The 1968 Exhibit: "Hair" moves to Broadway, April 29, 1968

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HAIR: AN AMERICAN TRIBAL LOVE-ROCK MUSICAL

OK, this is cheating a little bit: This is actually the original cast recording from the ORIGINAL production of Hair by the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Public Theater, run by the legendary Joe Papp. And so, yes, it dates to 1967 (!) NOT 1968.

But sensational as Hair was in 1967, it was really in 1968 that it became a mass-culture phenomenon, especially after its move to a Broadway theater, the Biltmore, 42 years ago today.

The "tribal" musical

More than the wildly successful original-cast recording, with its iconic ipsychedelici cover, this earlier version focuses attention on the musicalis sometimes overlooked subtitle: itribal love-rock musical.i The book of the musical focuses on a group of politically active hippies living in Greenwich Village who refer to themselves as a itribe,i and there are many references to American Indians throughout the script.

Hippies and Indians

The idoctoredi group photo on the album cover mixes 19th-century images of Indian with white hippies, wearing face paint, beads, and long hair, and mugging for the camera. This imageoand Hair itselfois part of a larger pattern of appropriation of elements and images from Native American culture that characterized the counterculture in the 1960s.

Playing Indian

Hippiesoand Hair fixed the image of ithe hippiei in the American mind more strongly than any other cultural productoprofessed to iborrowingi from Native culture out of respect, to signal a broader quest for authenticity, ithe primitive,i closeness to nature, and a devotion to non-mainstream spirituality. Externally, however, this was little different from white cultureis decades-long practices of iplaying Indiani: Boy Scouts dressing up in feathered headdresses and buckskin, iIndiani costumes for Halloween parties, Indian performers in Wild West shows. *

Here's a thumbnail of the back cover:

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