1969-2009: Events That Changed Our Lives 40 Years Ago

1969-The-Year-That-Changed-AmericaIt seems like the older we get the more we reflect back on our lives up to the present. We think about our accomplishments, where we are situated at today and what we are still looking forward to in the future. Everyone goes through it eventually, but it doesn’t really sink in until maybe 40 or 50 years of age, give or take a little. During this thought process, the media has been blitzing us with the anniversaries of some major milestones in our society. This week, August 15th through 18th, celebrates the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, the epic four-day rock festival that drew more than 30 bands and 300,000 plus fans to a farmer’s field in Bethel, N.Y. And, of course, back on July 20th we celebrated the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s successful lunar landing as well as the first human(s) to ever set foot on the moon, which led to Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin’s, historic walks on the lunar surface. The famous quote being “That’s One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind”

But why should those two events garner all the attention?

There were plenty of other significant ’69 happenings that are worthy of praise and recognition as well as a few that led to substantial controversy. 1969 had it’s share of disasters, strife and  violence which impacted us in various ways. We progressed forward in some respects and suffered setbacks as well with other issues.

Overall….. 1969 was a year of enormous cultural innovation and change. The music, movies and events that seemed to sum up the chaos, creativity, violence and hopefulness of the decade.

For those of us that are old enough to remember, let’s reflect back to these times and see just how many of them you actually remember when they made headlines or the front pages of our newspapers and television sets. For the younger ones, try to understand what we were dealing and coping with forty years ago.

  • 250,000 anti-war protesters marched on Washington DC in opposition to the war in Vietnam.
  • The very first United States troop withdrawals are made from the Vietnam War beginning on July 8.
  • The US institutes the draft lottery to determine draft into US Armed Forces for the Vietnam War.
  • The invention of the ATM. The first automated teller machine was installed at a branch of Chemical Bank in Rockville Centre on Long Island in New York.
  • The Microprocessor ( a miniature set of integrated circuits ) is invented opening the way for the computer revolution that followed
  • Creation of ARPANET – the predecessor of the Internet
  • Wal-Mart incorporates as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
  • The Gap opened its first store. Taking its name from the newly discovered “generation gap,” the San Francisco-based shop sold record albums and blue jeans, eventually sprouting all over the country and making denim the defining uniform of generations of Americans.
  • Forty years ago this month (August 9, 1969), four of Charles Manson’s followers murdered actress Sharon Tate, her unborn baby and four others who were visiting her (husband Roman Polanski was in Europe for work). The following night, Manson’s followers killed Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in their home. This was part of Manson’s plan to create “helter skelter”, the term that became the title of a bestselling book by Vincent Bugliosi and Curt Gentry about Manson and the murders.
  • The Altamont Free Concert is held at the Altamont Speedway in northern California. Organized as well as hosted by the Rolling Stones, it is an attempt at a “Woodstock West” and is best known for the uproar of violence that occurred. Hells Angels motorcycle club members were used as bouncers resulting in a number of deaths. It is viewed by many as the “end of the sixties.”
  • The gay-rights movement was born. Homosexuals and drag queens fought back after police raided New York’s Stonewall Inn (a gay club). Gay people worldwide suddenly discovered they were a community, one that, from then on, would forcibly resist discrimination.
  • Reported as being the year the first strain of the AIDS (HIV) virus migrated to the United States via the island nation of Haiti.
  • The US Supreme Court rules on Stanley v. Georgia declaring “The State may not prohibit mere possession of obscene materials for personal use”.
  • David Reuben published “Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex (But Were Afraid to Ask).” The psychiatrist’s plainspoken ‘Q & A-style’ explanation of human sexuality became one of the decade’s most popular books and essential covert bathroom reading for millions of teenagers.
  • On January 30, The Beatles give their last public performance, on the roof of Apple Records. The impromptu concert was broken up by the police.
  • “The Brady Bunch” debuted on ABC. America’s favorite family moved into our living rooms on Sept. 26 and refused to leave – four decades later, Brady children still pop up, only now they’re on reality shows.
  • The Boeing 747 jumbo jet makes its debut on December 2, 1969. It carried 191 people, most of them reporters and photographers, from it’s birthplace, Seattle to New York City.
  • The first test flight of the super fast, supersonic Concorde is conducted in Toulouse, France in March – The last one took place in 2003.
  • The Mariner 6 and Mariner 7 Mars probes are launched and completed as the first dual mission to Mars flying over the equator and south polar regions while analysing atmosphere and surface with remote sensors as well as recording and relaying hundreds of pictures. The mission’s goals were to study the surface and atmosphere of Mars.
  • Robin Knox-Johnston becomes the first person to sail around the world solo without stopping.
  • 1969 was the year Edward (Ted) Kennedy’s chances of moving into the White House took a nosedive, along with the car he was driving on Chappaquiddick Island in Massachusetts. The accident resulted in the death of passenger Mary Jo Kopechne, a former campaign aide to his brother, Robert. Kennedy pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and was given a suspended sentence.
  • A group of American Indians, led by Richard Oakes, seized Alcatraz Island in the San Francisco Bay for 19 long months, inspiring a wave of renewed Indian pride and government reform.
  • The EC-121 shoot down incident occurred on April 15 when a US Navy Lockheed EC-121-M Warning Star on a reconnaissance mission was shot down by a North Korean MIG-17 aircraft over the Sea of Japan. The plane crashed 90 nautical miles off the North Korean coast killing all 31 Americans on board.
  • On January 20, Richard Nixon succeeds Lyndon Johnson as the 37th President of the United States of America.
  • Golda Meir of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, becomes the first female prime minister of Israel.
  • In Cairo, Egypt, Yasser Arafat is elected Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) leader at the Palestinian National Congress.
  • Charles de Gaulle resigns as French President.
  • Former United States General and President Dwight David Eisenhower dies after a long illness in the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, DC on March 28, 1969.
  • Other zeitgeist-changing 1969 debuts included “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” and, perhaps most revolutionary, “Sesame Street,” which used TV techniques to actually teach, rather than merely distract children throughout America.
  • The “Public Broadcasting Service” (PBS) is established.
  • The classic novel, “The Godfatheris published by Mario Puzo.
  • After 147 years, the final issue of “The Saturday Evening Post” is published and hits magazine stands.
  • 2 New York sports franchises have miraculous, upset wins over Baltimore in two different championship games. First in (football) Super Bowl III, the New York Jets, of the old AFL, defeat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts of the NFL 16-7 on Januray 12. Then (in baseball) on October 16, the New York Mets (NL) beat the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles (AL) in a near-sweep of the World Series, defeating them 4 games to 1.
  • Bell Bottom Jeans and tie-dye shirts become part of the teenage fashion scene.
  • The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am, the epitome of the American muscle car, is introduced.
  • Dr. Denton Cooley implants the first temporary artificial heart.
  • The 1st transplant of the human eye take place.
  • The battery powered smoke detector is introduced in the USA.
  • Rising Inflation becomes a worldwide problem.
  • Hurricane Camille, the most powerful tropical cyclonic system at landfall in history, hits the Mississippi coast (August 17th) killing 248 people and causing US $1.5 billion in damage. (figure in 1969 US dollars)
  • Former Hollywood child star, Judy Garland is found dead of a questionable drug overdose.
  • Brian Jones Former Rolling Stones Guitarist drowns after a drinking and drugs binge.


Celebrities & Well-Known Figures Who Died In 1969…..

  • February 2 – Boris Karloff – British actor (Frankenstein) (born in 1887)
  • February 9 – Gabby Hayes – American actor (cowboy/western movie sidekick)  (born in 1885)
  • March 28 – Dwight D. Eisenhower – 34th President of the USA and General (born 1890)
  • June 22 – Judy Garland – American actress and singer (born 1922)
  • July 3 – Brian Jones – British rock musician (guitarist/Rolling Stones) (born 1942)
  • August 9 – Sharon Tate – American actress and model (born 1943)
  • August 31 – Rocky Marciano – American boxer (undefeated heavyweight champ) (born 1923)
  • September 2 – Ho Chi Minh – President of Vietnam (born 1890)
  • October 12 – Sonja Henie – Norwegian figure skater (Olympic & World Champion skater & Movie Star) (born 1912)
  • November 18 – Joseph P Kennedy, Sr. – American politician (patriarch of the Kennedy family) (born 1888)


How Much Things Cost In 1969…..

Average cost of new house: $15,550

Average income per year: $8,550

Average monthly rent: $135

Average cost of a new car: $3,270

Average price of a gallon of gas: 35 cents

Year-end close Dow Jones Industrial Average: 800


Popular Films of 1969

  • The Love Bug
  • Funny Girl
  • Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • True Grit
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Easy Rider
  • Where Eagles Dare

Woodstock Turns 40: What Might Have Been

Woodstock_40_Years_Logo_With the 40th anniversary of Woodstock upon us this weekend,  August 15th through 17th (1969), it astounds me to think what might have been if all of the artists who were invited to perform actually showed up and played for this unprecedented and historical event. Some of the musicians and bands who declined or opted out of Woodstock simply did not think that a concert at a dairy farm in the middle of nowhere was destined to be a big deal. It’s interesting that many of the artists from that time have expressed the similar view that, before the festival, there Woodstock-album-coverwas little indication of the importance that this event would come to represent and symbolize. After all, it is said that  hindsight is 20/20. Amazingly enough, some had better things to do, some had better offers or were previously booked elsewhere, still some simply did not care to be around hippies, and still an other hated performing outdoors. Anyway, the reasons varied widely and here you can read and learn more about them. The following is a list of  many acts that told Woodstock festival promoters they had other plans or didn’t show up for various reasons ….. Enjoy, and consider “what might have been”


Beatles_1969_fieldsThe Beatles promoters had contacted John Lennon to discuss a Beatles performance at Woodstock. Lennon said that the Beatles would not play unless there was also a spot at the festival for Yoko Ono’s ‘Plastic Ono Band’. Supposedly, he was declined because of that. Now keep in mind that there was internal strife going on within the Beatles at this time and it had been almost 3 years since their last live performance. A more believable version of this story came out when Artie Kornfeld met with John Lennon. Lennon had expressed that he wanted to perform at Woodstock, but was in Canada at the time and was having a difficult time getting back into the United States due to “substance issues” as well as a man named Richard Nixon.

Led_Zeppelin_1969Led Zeppelin was asked to perform, but their manager, Peter Grant, decided that they would be “just another band on the bill“. Instead, they launched a hugely successful summer tour. On the weekend of Woodstock, Led Zeppelin played the Asbury Park Convention Hall in New Jersey, just a couple of hours south of the festival.

Doors_1969The Doors were one of the most powerful bands of that era and were invited to perform at as a potential act for the festival, but canceled at the last moment with speculation pointing towards Jim Morrison’s vocal dislike of performing at large outdoor venues. None-the-less, drummer John Densmore did still appear at the festival. He can be seen, in the film, on the side stage during Joe Cocker’s performance set.

Bob_Dylan_1969Bob Dylan was in the middle of negotiations for the upcoming festival but backed out when his son came down with an illness. He was also not very impressed with the increasing number of hippies accumulating outside of his house near the originally planned festival site. A couple of weeks later on August  31, 1969, Dylan went on to “top the bill” along with The Who and perform at the “Isle of Wight Festival” in the United Kingdom with an estimated  crowd of 300,000 in attendance. He would go on to repeat the performance a year later to a crowd of more than double that number.

Moody_Blues_1969The Moody Blues were actually advertised on the original ‘Wallkill’ poster as performers, but decided to back out after being booked in Paris on the exact same weekend. They also went on a couple of weeks later to perform at the Isle of Wight Festival over in England and repeated that performance the following year to an even larger crowd of over 600,000 in attendance.

Byrds_1969The Byrds were invited, but chose not to participate, figuring that Woodstock wouldn’t be any different from all the other music festivals that took place that summer. In addition, there were concerns about money. As bassist John York remembers… “We were flying to a gig and Roger [McGuinn] came up to us and said that a guy was putting on a festival in upstate New York. But at that point they weren’t paying all of the bands. He asked us if we wanted to do it and we said, ‘No’. We had no idea what it was going to be. We were burned out and tired of the festival scene. […] So all of us said, ‘No, we want a rest’ and missed the best festival of all.'”

Jeff_Beck_GroupThe Jeff Beck Group (featuring Jeff Beck, Rod Stewart, Ronnie Wood, Nicky Hopkins) were booked to perform at ‘An Aquarian Exposition’ (aka ‘Woodstock’), but broke up only a week before the festival was to have begun. Beck broke up the band practically on the eve of what would have been their coup’ de gras – The ‘Woodstock Music Festival’ – at which they were scheduled to play. This is something that Beck now regrets.

Jethro_Tull_1969Jethro Tull decided to pass on the event after Ian Anderson had been reported as saying that he “didn’t want to spend [his] weekend in a field of unwashed hippies”. Another conjecture or theory is their belief that the event was “too big of a deal” and a large festival such as this may kill their career before it even got started. Although Jethro Tull did not perform, their music was still played over the public address system in between performances. In 1970, Jethro Tull went on to perform at the ‘Isle of Wight Festival’ in the United Kingdom along with over 50 other acts.

Procol_HarumProcol Harum (one of the earlier pioneers who helped contribute to the  dynamic fusion of psycheldelic rock with progressive rock) were invited but declined because the festival was taking place just as they had completed the end of a long tour. Also, band member Robin Trower was expecting the birth of his child at any moment. Their initial live debut on stage was as as the opener for Jimi Hendrix on tour back in 1967.

Iron_ButterflyIron Butterfly had been booked to play at Woodstock but ended up getting stranded at the airport. When their manager called the promoters of the concert, he explained their situation and asked for patience. However, the manager demanded that the Butterfly be flown in to the concert grounds by helicopter, whereupon they would “immediately” take the stage. After their set they would be paid and flown back to the airport. The manager was told that this would be taken into consideration, and he would be called back. In truth, his outrageous demands were never given a second thought. Bass guitarist, Lee Dorman later expressed regret at this unfortunate turn of events. He also felt that the band’s career may have gone further had they played the festival.

Zappa_Mothers-of-InventionFrank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention also received an invite. According to the United States broadcast television special, ‘Class of the 20th Century’,  Frank Zappa was quoted as saying “A lot of mud at Woodstock … We were invited to play there – we turned it down”.

Tommy-James-&-ShondellsTommy James and the Shondells also declined an invitation. Later on, lead singer Tommy James would later comment “We could have just kicked ourselves. We were in Hawaii, and my secretary called and said, ‘Yeah, listen, there’s this pig farmer in upstate New York that wants you to play in his field.’ That’ s how it was put to me. So we passed, and we realised what we’d missed a couple of days later.” (excerpt from the liner notes to the album, “Tommy James and the Shondells: Anthology”).

Joni-MitchellJoni Mitchell was originally slated to perform, but canceled at the urging of her manager to avoid missing a scheduled television appearance on The Dick Cavett Show. There appeared to be a potential for “logistical” problems about getting out of the festival grounds after her performance in time to appear on the TV talk show. It is also rumored that Mitchell was discouraged from performing at another festival, by her agent, after an appearance she made previously at the Atlantic City Pop Festival, after she encountered a particularly nasty crowd.

Free-the-bandFree, featuring lead vocal Paul Rodgers and lead guitarist, Paul Kossoff received an invite to perform and decided not to accept. They also ended up performing at the huge ‘Isle of Wight Festival’ a year later that drew nearly 600,000 people.

Spirit-1969Spirit were offered the spot right before Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock, but they were advised to turn it down and concentrate on a promotional tour for the release of their third album. Record company managers felt that the festival would not be significant enough, which at that time,  didn’t appear likely, and so they missed out on the massive international exposure that the festival and the subsequent film documentary generated. Remember what I said earlier about hindsight?

Lighthouse-the-bandLighthouse, the Canadian rock band from Toronto who just formed in 1968, was booked to play, but backed out for fear that Woodstock would be a bad scene. The band’s demo record was funded by none other than Richie Havens. One of the first Lighthouse concerts was at Carnegie Hall and in its first year, the band also played at Fillmore East, Fillmore West, Toronto, Boston and Atlantic City Pop Festivals, and the Monterey and Newport Jazz Festivals.

Its-A-Beautiful-DayIt’s A Beautiful Day, a band that emerged out of San Francisco’s “Summer of Love”, cancelled at the last minute. However, lead female vocal, Linda Baker LaFlamme, actually attended the Woodstock Festival and “had the honor to hangout backstage”, as she put it in her own words during an interview. She continued “Those days will never be forgotten by anyone who was there. My life was never the same after that experience.”

Mind Garage, somewhat unknown and just getting their start at the time – also perhaps the first ‘Christian Rock’ band, declined because they thought the festival would be “no big deal” and they, as well, had a higher paying gig elsewhere.

Arthur Lee and Love were another, lesser known, band that also declined the invitation. Mojo Magazine later indicated that inner tension and turmoil within the band was the reason that caused their absence at the Woodstock festival.

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