By Alex Jones
CAPTIVATING vintage photos tell the story of Greenwich village – the birthplace of the Beat Generation and radical counterculture which Bob Dylan, Jack Kerouac, and Maya Angelou would often frequent.
Striking images, taken in 1960, include a beautiful woman, dressed all in black, swept up in a live jazz performance; the distinctive staircase leading down to the Gaslight Café, trodden by countless progressive minds; and a renowned peace protester holding court amongst a smoky room and a rapt audience.
Greenwich Village – which became the United States’ East coast’s artist’s haven in the middle of the 20th century, a continent away from the liberal attitudes of California and Haight-Ashbury – was home to a range of eccentrics and filled with numerous smoky late-night jazz-heavy basement bars and coffee houses which influenced and sculpted some of the most recognisable talents of the era.
These seldom seen photos, which have been unearthed after several decades in storage, capture the spirit of the inspirational Village including shots of the Gaslight Café – where emerging stars like Jimi Hendix and Bruce Springsteen plied their trade – and Rick Allmen’s Cafe Bizarre – where the acclaimed house band The Velvet Underground jammed alongside some of the United States’ finest literary minds.
In the late 1940s, a new counterculture converged around the writings of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and William Burroughs that embraced nonconformity and a bohemian, sexually-liberal lifestyle. Known as the ‘Beat Generation’, they laid the philosophical foundations for a free-spirited expressionism that would evolve into the broader hippie movement in the 1960s in Greenwich Village.
Poets, authors and artists – such as Truman Capote, Dylan Thomas and Jackson Pollock – all expressed and debated life’s big questions in this hippie paradise which was the hub of revival in art, music, politics, literature, and ideas. Infamously, its claimed that Welsh writer Dylan Thomas died after a particularly heavy drinking session in the Greenwich Village at the White Horse Tavern.
There was also action to back up the words and socialising. East Coast protests against the Vietnam War and the Stonewall Riots would all stem from here.