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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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Highway 61 Revisited is the sixth studio album by American singer-songwriter Bob Dylan, released on August 30, 1965 by Columbia Records. Having until then recorded mostly acoustic music, Dylan used rock musicians as his backing band on every track of the album, except for the closing track, the 11-minute ballad "Desolation Row". Critics have focused on the innovative way Dylan combined driving, blues-based music with the subtlety of poetry to create songs that captured the political and cultural chaos of contemporary America. Author Michael Gray has argued that, in an important sense, the 1960s "started" with this album.

Leading with the hit song "Like a Rolling Stone", the album features songs that Dylan has continued to perform live over his long career, including "Ballad of a Thin Man" and the title track. He named the album after the major American highway which connected his birthplace of Duluth, Minnesota, to southern cities famed for their musical heritage, including St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans, and the Delta blues area of Mississippi. (Full article...)

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On the evening of 8 December 1980, English musician John Lennon, formerly of the Beatles, was shot and fatally wounded in the archway of The Dakota, his residence in New York City. His killer was Mark David Chapman, an American Beatles fan who travelled from Hawaii. Chapman said he was angered by Lennon's lifestyle and public statements, especially his much-publicized remark about the Beatles being "more popular than Jesus" and the lyrics of his later songs "God" and "Imagine". Chapman also said he was inspired by the fictional character Holden Caulfield from J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye.

Chapman planned the killing over several months and waited for Lennon at The Dakota on the morning of 8 December. During the evening he met Lennon, who signed Chapman's copy of the album Double Fantasy and subsequently left for a recording session at the Record Plant. Later that night, Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono returned to The Dakota. As they approached the entrance of the building, Chapman fired five hollow-point bullets from a .38 special revolver, four of which hit Lennon in the back. Chapman remained at the scene reading The Catcher in the Rye until he was arrested. Lennon was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital in a police car where he was pronounced dead on arrival. (Full article...)

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Credit: Volkmar Wentzel
Joseph Kittinger sets world records for the highest parachute jump, the longest parachute drogue fall and the fastest speed by a human through the atmosphere after jumping from Excelsior III.
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Alan Bartlett Shepard Jr. (November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998) was an American astronaut, naval aviator, test pilot, and businessman. In 1961, he became the second man and the first American to travel into space, and in 1971, he walked on the Moon.

A graduate of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Shepard saw action with the surface navy during World War II. He became a naval aviator in 1946, and a test pilot in 1950. He was selected as one of the original NASA Mercury Seven astronauts in 1959, and in May 1961 he made the first crewed Project Mercury flight, Mercury-Redstone 3, in a spacecraft he named Freedom 7. His craft entered space, but was not capable of achieving orbit. He became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space, and the first space traveler to manually control the orientation of his craft. In the final stages of Project Mercury, Shepard was scheduled to pilot the Mercury-Atlas 10 (MA-10), which was planned as a three-day mission. He named Mercury Spacecraft 15B Freedom 7 II in honor of his first spacecraft, but the mission was canceled. (Full article...)

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Shankar performing in 1969
Shankar performing in 1969

Ravi Shankar KBE (Bengali pronunciation: [ˈrobi ˈʃɔŋkor]; born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury, spelled Ravindra Shankar Chowdhury in Sanskrit; 7 April 1920 – 11 December 2012), whose name is often preceded by the title Pandit (Master), was an Indian sitar virtuoso and a composer. He became the world's best-known exponent of North Indian classical music, in the second half of the 20th century, and influenced many other musicians throughout the world. Shankar was awarded India's highest civilian honour, the Bharat Ratna, in 1999.

Shankar was born to a Bengali Brahmin family in India, and spent his youth as a dancer touring India and Europe with the dance group of his brother Uday Shankar. He gave up dancing in 1938 to study sitar playing under court musician Allauddin Khan. After finishing his studies in 1944, Shankar worked as a composer, creating the music for the Apu Trilogy by Satyajit Ray, and was music director of All India Radio, New Delhi, from 1949 to 1956. (Full article...)

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Woodstock was a music festival held August 15–18, 1969, on Max Yasgur's dairy farm in Bethel, New York, 40 miles (65 km) southwest of the town of Woodstock. Billed as "an Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music" and alternatively referred to as the Woodstock Rock Festival, it attracted an audience of more than 400,000. Thirty-two acts performed outdoors despite sporadic rain.

The festival has become widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history as well as a defining event for the counterculture generation. The event's significance was reinforced by a 1970 documentary film; an accompanying soundtrack album; and a song written by Joni Mitchell that became a major hit for both Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Matthews Southern Comfort. Music events bearing the Woodstock name have been planned for anniversaries including the tenth, twentieth, twenty-fifth, thirtieth, fortieth, and fiftieth. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine listed it as number 19 of the 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll. In 2017, the festival site became listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (Full article...)
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