“Come Together Right Now": Rock and Roll, the Counterculture, and the Emergence of a Transnational Rebellion in Prague during the 1960s

Sunday, January 10, 2010: 11:40 AM
Elizabeth Ballroom C (Hyatt)
Peter B. Levy , York College, York, PA
Jessica Levy , independent scholar
Students of the 1960s have increasingly turned their attention to the ways that youth protests and concerns crossed national boundaries.  Raised in an era in which walls were constructed to separate the East and West, young political activists on both sides of the Iron Curtain sought to “come together,” to borrow the words of the Beatles, to forge a new and more open society.  Nowhere was this truer than during Prague Spring, when the spirit of the sixties emerged to challenge Soviet rule.  Drawing on joint research conducted by Peter and Jessica Levy, including archival material and interviews with veterans of the Czech revolt, this paper will explore the transnational roots of Prague Spring, focusing on the role played by representatives of the counterculture, ranging from Allen Ginsberg, who was named the King of Prague in May 1965, to the Beatles, whose music infiltrated the Eastern bloc at the same time as it inspired western youths to rebel.             Confirmation of the transnational significance of the counterculture came in the wake of the Velvet Revolution when Frank Zappa visited in January 1990.  Travelling with U.S. Ambassador Shirley Temple Black, Zappa was greeted by five thousand screaming fans.  Newscasters rushed to interview Shirley Temple, who they expected would enthusiastically express her gratitude to Zappa for the role he and other artists had played in inspiring their rejection of communist rule.  And, in a display of their common vision they ventured to the John Lennon memorial, which the Czech underground had constructed adjacent to the Charles Bridge nearly ten years earlier, to pay homage to the songwriter who had helped them imagine a time when the world would “be as one.”