The hippie counterculture movement of the 1960s and 70s ended up having a profound impact and advanced quite a lot of social changes in the United States. Preaching free love, peace, altruism, and joy, the movement found solid ground with a lot of people who were disillusioned with the current state of the country, especially where the Vietnam War was concerned.
All of that flower power crept out of philosophical and political discourse and led to the creation of a new groovy wave of music. Here are 25 of the best songs that came out of the hippie movement.
1. Imagine – John Lennon
There have been plenty of people who’ve tried to vilify or weaken the position of the hippie movement throughout history, with “hippie” even being used in a derogatory way. But the movement was able to achieve social changes, in part at least, because it took the leap and called for them. Imagine asks us to take a moment and imagine what the world could look like if we did change, what we could be if we weren’t fighting or greedy or pitted against each other. It’s one of the most enduring, important, and popular hippie songs ever composed.
2. The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy) – Simon & Garfunkel
Feelin’ Groovy is a great example of a song that sums up big chunks of the hippie movement. The point of it is that life moves quickly, so it’s important to take things slow and be present. Take time to appreciate the world around you and be thankful for it instead of always rushing and stressing over everything. It advocates that you can find more happiness this way, and I’m inclined to believe they’re on to something.
3. California Dreamin’ – The Mamas and the Papas
One of the major parts of the hippie movement was dreaming of a better future or at least being in a better place. California Dreamin’ hits that nail on the head by metaphorically seeking to be in a better place which in actuality is a commentary on finding a new moral and cultural standard.
4. Blowin’ In The Wind – Bob Dylan
This song by Bob Dylan has been covered by numerous other artists thanks to its poetic questioning of social issues and the fact that it points out that solutions are out there, but nobody is trying to find them. The answer proposed in the song is that the answer is just “blowin’ in the wind,” but it remains fairly ambiguous.
5. All You Need Is Love – The Beatles
Is there anything more quintessential to the hippie movement than loving one another? The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love is all about knowing that love is the most critical aspect of life because there isn’t anything else that can fill your soul.
6. Heart of Gold – Neil Young
In Heart of Gold, Neil Young describes the search for kindness in a world that seems very cold and cruel. It discusses the true hope of finding genuinely nice people, but there hasn’t been much success. The song works well as a hippie song that helped bind together people who had similar ideas about sharing, kindness, and community.
7. Hotel California – The Eagles
Hotel California is one of The Eagles’ most popular songs and has an intro that’s almost immediately recognizable. The lyrics describe the rampant materialism in the modern world and how once you become greedy and consumed by your habits, it’s nearly impossible to get rid of them.
8. Let It Be – The Beatles
Peace isn’t just about being nonviolent or avoiding confrontation; inner peace is just as important. Let It Be encourages listeners to learn to accept things the way they are and be okay with them. Don’t worry about the things you can’t change because worrying will only make you unhappy. Making peace with who you are, how things are, and that some things will always be the same definitely give off hippie vibes, and the song is regarded as one of the best ever.
9. This Land Is Your Land – Woody Guthrie
Woody Guthrie wrote This Land Is Your Land as a parody of God Bless America as a way to protest for equal rights in the US. The song would go on to be covered by numerous artists, including Bob Dylan in the 1960s, and became one of the more essential hippie anthems.
10. Sound of Silence – Simon & Garfunkel
This is a song that came back into the mainstream in 2015 thanks to Disturbed’s hauntingly beautiful cover of it. Simon and Garfunkel’s original version has much more of a soft, hippie type of vibe to it than later covers, but the lyrics remain the same. The singer is calling on others who passively watch the world around them without voicing concern and those who feel culturally isolated. It also discussed the detachment of regular people from impersonal governments, where they simply don’t try to act, or their voices seem to fall on deaf ears.
11. Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season) – The Byrds
This song hit number one on the international charts in 1965. The lyrics are lifted almost word-for-word from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the bible. It discusses that there is a time and place for everything and how we must accept that as fact. There’s a time for us to come together and love one another and a time for us to argue. The song also delves into the cyclical nature of life and how what comes around goes around.
12. Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
Dreams would go on to be named one of the best songs of all time and inspire quite a few TikTok trends. The song itself is written from Stevie Nicks’s perspective on the end of one of her relationships, but the metaphorical lyrics hold quite a few hippie sentiments. Enjoying the bad with the good, and accepting things as they are, comes through loud and clear with “thunder only happens when it’s raining.”
13. Here Comes The Sun – The Beatles
Here Comes The Sun describes how great it can feel when the world warms up after a long and bitter winter. It’s optimistic about the future and the hope that the bad feelings will eventually just melt away, two things that were integral to the hippie movement.
14. Purple Haze – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Purple Haze may seem like a typical psychedelic trip, but in reality, Jimi Hendrix wrote the song after a dream he had where he could walk under the sea and was assaulted by a hazy mass of purple. The song itself is one of his most iconic and popular creations and the use of distortion in the recording changed rock music forever.
15. Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival
When you think of Fortunate Son, you probably imagine it being blasted from the speakers of an attack chopper swooping down on some enemies during a mission. In reality, it’s a commentary on the Vietnam War that explains the fact that the rich and powerful are the ones who cause wars, while the poor and unfortunate are the ones who fight and die in them. The “fortunate” part of the person being described is satirical, they’re the victim and aren’t fortunate at all, but they’re expected to be grateful for the opportunity.
16. Teach Your Children – Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
Inspired by a photo of a child holding a toy weapon, Teach Your Children is a reminder that children are the future and that what we teach them now will influence their opinions later in life. It’s about making sure we don’t send the wrong message about war and instead teach peace to the younger generation.
17. San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair) – Scott McKenzie
One of the unofficial anthems of the flower power movement, San Fransisco was written to promote a music festival during the year of its release in 1967. Along with All You Need Is Love, it was one of the most popular and defining songs of the famous summer of love.
18. Comfortably Numb – Pink Floyd
Comfortably Numb speaks to the fact that disconnecting from a problem won’t make it go away. Artificial relief and short-term fixes won’t change anything in the future; only true change can. While it may not be a hippie anthem, the metaphorical meanings of the song do measure up to many of the ideals the movement held.
19. If I Had A Hammer – Peter, Paul & Mary
This one was Peter, Paul, and Mary’s first big hit when it was released in 1962. The main theme of the song is that individuals can have the power to usher in social changes and advance justice around them. It’s one of the defining freedom songs of the time.
20. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
Stairway To Heaven was the song that pioneered protest songs of the 1970s, clearing the way for other songs like War Pigs, Bohemian Rhapsody, and Freebird. It became Led Zeppelin’s most important and popular song and delved into all kinds of social issues and the search for something better.
21. For What It’s Worth – Buffalo Springfield
For What It’s Worth was directly inspired by the youth counterculture protests in L.A. in 1966. It’s gone on to become a staple song when setting the scene in movies and shows depicting 1960s America and the hippie movement and was one of the most well-known protest songs of the time.
22. Eve of Destruction – Barry McGuire
Eve Of Destruction is one of the more influential protest anthems of the time. The song discusses racism, political unrest, hypocrisy, and injustice as the singer vents their frustrations with all of these things to God.
23. The Times they Are a-Changin’ – Bob Dylan
This one by Bob Dylan is all about how people can unite to actually make changes happen in the world. Dylan purposefully wrote it as an attempt to create an anthem for the social movements happening in the 1960s, and the US hippie movement picked it up despite the song not releasing as a single in the US.
24. Love The One You’re With – Crosby, Stills & Nash
The folky rock supergroup of Crosby, Stills and Nash would eventually add Neil Young to their group and put out this song about loving the people around you, even if the person you want to be with is far away at the time. It was released during the hippie movement and became a banner song for it due to the underlying messages in the song that could be used to promote free love.
25. Star Spangled Banner – Jimi Hendrix
In 1969, Hendrix took to the Woodstock stage to close out the festival and surprised almost everyone by playing the United States National Anthem. His rendition of the song was what we’d call today a remix, adding his signature guitar sounds and an emotionally-charged performance. The point of the performance is explained differently, depending on who you ask, with some saying it was a statement against the Vietnam War while others saw it as an attack on the US itself. Regardless of how you take it, you won’t see a better performance of the anthem.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.