Janis Joplin – Summertime

On-screen: Janis Joplin “Summertime”.  The irony of Janis Joplin’s SUMMERTIME is apparent with the lyric “the living is easy” set against a half-burned placard welcoming the Democratic National Convention to Mayor Richard Daley’s Chicago in August of 1968.  Unwelcome were anti-establishment groups like The National Mobilization to End the War in Vietnam (MOBE), SDS, the Black Panthers, and the Yippies who assembled a week-long counter-convention. Widespread violence ensued as protestors were met by a massive force of American troops, National Guard, and Chicago police who, together, were armed with billy-clubs, machine guns, and grenade launchers!  Janis Joplin’s SUMMERTIME segment news footage of the riots shows widespread police brutality that led to hundreds of injuries and arrests among protesters.  Janis Joplin sings, “…no, no, no, don’t you cry!”  A commission on the turmoil called the1968 Democratic National Convention: Mayor Daley’s “police riot.”

Federal courtrooms extended the guerrilla theater in Janis Joplin’s SUMMERTIME as the “Chicago Eight” – including Black Panther leader Bobby Seale (appearing bound and gagged) and Yippie leaders Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin – were tried for conspiracy to incite the violence that took place at the Democratic National Convention.

The soulful promise of Janis Joplin’s SUMMERTIME’s “you’re gonna rise up … singing” was realized in draft-resistance and anti-war protests in American cities like New York and in capitals around the world. Among the most sobering of 1960s protest images was the self-immolation of the South Vietnamese monk, Thich Quang Duc.

Soundtrack NotesJanis Joplin, with Big Brother and The Holding Company, released the original version, presented in DOMINOES, of SUMMERTIME on CHEAP THRILLS (CBS Records) in 1968. Other versions of SUMMERTIME are available on several Janis Joplin anthologies or releases.  In 1998, Columbia (Europe) released the Janis Joplin Anthology CD.  In 1999, Sony released a Janis Joplin “Greatest Hits” CD with many remastered tracks including SUMMERTIME.  And, in 2005 Sony released the 5-CD box set “Box of Pearls: The Janis Joplin Collection“.

Context: The counterculture knew that little else in American life would receive as much TV coverage as the 1968 Democratic National Convention. For one thing, it promised to be controversial, because unlike the Republicans, the Democrats were divided over the Vietnam War issue. Although Hubert Humphrey had the nomination in his pocket, the “end the Vietnam War” wing of the party was determined to have its say and the mood of the nation was expectant. In the months before the Democratic Convention, the Yippies, SDS (Students for a Democratic Society), and various other groups from the anti-war movement sent out a massive call to come to Chicago to attend a “counter-convention” – a guerilla spectacle that would protest the sham nomination inside the convention center and the repressive politics of the Establishment in general. As tens of thousands of youth who answered the call arrived in Chicago, they discovered 12,000 police and 6,000 national guardsmen waiting for them.

That was the situation when, at midnight on August 28, 1968, the city exploded into several days of violence that took the form of running battles between counter-culture demonstrators and Chicago cops outside the convention center, and violent pandemonium between Richard Daley’s security men and the middle-aged politicians inside the center. When the last cloud of tear gas vanished and the confetti was swept away, Mayor Daley claimed that he had defeated the minions of the younger generation. But the counter-convention proved – before 30 million TV viewers – what it had set out to prove:  that, if provoked, the system managed by the older generation was as brutal as that of the Soviet Union.

The Chicago melee may have provided the most televised and most violent battle, but earlier in the spring of 1968, the war between the generations transcended class lines and cultural boundaries, uniting the younger generation in hundreds of smaller pitched battles in the streets and on campuses all over the world. From New York City to Paris, from Mexico City to Manila, one issue stood out among the several issues that galvanized their actions – the Vietnam War.

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