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Iconic Musicians Galore -- Hippiefest Returns To Arizona

By Dave Cooper


Arising from the Beat Generation "beatniks" of the 1950s, the term "hippie" in the 1960's brought controversy. Those who represented themselves as "hippies" (mostly in the youthful social class) branded the 1960's with a bevy of influential creative music, arts and intellectual offerings. This included future politicians, world leaders, educators, poets, songwriters and musicians.

Many perspectives on this generation have been stated, argued, and written about. One thing for sure, some of the best music ever created appeared between 1965 and 1975. A multitude of inspired artists who contributed to the musical soundtrack of that era carry on with the troubadour spirit of their youth, touring and playing music that allows them to 'commune' with their audiences in unique way. Participants of that time hold on to memories and the spirit of empowerment cultivated during those formative years. And many are still fond of the distinctive name that helped define their generation -- "hippie".

Trademarks of the Hippie Generation like "flower power", tie-dyed shirts, hemp and gauze clothing, bell bottoms, and the era's innovative and often socially conscious music can be traced primarily to the American 1960's and 1970's.These fundamental elements had a distinctive imprint upon that era. They helped foster a unique lifestyle where social rebellion and personal expression became everyday language.

Dave MasonMark Farner

The 1960's and 1970's were a time when a shift in American culture was heightened by the events of the decade and the response of the hippie generation. The burden of social change fell upon thousands of young people. They reveled in the responsibility of opportunistic change, carrying the torch proclaiming a new social consciousness and cultural identity in America. They demanded equality as citizens of humanity.

To commemorate and recapture some of that enthusiasm, Comerica Theater in downtown Phoenix welcomes Hippiefest, Friday August 5 at 8:00pm. Hippiefest is a special concert celebration featuring a host of artists from that golden era of spectacular music. The lineup includes Dave Mason and Mark Farner (of Grand Funk Railroad). Also on the bill are Rick Derringer, Felix Cavaliere’s Rascals and Gary Wright.

The genesis of Hippiefest began several years ago. It has presented many prominent bands and musicians: Eric Burdon & the Animals, Jack Bruce of Cream, The Turtles, Janis Ian, Melanie and others. The current roster of talent is varied and impressive. It contains several members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Rick Derringer

Like many young musicians, Dave Mason bounced around in different groups meeting numerous band mates and performing various duties along the way. In 1966 Mason took a job as road manager with the Spencer Davis Group where he met Steve Winwood. One year later, Mason and Winwood formed the group, Traffic. In the early 1970's Dave Mason joined the gypsy-like ensemble Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, later serving as second guitarist behind Eric Clapton in Derek and the Dominos. Mason also recorded with George Harrison on his All Things Must Pass album. By the mid-1970s, Dave Mason finally established a solo career releasing popular tunes “Only You Know and I Know,” “We Just Disagree,” “Let It Go, Let It Flow,” and others.

Gary Wright

As lead singer and primary songwriter with Flint Michigan’s rock outfit Grand Funk Railroad, Mark Farner was a catalyst in the band’s rise to prominence on the Top 40 record charts. Grand Funk scored big hits with “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Locomotion,” “I’m Your Captain (Closer to Home),” “Rock and Roll Soul,” and “Bad Time (To Be In Love).” No doubt some of those great songs will be resurrected Friday night.

Rick Derringer is probably best known for his 1973 hit “Rock & Roll, Hoochie Koo.” His first chart-topper came in 1965 as lead singer with The McCoys with their big hit song, “Hang On Sloopy.” Derringer was also a regular player in bands featuring Edgar and Johnny Winter. Rick Derringer’s prowess as a highly-accomplished musician also landed him in the producer’s chair working with Bette Midler, KISS, Meatloaf, Cyndi Lauper, Barbara Streisand, and other stars.

Felix Cavaliere

The Young Rascals, (later the Rascals) featured the dynamic vocal talent of Felix Cavaliere who belted out classics like “Good Lovin’,” “How Can I Be Sure,” “Groovin’,” “It’s a Beautiful Morning,” “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long,” and many more pop tunes of the 1960s-early 1970s. Cavaliere has since enjoyed a long solo career, also re-tooling different incarnations of Rascals’ fame.

Best known for his ethereal 1976 top-seller “Dream Weaver,” Gary Wright’s career as a stage performer began as a child actor, actually appearing in a Broadway production. His artistic proclivities would eventually lead him into music where he fronted and played keyboards in several high school and college bands. In the late 60s he formed Spooky Tooth.

Lack of commercial success in the early 70s nearly ended his musical career when a serendipitous opportunity came his way. Gary Wright was invited to play keys on George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass project. Almost in unison, Wright and Harrison were instrumental figures in each other’s fledgling solo careers at that point. Gary Wright also charted in 1976 with “Love Is Alive.” That year he also hitched a lengthy ride with the Frampton Comes Alive tour. Now he is prominent member of Hippiefest.

With all this world-class talent on one stage, Friday night’s Hippiefest show is sure to be one of the must-see Arizona concert events of the year. For the complete lineup go to www.hippiefest.net/.