President John F. Kennedy asked Americans “not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country” and established the Peace Corps in 1961. His assassination in 1963 shocked the nation and is a tragedy that will never be forgotten. One of the most radical periods in U.S. history, the 1960s was a decade of sex, drugs, and cultural change.
While Neil Armstrong was landing on the moon in 1969, hippies dressed in tie-dye print and bell-bottomed jeans found other ways to get high by smoking excessive amounts of marijuana or tripping on LSD.
Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream for peaceful revolution and made enormous steps in the Civil Rights Movement. Under President Johnson, he “war on Poverty’ began in 1964, along with the Civil Rights Act. In 1965, the Voting Rights Act was designed to further eliminate overt discrimination.
The Beatles invaded America and changed the music industry forever. During the week of 4 April 1964, The Beatles held twelve positions on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, including the top five positions. The top five songs were “Can’t Buy Me Love”, “Twist and Shout”, “She Loves You”, “I Want to Hold Your Hand”, and “Please Please Me.” The feat has never been matched by any other artist.
Known as the era of singles, hits from popular bands like The Four Seasons, Simon and Garfunkel, and The Rolling Stones streamed through the radio. Bubblegum pop came forward as well with hits by acts such as 1910 Fruitgum Company (with hits like ‘Simon Says’ and “1,2,3 Redlight”), The Archie (‘Sugar, Sugar’) and Ohio Express (“Yummy, Yummy, Yummy”.)
Toward the second half of the decade, America’s youth began to rebel against the social conformity of decades past, creating a counterculture movement that challenged taboos of the time. Americans questioned the government, campaigned for equal rights, and became increasingly open and promiscuous with their sexual activity. There was the summer of love in 1967 and the invention of the mini skirt in 1964. It wasn’t called the Swinging Sixties for nothing!
Pop culture flourished like never before during this tumultuous time and the movies and music of the time reflected these new ideas. The New Hollywood portrayed violence, drug-use, and sex in ways it never had before and produced classics like Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde, and The Graduate. The black comedy ‘Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb’ satirized the (at the time) very real threat of nuclear war.
The Old Hollywood hadn’t lost much of it’s own steam, with Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon’s Beach Party Movies, the big budget musicals like The Sound of Music, Hello Dolly, Oliver and My Fair Lady, and epics like Laurence of Arabia and
An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music
Hippies from far and wide flocked to the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in 1969, one of the most pivotal events in the history of popular music. Around 186,000 tickets were sold for $18 to $24 for the event, which simply became too large, making Woodstock, by default, a ‘free show.” It was held at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York, about 43 miles from the town of Woodstock, and lasted an extra day. A film about the event won the Academy Award for Documentary Feature.
The drug-usage, feelings of disunity, “free love” and hippie culture of the sixties spilled over into the next decades and influenced generations to come.