1960s: At a Glance
1960s: At a Glance
What We Said:
"And that's the way it is . . .": The famous words of CBS Evening News anchor man Walter Cronkite as he closed each nightly newscast.
Brodie: A tight turn in a car, known later as a "donut." Youths in hot cars pulled brodies to make their tires smoke and squeal; girls were very impressed.
Charlie: One of many terms used by soldiers fighting in the Vietnam War to refer to the enemy. The term "Charlie" comes from the second word in the abbreviation of Viet Cong, V. C. In Morse code, the C stands for Charlie. Other terms for the enemy were far harsher.
Counterculture: A catch-all term used to describe anyone who diverged from the values of the majority.
Dropping out: Though one could drop out of anything, and "drop out" is often used to refer to someone who leaves school, in the 1960s "dropping out" meant leaving "normal" society for the bohemian life of a hippie.
Establishment: A term used by hippies or members of the counterculture to refer to those in power, whether they be parents, corporate bosses, or the government.
"Far Out!": A hippie expression for something that was especially interesting or exciting.
Fox: An attactive woman. Boxer Muhammad Ali made the term popular in an interview with Time magazine in 1963.
Groovy: Anything that was cool or exhilarating. The word originated in the jazz culture of the 1930s, but became a favorite word in the 1960s.
Hippies: People who rejected mainstream values and enjoyed a free and even decadent lifestyle. Descendants of the 1950s' Beatniks, stereotypical hippies wore long hair (whether man or woman), smoked marijuana, and experimented with drugs like marijuana and LSD.
Pig: A derisive term for a police officer.
"Right on": A response to something that indicated that you agreed with it completely.
"Sock it to me!": This silly phrase was one of many popularized on the TV comedy Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In.
What We Read:
To Kill a Mockingbird (1960): Harper Lee's first novel made publishing history by being chosen by three book clubs in its first year of publication, winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1961, and going into fourteen printings. In 1961, the book spent one hundred weeks on the best-seller lists.
Catch-22 (1961): Joseph Heller's first novel is based on his experiences during World War II. The book was a favorite with young readers; by mid-decade Newsweek reported that some readers were so enthralled with the book that they had become members of what it called the "Heller cult." Some young men who did not want to go to Vietnam wore army field jackets with Yossarian, the main character in Catch-22, nametags.
Silent Spring (1962): This work by Rachel Carson is widely credited for recharging the environmental movement. This best-seller detailed the damage done to the environment by the usage of chemicals in agriculture.
Seven Days in May (1962): Fletcher Knebel's gripping tale of an attempt to execute a military takeover of the U.S. government.
A Moveable Feast (1964): Not long before ending his life, one of the century's most famous novelists and short story writers, Ernest Hemingway, published this memoir of his early life in Paris, France.
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1964): The first best-seller by British novelist John Le Carré, who would go on to make a career writing bestselling spy novels set amid Cold War tensions. They were the perfect novels for the age.
Dune (1965): This sci-fi novel written by Frank Herbert won the first-ever Nebula award for science fiction and eventually became the best-selling science fiction book in history, selling over twelve million copies.
In Cold Blood (1966): Truman Capote's harrowing true tale of the mass murder of a Kansas family combined journalism with fictional techniques in a new form of writing that became part of the "new journalism" associated with Tom Wolfe.
Valley of the Dolls (1966): Jacqueline Susann's novel about the lurid lives of those in show business was labeled trash by the critics, but sold in the millions and was later made into a popular movie of the same name.
Rolling Stone (1967–): The first rock 'n' roll magazine, this venture launched by editor and publisher Jann Wenner covered all areas of the 1960s youth movement and remains popular to this day.
Airport (1968): Arthur Hailey's novel about an airplane disaster in a snowstorm remained a bestseller for half the year and spawned a string of disaster movies in the 1970s.
Whole Earth Catalogue (1968): This guide to environmentally-sensitive products and hippie lifestyles, compiled by Stewart Brand, became the unofficial handbook of the counterculture.
I'm OK, You're OK (1969): This book by psychiatrist Thomas Harris became a bible to members of the "me generation," as evidenced by the one million copies of the book that sold in the 1970s.
What We Watched:
Wagon Train (1957–65): Set in the late 1800s, this show told a story each week about different people traveling along the wagon trail from St. Joseph, Missouri, to California.
Bonanza (1959–73): This Western set itself apart from the many others by being filmed especially for color viewing. The program encouraged many to buy the new hot product—color televisions. Unlike other Westerns, the storylines were centered on the loving, loyal Cartwright family.
The Andy Griffith Show (1960–68): This show brought to life a fictional small rural Southern town named Mayberry. The characters were ordinary and likeable. The story centered around the characters played by Andy Griffith, who played the calm, reasonable sheriff, and Don Knotts, who played his bumbling deputy.
Psycho (1960): Alfred Hitchcock's horror film offered audiences a stabbing scene that has been called one of the scariest moments in film history.
The Beverly Hillbillies (1962–71): This sitcom about simple country folk who struck it rich and moved to Beverly Hills, California, poked fun at the differences between rural and city life.
The Sound of Music (1965): This popular musical about the singing Von Trapp Family starred Julie Andrews. The score was the last collaboration of the famous songwriter team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.
Doctor Zhivago (1965): This epic drama was the last great film by director David Lean and popularized the song "Lara's Theme."
The Graduate (1967): This movie, starring Dustin Hoffman, was viewed by some as a light comedy, by others as a statement about the generation gap, and still others as a keen illustration of the alienation felt by many in their late twenties.
Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (1968–73): This comedy series was the top rated prime-time show in 1968 and 1969 and revolutionized the presentation of comic variety programs. It presented flashes and zooms of celebrities delivering rapid-fire one-liners, bikini-clad dancers, and slapstick routines. The show's editing style was unique to television at the time.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): This science fiction film astounded viewers with its stunning visual effects.
What We Listened To:
Elvis Presley: The King still topped the charts in 1960 with "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" "It's Now or Never," and "Stuck on You."
Soundtrack albums: Two of the most successful of the 1960s were from The Sound of Music, featuring such favorites as "My Favorite Things" and "Do-Re-Mi," and West Side Story, with "America" and "Tonight."
"Blowin' in the Wind" (1962): Bob Dylan's protest song cemented his position as the leading singer/songwriter performing folk music that protested the established rules of society during the decade.
The Beatles: The Fab Four burst onto the American music scene following their appearance on The EdSullivan Show in late 1963 with such hits as "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Can't Buy Me Love," "I Feel Fine," "She Loves You," and "A Hard Day's Night"; the British Invasion had begun.
"Surfin'" (1961): The Beach Boys' sunshine pop song started their rise to pop stardom. Brian Wilson and the gang introduced the world to the California lifestyle and briefly challenged the popularity of the Beatles.
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967): The Beatles' landmark album marked a distinctive shift in the band's style and showed the influences of drug use.
"I'm a Believer" (1966) and "Daydream Believer" (1967): These singles by the Monkees cemented the popularity of this band made up of actors who were chosen more for their looks than their ability to play music.
"Respect" (1967): This soul song became a hit for Aretha Franklin, who continued to top the soul charts for the remainder of the decade.
Are You Experienced? (1968): This psychedelic rock album by the Jimi Hendrix Experience topped the album charts.
Motown Records: This Detroit-based record company sold more 45s than any other in the country with the talents of singers Marvin Gaye, Gladys Knight and the Pips, the Supremes, Smokey Robinson, and Stevie Wonder.
Drug-induced music: Such musicians as Jim Morrison and the The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and the Grateful Dead experimented with music under the influence of a variety of drugs. Many of them would not outlive the decade.
Who We Knew:
Muhammad Ali (1942–): The most eloquent and powerful boxing champion of the decade. Born Cassius Clay, he used his popularity to spread the word about his Islam faith and to speak out against racism. He also uttered the lines: "Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee" and "I'm the greatest!"
First astronauts on the moon: Neil Armstrong (1930–) and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin (1930–) landed on the moon on July 20, 1969, with Armstrong announcing, "The Eagle has landed." Within hours, more than a third of America watched Armstrong on television as he stepped onto the moon's surface and said, "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."
Johnny Carson (1925–): When he took over The Tonight Show from Jack Paar in 1962, Johnny Carson established himself as one of the most prominent comedians and television hosts in America. For thirty years, he was known as the "king of late night."
John F. Kennedy (1917–1963): The young, popular president was assassinated on November 22, 1963. His death and funeral were broadcast on television to millions of viewers around the world.
Timothy Leary (1920–1996): A Harvard researcher whose research and personal experimentation with psychedelic drugs led him to be fired from Harvard in 1963 and to become a leader of the drug counterculture in the 1960s. He encouraged people to experience an alternative reality by taking drugs. He coined the phrase "Tune in, turn on, drop out."
Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. (1929–1968): This leader of the civil rights movement attracted national attention to blacks' growing resentment of segregation laws. He led thousands in several marches and protests including the Montgomery bus boycott (1955–56) and the March on Washington, where he gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963. He was assassinated in 1968.
Charles Manson (1934–): This cult figure—leader of the so-called Manson Family—masterminded the slaughtering of numerous high-profile people, including director Roman Polanski's pregnant wife Sharon Tate, in hopes of encouraging a race war. The murders and the following trial attracted massive media attention and horrified the nation.
Thurgood Marshall (1908–1993): The first African-American Supreme Court justice (1967). This lawyer-turned-judge made a national name for himself in 1954 while presenting the oral arguments for the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka case in front of the Supreme Court to win the end of segregated schools.
Ralph Nader (1934–): The nation's biggest consumer advocate since the mid–1960s. He formed consumer protection groups, including the Center for the Study of Responsive Law, to investigate industry and product safety and to lobby for protective legislation.
Elizabeth Taylor (1932–): By the 1960s, this former child actor had become the most popular film star of the decade. Her many marriages, her extravagant lifestyle, her precarious health, and her glamorous roles kept her firmly in the public eye.
Twiggy (1949–): The Mod Look that became popular at the end of the decade was inspired by English model Leslie Hornsby, known as Twiggy for her stick-like appearance. Her thin physique and fashion sense were copied by American women and even the toy maker Mattel made a Twiggy doll in 1967.