Ongoing History Daily: The origins of the term “psychedelic music”

Many words are used to describe various forms of music: grunge, metal, goth, punk. But how about this one: psychedelic?

For the answer, we must go back into the history of psychiatry. Dr. Humphry Osmond was an American working at the Saskatchewan Psychiatric Institute in the early 1950s. There he developed a theory about the causes of schizophrenia. He thought in some people, the brain accidentally produced LSD-like chemicals which caused the disease. He used the term “psychedelic” as part of the descriptions of his theory. The word means “mind-manifesting.” He then used it when communicating with the leading counter-culture acid heads of the 50s and 60s, including the author Aldous Huxley.

Through Huxley’s writings–and his use of the word–“psychedelic” came to describe certain types of music designed to be mind-altering and mind-expanding. And to think it all started in Saskatchewan.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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