Grateful Dead on Stage at the Human Be-In
The human tableau became complete with the Grateful Dead, who climbed up and down the flatbed when they were not sitting there, until it came time for them to play. Although the Grateful Dead, who were well known in the Haight-Ashbury and would have drawn a crowd based just on their name, they were omitted from the posters that had been made to announce the Human Be-In. The reason for this was very calculated. If people came to the Polo Fields to see or hear a particular band, they would have come for that reason, and the intent of coming to simply be with others and share with others would have been lost. Jerry Garcia understood this without any question at all when Bowen explained it to him. Like Bowen, Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead were all interested in seeing a changed world consciousness, and were willing to perform free without any overt advertising or mentioning of their rock group. On the day of the Be-In, Bowen was happy to see that the Grateful Dead had showed up, and he recognized some of the other people coming up and down from the back of the stage as being from the Jefferson Airplane, and other rock groups. Michael really knew nothing about rock and roll music. For many years he appreciated all forms of Jazz, as well as Indian Classical music, and would often play those kind of recordings when painting in his various studios. However, that was not the people’s music of that time and that place. One must follow what One does, and One had manifested rock and roll. Bowen had to suppress his own ego about the selection of music for the Be-In. He never liked rock and roll, or ever went to a rock concert of any kind other than the Human Be-In, since that genre of music for him was a kind of irritation, or non-music. Yet it was the people’s music, and this was the people’s day of change.
The sun was shining on that beautiful day, after weeks of typical San Francisco, cold, wet, gloomy weather. People were wonderfully happy in the warm sun, and seeing for the first time just how many of “us” actually existed. People shared the food they brought, people played music, danced, and grooved with one and all; they simply enjoyed being alive with other like minded free-thinkers. Only one policeman on horseback showed up, and that was only because the police horse stables were located at the far end of the polo field. There were no alcohol or beer bottles, unlike other large gatherings. Towards the end of the day, the energy of the Be-In inspired everyone to clean up all the trash, so that not even a small scrap of paper wrapping would be left behind. This was a true spontaneous cooperation to honor Mother Earth and each other by cleaning up the trash, and leaving the polo field like it was when they first arrived, spotless and free of trash.
Mother Earth painting by Michael Bowen
As the sun began to set, with the chill of the salt air from the evening mixing with the smell of the Pacific Ocean breeze, Michael Bowen got up on the stage for the first time, and spoke the words he had written many years earlier in Mexico, when he knew this gathering would happen. He had patiently waited many years for this moment to arrive, when he could personally initiate a new aeon, a new way for humanity to evolve. This was the exact moment when Michael wanted to address the Be-In crowd, just as the sun was setting and the event was slowly coming to an end. He knew from his initiation experience that with all the careful planning and effort under John Cooke’s guidance, this singular event could never be fully duplicated, but, as planned, would be repeatedly imitated. It was this event on this day that would produce a pivotal point of human evolution, when everyone in attendance would go forth as apostles, self-empowered individuals awakened to the new possibilities of a world order where people cooperated and shared, loving one another as equals. This was the event, the moment – as the setting sun descended – for which Michael had traveled extensively in order to create the human-art-tableau, and then speak to all who gathered, thus ushering in a new world consciousness. Under the guidance of John Starr Cooke, Michael traveled from 1963 to 1966 in a giant arc from San Francisco, to Mexico, then to New York, and London, back to New York, and finally returning to San Francisco, where he could put together all of the pieces he found along the way.