The 1960s Portal


"The Sixties", as they are known in both scholarship and popular culture, is a term used by historians, journalists, and other objective academics; in some cases nostalgically to describe the counterculture and revolution in social norms about clothing, music, drugs, dress, formalities and schooling. Conservatives denounce the decade as one of irresponsible excess and flamboyance, and decay of social order. The decade was also labeled the Swinging Sixties because of the fall or relaxation of social taboos especially relating to racism and sexism that occurred during this time.

The 1960s became synonymous with the new, radical, and subversive events and trends of the period. In Africa the 1960s was a period of radical political change as 32 countries gained independence from their European colonial rulers.

Some commentators have seen in this era a classical Jungian nightmare cycle, where a rigid culture, unable to contain the demands for greater individual freedom, broke free of the social constraints of the previous age through extreme deviation from the norm. Christopher Booker charts the rise, success, fall/nightmare and explosion in the London scene of the 1960s. However, this alone does not explain the mass nature of the phenomenon.

Several nations such as the U.S., France, Germany and Britain turned to the left in the early and mid 1960s. In the United States, John F. Kennedy, a Keynesian and staunch anti-communist, pushed for social reforms. His assassination in 1963 was a stunning shock. Liberal reforms were finally passed under Lyndon B. Johnson including civil rights for African Americans and healthcare for the elderly and the poor. Despite his large-scale Great Society programs, Johnson was increasingly reviled by the New Left at home and abroad. The heavy-handed American role in the Vietnam War outraged student protestors across the globe, as they found peasant rebellion typified by Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara more appealing. Italy formed its first left-of-center government in March 1962 with a coalition of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, and moderate Republicans. Socialists joined the ruling block in December 1963. In Britain, the Labour Party gained power in 1964. In Brazil, João Goulart became president after Jânio Quadros resigned.

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The 1966 New York City smog was a major air-pollution episode and environmental disaster, coinciding with that year's Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Smog covered the city and its surrounding area from November 23 to 26, filling the city's air with damaging levels of several toxic pollutants. It was the third major smog in New York City, following events of similar scale in 1953 and 1963.

On November 23, a large mass of stagnant air over the East Coast trapped pollutants in the city's air. For three days, New York City was engulfed in dangerously high levels of carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, smoke, and haze. Pockets of air pollution pervaded the greater New York metropolitan area, including parts of New Jersey and Connecticut. By November 25, the smog became severe enough that regional leaders announced a "first-stage alert". During the alert, leaders of local and state governments asked residents and industry to take voluntary steps to minimize emissions. Health officials advised people with respiratory or heart conditions to remain indoors. The city shut off garbage incinerators, requiring massive hauling of garbage to landfills. A cold front dispersed the smog on November 26, and the alert ended. (Full article...)

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Tommy is the fourth studio album by the English rock band the Who, first released on 19 May 1969. Primarily written by guitarist Pete Townshend, Tommy is a double album and an early rock opera that tells the story of the fictional Tommy Walker.

Townshend came up with the concept of Tommy after being introduced to the work of Meher Baba, and he attempted to translate Baba's teachings into music. Recording of the album began in September 1968, but took six months to complete as material needed to be arranged and re-recorded in the studio. The Who promoted the album's release with an extensive tour, including a live version of Tommy, which lasted throughout 1969 and 1970. Key gigs from the tour included appearances at Woodstock, the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival, the University of Leeds, the Metropolitan Opera House, and the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival. The live performances of Tommy drew critical praise and revitalised the band's career. (Full article...)
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Promotional poster for Mantra-Rock Dance musical event
Promotional poster for Mantra-Rock Dance musical event
Credit: Harvey W. Cohen
The Mantra-Rock Dance musical event took place on January 29, 1967, at the Avalon Ballroom in San Francisco and came to be dubbed as the "ultimate high" and the "major spiritual event" of the hippie era. It was organized by the early followers of the Hare Krishna movement as a promotional and fundraising effort for their first temple on the West Coast. One of them, Harvey W. Cohen, created the Stanley Mouse inspired promotional poster (pictured). The Mantra-Rock Dance featured the Hare Krishna founder Bhaktivedanta Swami, the countercultural ideologues Allen Ginsberg and Timothy Leary, and leading rock groups the Grateful Dead, Moby Grape, and Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company. The event caused the Hare Krishna mantra to be adopted by all levels of the counterculture as a "loose commonality" and a viable alternative to drugs.

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Pink Chanel suit of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis

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McCartney in 2021

Sir James Paul McCartney CH MBE (born 18 June 1942) is an English singer, songwriter and musician who gained worldwide fame with the Beatles, for whom he played bass guitar and shared primary songwriting and lead vocal duties with John Lennon. One of the most successful composers and performers of all time, McCartney is known for his melodic approach to bass-playing, versatile and wide tenor vocal range, and musical eclecticism, exploring genres ranging from pre–rock and roll pop to classical, ballads, and electronica. His songwriting partnership with Lennon is the most successful in modern music history.

Born in Liverpool, McCartney taught himself piano, guitar, and songwriting as a teenager, having been influenced by his father, a jazz player, and rock and roll performers such as Little Richard and Buddy Holly. He began his career when he joined Lennon's skiffle group, the Quarrymen, in 1957, which evolved into the Beatles in 1960. Sometimes called "the cute Beatle", McCartney later immersed himself in the London avant-garde scene and played a key role in incorporating experimental aesthetics into the Beatles' studio productions. Starting with the 1967 album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, he gradually became the band's de facto leader, providing creative impetus for most of their music and film projects. Many of his Beatles songs, including "And I Love Her", "Yesterday", "Eleanor Rigby", and "Blackbird", rank among the most covered songs in history. Although primarily a bassist with the Beatles, he played a number of other instruments, including keyboards, guitars, and drums, on various songs. (Full article...)

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Kubrick c. 1973–74

Stanley Kubrick (/ˈkbrɪk/; July 26, 1928 – March 7, 1999) was an American filmmaker and photographer. Widely considered one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, his films were nearly all adaptations of novels or short stories, spanning a number of genres and gaining recognition for their intense attention to detail, innovative cinematography, extensive set design, and dark humor.

Born and raised in New York City, Kubrick was an average school student but displayed a keen interest in literature, photography, and film from a young age; he began to teach himself all aspects of film producing and directing after graduating from high school. After working as a photographer for Look magazine in the late 1940s and early 1950s, he began making low-budget short films and made his first major Hollywood film, The Killing, for United Artists in 1956. This was followed by two collaborations with Kirk Douglas: the anti-war film Paths of Glory (1957) and the historical epic film Spartacus (1960). (Full article...)

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The Space Race was a 20th-century competition between two Cold War rivals, the United States and the Soviet Union, to achieve superior spaceflight capability. It had its origins in the ballistic missile-based nuclear arms race between the two nations following World War II and had its peak with the more particular Moon Race to land on the Moon between the US moonshot and Soviet moonshot programs. The technological advantage demonstrated by spaceflight achievement was seen as necessary for national security and became part of the symbolism and ideology of the time. The Space Race brought pioneering launches of artificial satellites, robotic space probes to the Moon, Venus, and Mars, and human spaceflight in low Earth orbit and ultimately to the Moon.

Public interest in space travel originated in the 1951 publication of a Soviet youth magazine and was promptly picked up by US magazines. The competition began on July 30, 1955, when the United States announced its intent to launch artificial satellites for the International Geophysical Year. Four days later, the Soviet Union responded by declaring they would also launch a satellite "in the near future". The launching of satellites was enabled by developments in ballistic missile capabilities since the end of World War II. The competition gained Western public attention with the "Sputnik crisis", when the USSR achieved the first successful satellite launch, Sputnik 1, on October 4, 1957. It gained momentum when the USSR sent the first human, Yuri Gagarin, into space with the orbital flight of Vostok 1 on April 12, 1961. These were followed by a string of other early firsts achieved by the Soviets over the next few years. (Full article...)
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