Robert Crumb: Hippie Spokesperson or Underground Cartoonist?

Robert Crumb: Hippie Spokesperson or Underground Cartoonist?


keep on truckin

Looking Back

Robert Crumb released the uniquely-regarded “Keep On Truckin’” cartoon in the first issue of Zap Comix in 1968. Although he expected this opportunity to be an exciting feature, Crumb never expected it to become a part of a multinational cultural movement. The comic was originally inspired by the Blind Boy Fuller song, “Truckin’ My Blues Away,” and was meant to be a direct reflection of the tune’s lyric “keep on trucking, truck your troubles away,” expressing to others to “just hang in there” when times get tough. Little did Robert know that he would soon be seen as a spokesperson for hippies everywhere. 

Anti-Hippie In A World of Flower Children

Shortly after the comic’s release, flower children adopted the slogan and used it to inspire others to build a world full of peace and love, protesting cultural norms with the use of “Keep On Truckin’” in various posters, stickers, shirts, and songs. Some may ask why this slogan became such a monumental part of the hippie movement - that of which is still unknown. What we do know is to never ask Robert Crumb for his take on the answer; he is still baffled and exasperated by its place in the counterculture movement.

Crumb certainly was never a fan of the hippie community and referred to the popularity of his work as a curse “I became acutely self-conscious about what I was doing. Was I now a ‘spokesman’ for the hippies or what? I had no idea how to handle my new position in society… Take Keep on Truckin’ for example. Keep on Truckin is the curse of my life. This stupid little cartoon caught on hugely. There was a D.J. on the radio in the seventies who would yell out every ten minutes: ‘And don't forget to KEEP ON TR-R-RUCKIN’!’ Boy, was that obnoxious… I didn't want to turn into a greeting card artist for the counterculture!”

The Legacy Continues

That didn’t stop the hippies from preserving the cartoon’s legacy. In 1970, the Grateful Dead recreated the comic into their song “Truckin’,” which was later recognized in 1997 by the United States Library of Congress as a National Treasure.

Robert continues to live as an underground cartoonist, likely still creating comics but under a pseudonym. Crumb was even offered $100,000 by Toyota in 2004 to reproduce the image for a “Keep On Truckin’” advertising campaign, in which he refused due to his enduring desire to have his hippie-influenced fame end once and for all. 



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