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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 was incensed by Lennon's lavish lifestyle and his 1966 comment that the Beatles were "more popular than Jesus". Chapman said he was inspired by the fictional character Holden Caulfield from J. D. Salinger's novel The Catcher in the Rye, a "phony-killer" who despises hypocrisy.

Chapman planned the killing over several months and waited for Lennon at The Dakota on the morning of 8 December. Early in the evening, Chapman met Lennon, who signed his 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 Lennon and Ono 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 by the police. Lennon was rushed to Roosevelt Hospital in a police car, where he was pronounced dead on arrival. (Full article...)
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Inauguration of Lyndon B. Johnson
Credit: Cecil Stoughton, White House Press Office
Lyndon B. Johnson taking the U.S. Presidential Oath of Office on Air Force One following the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas on November 22, 1963. He was sworn in by Judge Sarah T. Hughes, making him the first President sworn in by a woman. Johnson was not sworn using a Bible; none could be found aboard the plane. A Roman Catholic Missal was discovered in Kennedy's desk, and this book was used during the swearing-in ceremony.

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Tents in Resurrection City in Washington, D.C.

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"Hey Jude" is a song by the English rock band the Beatles that was released as a non-album single in August 1968. It was written by Paul McCartney and credited to the Lennon–McCartney partnership. The single was the Beatles' first release on their Apple record label and one of the "First Four" singles by Apple's roster of artists, marking the label's public launch. "Hey Jude" was a number-one hit in many countries around the world and became the year's top-selling single in the UK, the US, Australia and Canada. Its nine-week run at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 tied the all-time record in 1968 for the longest run at the top of the US charts, a record it held for nine years. It has sold approximately eight million copies and is frequently included on music critics' lists of the greatest songs of all time.

The writing and recording of "Hey Jude" coincided with a period of upheaval in the Beatles. The ballad evolved from "Hey Jules", a song McCartney wrote to comfort John Lennon's young son Julian, after Lennon had left his wife for the Japanese artist Yoko Ono. The lyrics espouse a positive outlook on a sad situation, while also encouraging "Jude" to pursue his opportunities to find love. After the fourth verse, the song shifts to a coda featuring a "Na-na-na na" refrain that lasts for over four minutes. (Full article...)

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Sir Alfred Joseph Hitchcock KBE (13 August 1899 – 29 April 1980) was an English filmmaker who was one of the most influential figures in the history of cinema. In a career spanning six decades, he directed over 50 feature films, many of which are still widely watched and studied today. Known as the "Master of Suspense", he became as well known as any of his actors thanks to his many interviews, his cameo roles in most of his films, and his hosting and producing the television anthology Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1955–65). His films garnered 46 Academy Award nominations, including six wins, although he never won the award for Best Director despite five nominations.

Hitchcock initially trained as a technical clerk and copy writer before entering the film industry in 1919 as a title card designer. His directorial debut was the British-German silent film The Pleasure Garden (1925). His first successful film, The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog (1927), helped to shape the thriller genre, and Blackmail (1929) was the first British "talkie". His thrillers The 39 Steps (1935) and The Lady Vanishes (1938) are ranked among the greatest British films of the 20th century. By 1939, he had international recognition and producer David O. Selznick persuaded him to move to Hollywood. A string of successful films followed, including Rebecca (1940), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Suspicion (1941), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), and Notorious (1946). Rebecca won the Academy Award for Best Picture, with Hitchcock nominated as Best Director; he was also nominated for Lifeboat (1944) and Spellbound (1945). After a brief commercial lull, he returned to form with Strangers on a Train (1951) and Dial M for Murder (1954); he then went on to direct four films often ranked among the greatest of all time: Rear Window (1954), Vertigo (1958), North by Northwest (1959) and Psycho (1960), the first and last of these garnering him Best Director nominations. The Birds (1963) and Marnie (1964) were also financially successful and are highly regarded by film historians. (Full article...)

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Barry Miles (born 21 February 1943) is an English author known for his participation in and writing on the subjects of the 1960s London underground and counterculture. He is the author of numerous books and his work has also regularly appeared in left-wing papers such as The Guardian. In the 1960s, he was co-owner of the Indica Gallery and helped start the independent newspaper International Times. (Full article...)
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