Robert Crumb: Hippie Spokesperson or Underground Cartoonist?
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.
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.