“Hair” has never been off the stage very long since 1968; a new revival will tour the country in 2013. This artwork was used to advertise the 2009 revival.

The changing mores of the 1960s eventually reached far beyond popular music. Motion pictures abandoned the production codes that had ruled since the 1930s and for the first time, the violence and sexuality of the real world could be shown on screen. Television slowly broadened its definition of acceptable content, and as it did, it abandoned western- and rural-themed shows in favor of programs with a hipper, urban outlook. Even Broadway got an infusion of the counterculture, thanks to the musical Hair. The so-called “American tribal love-rock musical” opened on Broadway in April 1968 to critical raves and commercial success, despite containing envelope-pushing nudity and open sexuality, drug use, and songs that made fun of religion and patriotism. Hair was even nominated for the Best Musical Tony Award.

After its Broadway success, Hair hit the road—and the shit hit the fan. Changing mores or not, the show’s content offended many. Some performances were picketed, some theaters refused to book the show, and some were threatened with closure if they did. A theater in Cleveland was bombed. After the Boston District Attorney’s office sought an injunction to shut the show down, the Massachusetts Supreme Court attended the show en masse. After seeing it, they demanded that the actors be clothed during future performances, and the show ended up closing for about six weeks. The Boston case ended up before the U.S. Supreme Court, which upheld a lower court’s decision that the show should be reopened.

The week after the Tonys (April 26, 1969), the Hair original Broadway soundtrack hit #1 on the Billboard 200 and stayed there for the next 13 weeks. For the rest of 1969, you could scarcely listen to the radio for 10 minutes without hearing a song from it. The Fifth Dimension took “Aquarius/Let the Sun Shine In” to #1. Three Dog Night cut “Easy to Be Hard,” the Cowsills recorded the title song, and Oliver did “Good Morning Starshine,” all of which made the Top 5 on the Hot 100, but none of which appeared on the Original Cast album in hit form.

Here’s a proto-video of the Cowsills doing “Hair,” which ran on Saturday morning TV circa 1969, and which is further evidence that kids’ TV in the 60s was awesome.

[youtube id=”BFy-yzj02FE” width=”600″ height=”350″]

About the Author

J.A. Bartlett

Writer, raconteur, radio geek, beer snob. There's more of this pondwater at http://jabartlett.wordpress.com.

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