
Let’s raise our voices
And sing out change

(refrain:)
It’s time for freedom
That’s not so strange
Let’s join our voices
And there’ll be change
______________________

© 1966

79 thoughts on “Dangerous hair”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post. It brought back quite a few memories for me. I was pretty young when the ‘Hair, the Musical’ came out and I remember the fights I had with my parents who would not let me go see it.

  2. Hi from the other Portland,

    Happy Birthday!!!
    It is great that your hair played such a significance in your history. Thank you for sharing and excellent song!

  3. Happy birthday, Rob. Your photo and song brings to mind my eldest brother. A bit younger than you, he hit his long hair stride in 1972, when he was 15. He was also learning to play the guitar. I seem to recall in my mind lyrics of a similar nature spilling out of him. (Much to the disdain of my father, an Air Force colonel.)

  4. When I was writing my own response to today’s prompt, I temporarily forgot that my segment of society (blacks) isn’t the only one that has made statements via hair. Thanks for reminding me.

  5. Sandie

    Thank you, glad you enjoyed it! 😉

    ‘Hair’ was incredibly controversial in its day. Today, it seems tame — but such is the ebb and flow of time.

  6. Tori

    You are welcome!

    Hair was a big deal in the tumultuous years of my youth — the result of the Beatles and the San Francisco scene. You almost had to take a stand on one side or the other.

  7. Patois

    Thanks for stopping by! 😉

    I am a decade older than your brother, but I had even longer hair by 1972 — and was till deeply into making music, and social comment.

    In 1972, I was dating the youngest daughter of a retired Navy Vice Admiral.   I was Army… but ROTC only in college, never went ‘in country’ on active.

  8. It’s strange to read the memories of a real person who lived in the world I can only see on videos and read about in books. The memories of my relatives who all lived in the Soviet Union in the 60s, are drastically different.

  9. Dani

    For many years, my long hair was a strong statement regarding my political and my social beliefs.

    From 1972 to 1974 my bass player was black with an impressively massive afro. Darce was his name, and he kicked ass on bass.  I always though his hair was so damned cool…

    At that point my auburn locks were long and curly — reaching down to my shoulder blades. My keyboard player had blond straight hair to his waist.

    We were a bad ass lookin’ band, and we didn’t play and sing half bad either. 😉

  10. Anna

    Thank you for visiting my blog!

    It’s strange and wonderful getting a comment on my blog from someone whose relatives lived in the Soviet Union in the 1960’s… 😉 …the internet is really quite a miracle of communication!

    And wouldn’t it be fantastic if all the peoples of the world could someday enjoy a free exchange of ideas — without the barriers and constraints of warring ideologies and repressive governing bodies.

  11. Rob I still love long hair and what it signifies. Then, rebellion against establishment, now the artist within! The young lyrics were so appropriate for the times and how many of us felt. I can see where you’d have so much sympathy for the soldiers of today fighting such a fruitless war. Happy belated birthday! I’d like to think we’re a lot cooler than the naive parents of yesterday! What a big kafuffle back then over something as superficial as hair! How stupid could they be? I almost played the theme song from hair on my blog. So much could be said about hair and the significance of it! Great post!
    Peace Sherrie

  12. Sherrie

    Thank you for stopping by and sharing your thoughts… your kind words!

    Yes, it’s amazing to me how much Iraq is beginning to resemble Viet Nam. Seems we never learn…

    Would have loved to have heard the Hair soundtrack when I visited your blog… 😉

  13. Rob – farout photo and song.
    I agree with Sherrie it would be cool to hear that song when I visit your blog.
    Thanks for coming to visit my hair memories.
    Wishing you Peace, Love & Many Groovy Birthdays To Come,
    Frances

  14. Rob,
    Once again, you wow me. I think I’m becoming a groupie! 🙂

    You shouldn’t “wave off” this song because of your age or your naiveté. That is what makes it so perfect. The young and idealistic were the root of all the 60’s were. You guys were a catalyst for change, and succeeded. I think it actually takes a young heart and mind to make the changes that need to happen. Partly because we (most of us) mellow with age and are much more likely to let things slide by. My family used to say I was born for the wrong decade. I should have been a 60’s child. I was passionate and driven for change. Now? Not if I have to go stand outside in the heat. 🙂

    I think if we look hard enough, we can see similarities with each decade of young people, and how they choose to “stick it to the man”. Mohawks, bald heads, afro’s, flat tops, dreads, bright bold colors, spikes… You name it. Hair is easy to make a statement with. It speaks for you before the words come out of your mouth.

    Sorry to ramble on your comment section… 🙂
    Great Post, and happy late 60th!

  15. Frances

    Thank you!

    I have no copies of the song recorded, but I wish I did.

    I lost a lot of my old lyric books and reel to reel recordings in a very ugly divorce many years ago. That was a lot of creative energy — lost to bitterness… sad. 🙁

    Thank you for the belated birthday wishes… I hope I have many more as well. Gentle peace & enriching love to you… 😉

  16. Megan

    Thank you, wow… your enthusiasm humbles me!

    It’s been many years since I’ve had any groupies… but fond sweet memories still linger… 😉

    I wasn’t negating the sincerity of “Flowin’ Free”, or its impact in its time — it is just obviously written by a very young Rob. I guess I’ve seen enough in my life that I’ve lost a bit of my idealistic edge… though not all.

    I know I can write ‘better’ today, but maybe not as ‘genuine’, or as full of hope — no, not hope, belief… full of ‘belief’ that things can be better. Maybe I’m embarrassed to admit I’ve lost some of my passion, and that song reminds me of that fact.

    We did have the passion and vitality to stand strong and proud for what we believed. The 60’s were intoxicating years, in so many ways — including spiritually, and I am not referring to religion, but rather… pure spirituality — truly connected to my fellow human beings, and to the earth.

    I see the statements of individuality in my children and their friends. I never did, nor will I ever judge or discourage it. In fact, I used to encourage them to use their personal statements to try to make a difference in the world.

    There are some of the young who have become despaired and pessimistic — they’ve lost faith they can make a difference… that saddens me. 🙁

    However, I am so very moved and encouraged to see the young getting caught up in the movement to save this planet — talk about somethings that’s powerful and necessary… so damned important!

    Well, thanks again for stopping by Megan. Please visit again! 😉

  17. This is a great piece of writing – it’s so true that hair made a statement – and I guess it still does – for example the EMOs and their floppy, jet-black fringes hiding one eye. The more things change, the more things stay the same. I wonder when powdered wigs will come back in?!

  18. That took me back and yet this chorus could be today:
    It’s time for freedom
    That’s not so strange
    Let’s join our voices
    And there’ll be change
    Thanks.

  19. Chief Biscuit

    Thank you!

    So true about the wheel of life, the ‘Great Mandala’, turning through generation after generation — we can only hope it’s rising in its rotations to a higher plane for humankind.

    Last time I cast an eye toward London, it seemed powdered wigs never left… 😉

  20. Jone

    Glad you were transported… 😉

    Sadly, the chorus is still relevant. Hopefully someday we humans will uplift our lot above these words!

  21. i love this! it’s so interesting. i knew a little about how long haired “hippies” were ridiculed, but this really puts it in perspective. it was violent. your hair really was your anthem. i love the line: join with our peaceful, hairy band.
    this post is really cool. thanks for sharing!

  22. Ascender

    Thank you for visiting and leaving your comment!

    I have many fond memories of my middle America days… but the prejudice and closed minds are not among them.

    My family and friends not only made my 60th B’day a complete surprise, they made it one of the most wonderful moments in my recent life… 😉

  23. Tricia

    Thank you, I’m pleased you enjoyed it.

    In the mid 60’s there was little tolerance in middle America for us long-hairs. You would encounter a little less backlash in the big cities of the coasts — San Francisco, LA, NYC, but even there, in the worng places, if you were alone, you’d still get accosted.

    Looking at my hair in my picture; in today’s world, my hair would hardly raise an eyebrow — but we paid a frustrating price to open people’s minds to the degree of tolerance there is today. The world has a ways to go still with regard to tolerance — we’re far from an enlightened planet!

    Again, I’m glad you liked this post — I was pleased to share it… 😉

  24. Alex

    You’re welcome!

    When compared to today’s lyrics, “Flowin’ Free” was certainly ‘protest-lite’… 😉 …but when confronting the small-mindedness that was so overwhelmingly prevalent in Middle America in 1966 — it was provocative stuff… enough to stir anger and invite conflict!  Things were very very different then.

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