1967: Pictures From a Pivotal Year

Machine gunner in helicopter on patrol over the Mekong Delta in 1967.
Larry Burrows—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
An American machine gunner on patrol by helicopter over Vietnam's Mekong Delta in 1967.
Celebrity
'60s

That the 1960s still hold remarkable sway over the American psyche is hardly a matter of debate. How people respond to the decade’s grip on the national imagination, on the other hand — well, that’s a bit more problematic.

Some find it heartening that the Sixties still resonate at all, with men and women who lived through those years and millions more who were born long after the decade ended; others decry the fact (or what they see as the fact) that the ideals of the era have been irretrievably co-opted by the triumph of turbocharged consumerism; still others find the entire mythology of the Age of Aquarius utterly obnoxious and tiresome, and can not wait for the Woodstock Generation to, quite frankly, die off.

New York counterculture leader Ed Sanders, 1967; photo by John Loengard.

Ed Sanders, poet and founder of the legendary “freak folk” band, the Fugs, photographed in 1967 by John Loengard.

But even the most ardent Sixties-bashers can sometimes find themselves inexorably drawn to the era — or, as the case may be, to one specific, pivotal year.

Take 1967. There was an awful lot going on in the U.S. and around the world at the time. The war in Vietnam was only getting bloodier. Race riots rocked American cities. Baseball fans reveled in one of the most exciting pennant races in history. A young comedian named Woody Allen was killing in Vegas. Iran crowned a new Shah. The “counterculture,” in all its protean forms, was in full bloom. Hippies were flooding to San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury — soon to be followed by far more toxic forces (meth and heroin, for example, and the casualties that customarily follow in their wake) that would effectively bring an ugly end to the “Summer of Love” almost before it began.

The photos in this gallery are not meant to represent “the best” pictures made by LIFE’s photographers in 1967. Instead, in their variety of style and theme, they illustrate the fluid, volatile new world that millions were struggling to come to grips with, and to somehow safely navigate, throughout the charged weeks and months of that long, strange year.

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