50 Years Later, Monterey Pop Festival Returns With Organizer Lou Adler, Norah Jones, Eric Burdon, And More

Eric RisbergAP Images

Celebrating its 50 year anniversary, the Monterey Pop Festival returned this weekend, and with much of the same spirit as the original three-day festival. Organizer Lou Adler, who helped bring the spotlight to several musical icons five decades ago, brought back some of those same acts as well as fresh talent from more recent years to commemorate the festival’s 50th birthday.

Way back in 1967, the Monterey Pop Festival kicked off what is now known as “The Summer Of Love,” the social and political phenomenon that arose from the burgeoning “hippie scene” that was, at the time, centered mostly in San Francisco, California. That weekend gave rise to such unmistakable talents like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and the Grateful Dead. The original Monterey Pop Festival also introduced international acts to American audiences for the first time, including The Who and Ravi Shankar.

In keeping true to the spirit of the original festival, Shankar’s daughter Norah Jones was among the dozens of acts scheduled to take the stage at this anniversary celebration of Monterey Pop. Other modern acts included Gary Clark, Jr., Regina Spektor, Jack Johnson, the North Mississippi Allstars, and many more. Some of the performers returning to the stage from the original Monterey Pop Festival included Eric Burdon and The Animals, Booker T. Stax Revue, and the Grateful Dead’s bassist Phil Lesh with The Terrapin Family Band.

For Monterey organizer Lou Adler, this weekend’s festival was like stepping back in time through the past 50 years. He sees this anniversary event as a way to honor the spirit of the music, the people, and the movement of those times. The similarities between the counter-culture of the 1960s and today’s political divisions also holds that feeling of nostalgia for Adler.

“It’s emotional and, in a way, it brings back lots of memories,” he said.”I’m feeling a lot of the same spirit and reverberations from the music. I think it’s because the times we are in are similar to times we were in in 1967.”The original Monterey Pop Festival ushered in an era of musicians taking back their art form. The theater involved in live musical performances saw a renaissance beginning with the Monterey performances. The Who upped the ante by smashing all their instruments on stage, and Jimi Hendrix, not to be outdone, set his guitar ablaze, an iconic image that still holds power today.
Relatively unknown at the time, Jimi Hendrix gave a legendary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Relatively unknown at the time, Jimi Hendrix gave a legendary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. [Image by Bruce Fleming/AP Images]
“Up until that time, it was pretty much the record companies told the artists how many albums to record — almost what would be on them — and how they would be packaged and marketed,” Adler said of the original festival. “And that pretty much all changed coming out of Monterey.”Monterey Pop was the first music festival of its kind. Though there have been many others since then, including the legendary Woodstock as well as SXSW and Bonnaroo, Monterey was the one that kicked it all off. A flower-clad festival attendee enjoys music and sunshine at the Monterey Pop Festival 50th anniversary event. Monterey Pop Festival attendee Katie Dunkle enjoys a performance by Charles Bradley and His Extraordinaires [Image by Eric Risberg/AP Images]

“The Monterey International Pop Festival cannot be duplicated but can be celebrated and will be by the performers and the attendees at the 50th Anniversary festival,” Adler said before the anniversary event kicked off.

Today, music lovers of all genres can find a festival to suit their tastes fairly close to home no matter where they live. But, for Lou Adler, nothing will ever compare to those three magical days that were the original Monterey Pop Festival.

[Featured Image by Eric Risberg/AP Images]