Sunday, July 19, 2009

Who were we 40 years ago?

We were a people who still believed in the hope that life would get better and our leaders could be trusted to act on behalf of all of us.

2007 was a celebration of Expo ’67 and the summer of love. Sgt. Peppers was playing everywhere again. Last year, 2008, there was much chattering about of the student uprisings in Paris and the racial riots that took place throughout the United States following the assassination of Martin Luther King.

I entered 1969 as a 17 yr old whose world orbited the gravitational pull of sixties pop culture. I sat in front of the TV each Sunday hoping for a glimpse of Diana Ross on the Ed Sullivan Show; and failing that settling for any performance that wasn’t a juggling act or an opera singer. I especially liked the Broadway Musical excerpts! Duh!

The decade opened with hope as JFK gave us the dream and vision to land a man on the moon. Remember, this was before internet, and Express Vu satellites. By decade’s end, that dream was realized and tomorrow we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Apollo 11’s lunar landing and the first utterance of the words:
"That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind"

Reeling from the horrific year before that was a non ending series of assassinations, riots and war, it was hoped that 1969 would offer a respite. It started precariously however with Nixon taking the oath of office in January and ended with an attempt to create a west coast version of Woodstock at the Altamont Speedway Free Festival. Immortalized in the film “Gimme Shelter”, this festival that was headlined and organized by the Rolling Stones effectively put an end to the “hippie” generation's ideals of "love, peace and rock 'n roll".

In between, we had the launching of the “Official Languages Act” and decriminalization of Homosexuality in Canada, the Stonewall riots and the start of the Gay Liberation movement in the US. We had the splitting up of the Beatles and Diana Ross and the Supremes (the latter being just as newsworthy for me – at the time)

I remember the buzz of Woodstock and met many, many people who had claimed to be there. I didn’t realize it then, but that was to be the last dance of the swinging sixties. The Manson murders, happening as they did the same month, cast a shadow over the love and peace generation that made it pretty well impossible for it to ever see the light again. In spite of the rise of bubblegum music and the promise of the Age of Aquarius, the sixties had effectively died when Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King took their last breath the year before. After that, it was like someone came in, turned on the lights and announced that the party was over, everybody go home.

I remember, at the time feeling exhausted and being anxious for the next decade to begin - little did I know…

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