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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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Soldiers with guns and civilians walk through the rubble of a building. Pieces of wood, bent metal lie strewn on the ground. The roof has fallen off except for the support beams.
The aftermath of the bombing

The Brinks Hotel in Saigon, also known as the Brink Bachelor Officers Quarters (BOQ), was bombed by the Viet Cong on the evening of December 24, 1964, during the Vietnam War. Two Viet Cong operatives detonated a car bomb underneath the hotel, which housed United States Army officers. The explosion killed two Americans, an officer and an NCO, and injured approximately 60, including military personnel and Vietnamese civilians.

The Viet Cong commanders had planned the venture with two objectives in mind. Firstly, by attacking an American installation in the center of the heavily guarded capital, the Viet Cong intended to demonstrate their ability to strike in South Vietnam should the United States decide to launch air raids against North Vietnam. Secondly, the bombing would demonstrate to the South Vietnamese that the Americans were vulnerable and could not be relied upon for protection. (Full article...)

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The Wild Bunch is a 1969 American epic Revisionist Western film directed by Sam Peckinpah and starring William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien, Ben Johnson and Warren Oates. The plot concerns an aging outlaw gang on the Mexico–United States border trying to adapt to the changing modern world of 1913. The film was controversial because of its graphic violence and its portrayal of crude men attempting to survive by any available means.

The screenplay was co-written by Peckinpah, Walon Green, and Roy N. Sickner. The Wild Bunch was filmed in Technicolor and Panavision, in Mexico, notably at the Hacienda Ciénaga del Carmen, deep in the desert between Torreón and Saltillo, Coahuila, and on the Rio Nazas. (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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Sellers smiling to the camera
Sellers in 1973

Peter Sellers CBE (born Richard Henry Sellers; 8 September 1925 – 24 July 1980) was an English actor and comedian. He first came to prominence performing in the BBC Radio comedy series The Goon Show, featured on a number of hit comic songs and became known to a worldwide audience through his many film roles, among them Chief Inspector Clouseau in The Pink Panther series.

Born in Southsea, Portsmouth, Sellers made his stage debut at the Kings Theatre, Southsea, when he was two weeks old. He began accompanying his parents in a variety act that toured the provincial theatres. He first worked as a drummer and toured around England as a member of the Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA). He developed his mimicry and improvisational skills during a spell in Ralph Reader's wartime Gang Show entertainment troupe, which toured Britain and the Far East. After the war, Sellers made his radio debut in ShowTime, and eventually became a regular performer on various BBC radio shows. During the early 1950s, Sellers, along with Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine, took part in the successful radio series The Goon Show, which ended in 1960. (Full article...)

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Shankar performing in 1969

Ravi Shankar KBE (Bengali pronunciation: [ˈrobi ˈʃɔŋkor]; born Robindro Shaunkor Chowdhury, sometimes spelled as Rabindra Shankar Chowdhury; 7 April 1920 – 11 December 2012) was an Indian sitarist and composer. A sitar virtuoso, he became the world's best-known exponent of North Indian classical music in the second half of the 20th century, and influenced many musicians in India and 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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Wood in Atlanta, 2005

Ronald David Wood (born 1 June 1947) is an English rock musician, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, artist, author, and radio personality best known as a member of the Rolling Stones since 1975, as well as a member of Faces and the Jeff Beck Group.

Wood began his career in 1964, when he joined the Birds on guitar. He then joined the mod group the Creation, but remained with the group only for a short time and appeared on only a few of their singles. He joined the Jeff Beck Group in 1967 as a bass guitarist. Their two albums, Truth and Beck-Ola, are both highly praised. (Full article...)
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