From the vault: 'Peace, Love and the Motor City' in the 1960s
The 1960s were described as a time of rock ‘n’ roll and revolution.
Opposition of the Vietnam War was growing, as was anti-war sentiment on college campuses. There were protests and riots, and a general questioning of authority.
From all of that, though, came a subculture of sorts and positivity despite tensions. It was during this time that people came together at Plum Street and attended shows at the Grande Ballroom.
This WDIV documentary, “Peace, Love and the Motor City,” narrated by former anchor Carmen Harlan, takes viewers on a journey through music, politics and the struggles of the ‘60s set against the backdrop of war, rebellion and oppression.
According to Harvey Ovshinsky, publisher of The Fifth Estate, the decade was the first time that white people knew what it was like to be despised by cops. During the period of rebellion, even having long hair could mean someone was considered radical, Ovshinsky said.
The Fifth Estate was one of the nation’s first underground newspapers.
“Subcultures need their own media,” said Peter Werbe of The Fifth Estate.
Up until that point, the mainstream media wasn’t really covering the movements that would come to be featured in the new paper.
It focused on the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement and music. The paper led to the rise of the message and a growth of the movement.
“Separate from our need to do it, we found it that other people had a need to read it,” Ovshinsky said.
As the subculture grew, so did tensions.
Poet John Sinclair formed the Detroit Artist Workshop near Wayne State University. It was for music, art and smoking marijuana. He soon became known as a left wing radical to authorities.
According to Sinclair, he was constantly harassed by the narcotics police.
The music of the decade
Music was also a large part of the time period.
The documentary is broken up by clips of performances from “Swingin’ Time with Robin Seymour.”
The breaks include lists of some top songs and movies of the year, including the top songs from 1962: “The Twist,” “Loco-Motion” and “Palisades Park”
In a decade that brought pop culture and counter culture, new music was constantly coming out of the ‘60s.
Some of the largest artists of the decade included the MC5, Jackie Wilson and Iggy and the Stooges. It was also during this time that The Beatles came into the music scene.
Racial tensions, a city divided
The documentary looks at politics and civil rights as well.
It was in the ‘60s that the Students for Democratic Society was being formed in Ann Arbor
In 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. participated in the Walk to Freedom in Detroit and gave a speech that, according to NAACP President Arthur Johnson, was a forerunner of his “I Have a Dream” speech.
While Detroit was more progressive than some places, especially the south, there was still a long way to go in the ‘60s.
In 1967, riots broke out.
The documentary only touches on the riots, though, instead focusing more on the positivity that arose when the Detroit Tigers won the World Series in 1968.
SEE MORE: 1968's 'The Year of the Tiger'
Former Tiger Willie Horton described the win as a “healing process over the city,” as it brought together white people and black people to celebrate.
While the city was divided, it was the Detroit Tigers that brought the city back together.
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