Portal:1960s

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The 1960s Portal

Stonewall Inn, site of the 1969 Stonewall riots

The Stonewall Inn, site of major demonstrations for gay and lesbian rights in 1968


"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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Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the eighth studio album by the English rock band the Beatles. Released on 26 May 1967, it spent 27 weeks at number one on the Record Retailer chart in the United Kingdom and 15 weeks at number one on the Billboard Top LPs chart in the United States. It was lauded by critics for its innovations in songwriting, production and graphic design, for bridging a cultural divide between popular music and high art, and for reflecting the interests of contemporary youth and the counterculture. Its release was a defining moment in 1960s pop culture, heralding the Summer of Love, while the album's reception achieved full cultural legitimisation for pop music and recognition for the medium as a genuine art form.

At the end of August 1966, the Beatles permanently retired from touring and pursued individual interests for the next three months. During a return flight to London in November, Paul McCartney had an idea for a song involving an Edwardian military band that formed the impetus of the Sgt. Pepper concept. Sessions began on 24 November at EMI Studios with compositions inspired by the Beatles' youth, but after pressure from EMI, the songs "Strawberry Fields Forever" and "Penny Lane" were released as a double A-side single in February 1967 and left off the LP. (Full article...)

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Abbey Road is the eleventh studio album by the English rock band the Beatles, released on 26 September 1969 by Apple Records. Named after the location of EMI Studios in London, the cover features the group walking across the street's zebra crossing, an image that became one of the most famous and imitated in popular music. The album's initially mixed reviews were contrasted by its immediate commercial success, topping record charts in the UK and US. The lead single "Something" / "Come Together" was released in October and topped the US charts.

The album incorporates genres such as blues, rock and pop, and makes prominent use of Moog synthesizer, sounds filtered through a Leslie speaker, and tom-tom drums. It is the Beatles' only album recorded exclusively through a solid-state transistor mixing desk, which afforded a clearer and brighter sound than the group's previous records. Side two contains a medley of shorter song fragments. The sessions also produced a non-album single, "The Ballad of John and Yoko" backed with "Old Brown Shoe". (Full article...)

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George Wallace's Stand in the Schoolhouse Door
Credit: U.S. News & World Report
Attempting to block racial integration at the University of Alabama, Governor George Wallace (left) stands defiantly at the door on June 11, 1963, in an incident known as the Stand in the Schoolhouse Door. Wallace moved aside after being ordered to do so by President John F. Kennedy; years later, he became a born-again Christian and recanted his segregationist views.

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Glenn in 1993

John Herschel Glenn Jr. (July 18, 1921 – December 8, 2016) was a United States Marine Corps aviator, engineer, astronaut, businessman and politician. He was the third American in space, and the first American to orbit the Earth, circling it three times in 1962. Following his retirement from NASA, he served from 1974 to 1999 as a Democratic United States Senator from Ohio; in 1998, he flew into space again at age 77.

Before joining NASA, Glenn was a distinguished fighter pilot in World War II, China and Korea. He shot down three MiG-15s, and was awarded six Distinguished Flying Crosses and eighteen Air Medals. In 1957, he made the first supersonic transcontinental flight across the United States. His on-board camera took the first continuous, panoramic photograph of the United States. (Full article...)

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Brezhnev in East Berlin in April 1967

Leonid Ilyich Brezhnev (/ˈbrɛʒnɛf/; Russian: Леонид Ильич Брежнев, IPA: [lʲɪɐˈnʲit ɨˈlʲjidʑ ˈbrʲeʐnʲɪf] (About this soundlisten); Ukrainian: Леонід Ілліч Брежнєв, 19 December 1906 – 10 November 1982) was a Soviet politician who led the Soviet Union as General Secretary of the governing Communist Party (1964–1982) and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet (1960–1964, 1977–1982). His 18-year term as general secretary was second only to Joseph Stalin's in duration. While Brezhnev's rule was characterised by political stability and notable foreign policy successes, it was also marked by corruption, inefficiency, economic stagnation, and rapidly growing technological gaps with the West.

Brezhnev was born to a Russian working-class family in Kamenskoye (now Kamianske, Ukraine) within the Yekaterinoslav Governorate of the Russian Empire. After the results of the October Revolution were finalized with the creation of the Soviet Union, Brezhnev joined the Communist party's youth league in 1923 before becoming an official party member in 1929. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, he joined the Red Army as a commissar and rose rapidly through the ranks to become a major general during World War II. Following the war's end, Brezhnev was promoted to the party's Central Committee in 1952 and rose to become a full member of the Politburo by 1957. In 1964, he amassed enough power to replace Nikita Khrushchev as First Secretary of the CPSU, the most powerful position in the Soviet regime. (Full article...)

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"Garota de Ipanema" ("The Girl from Ipanema") is a Brazilian bossa nova and jazz song. It was a worldwide hit in the mid-1960s and won a Grammy for Record of the Year in 1965. It was written in 1962, with music by Antônio Carlos Jobim and Portuguese lyrics by Vinícius de Moraes. English lyrics were written later by Norman Gimbel.

The first commercial recording was in 1962, by Pery Ribeiro. The Stan Getz recording featuring the vocal debut of Astrud Gilberto became an international hit. This version had been shortened from the version on the album Getz/Gilberto (recorded in March 1963, released in March 1964), which had also included the Portuguese lyrics sung by Astrud's then husband João Gilberto. In the US, the single peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100, and went to number one for two weeks on the Easy Listening chart. Overseas it peaked at number 29 in the United Kingdom, and charted highly throughout the world. (Full article...)
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