Between Groovy and Gnarly: A Letter from One Decade to Another by Gavin Lakin – Post # 12
I’d like to take a moment to say, what a year you were! Though you hail from quite the unique little decade – representing the final reckoning of the tumultuous 1960s – it just doesn’t feel quite right to overlook your connection to your immediate successor. After all, you were indeed a transition, both an ending and a beginning. From Broadway Joe Namath’s New York Jets Super Bowl upset to The Rolling Stones’ Altamont Free Concert with its sad but true “end of the ‘60s” designation, you were filled with drama and intrigue. But truthfully, I’d be nowhere without you.
I’d like you to understand, my brother, my long-suffering bearded and flower child 1969, that all of us who followed you owe you everything. It was because of you I felt inspired to turn inward and be more reflective, indeed setting the stage for the singer-songwriters that thrived during my years. Did this directly evolve from your many tragic news events?
Sure, there were uplifting stories as well. Neil Armstrong’s historical first steps on the Moon, watched on television by over five-hundred-million people across the world. The Beatles memorable “zebra crossing” steps photographed for the Abbey Road album cover as well as their last public performance on the Apple Records roof. John & Yoko’s marriage and “bed-in” for peace in Amsterdam. The Boeing 747 flies its inaugural flight. Woodstock, oh, Woodstock, with its muddy bliss and unparalleled weekend of music history. The Miracle Mets win the World Series. And here’s the story: The Brady Bunch, Scooby Doo, Sesame Street and Monty Python’s Flying Circus all debut on television!
However, the world tried to burn you up, Like Hendrix and his guitars. What was left of you, came out of the other side of Altamont, handing me the axe, wishing me well.
January 20: Richard Milhous Nixon succeeds Lyndon Baines Johnson as the 37th President of the United States of America. Watergate, here we come!
March 3: In a Los Angeles, California courtroom, Sirhan Sirhan admits that he killed presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy and on March 10: In Memphis, Tennessee, James Earl Ray pleads guilty to assassinating Martin Luther King Jr. (he later retracts his guilty plea). Though conspiracy theories abound, both of these cases resolving in the courts around the same time was the exclamation mark on the run-on sentence representing the most tragic year ever, 1968, with Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. both being assassinated.
June 22: Judy Garland dies of drug overdose in her London home and on July 3: Brian Jones, musician and founder of The Rolling Stones, drowns in his swimming pool at his home in Sussex, England. Two icons from vastly different music genres die in England around the same time. More sadness for fans everywhere.
July 18: Chappaquiddick incident – Edward M. Kennedy drives off a bridge on his way home from a party on Chappaquiddick Island, Massachusetts. Mary Jo Kopechne, a former campaign aide to his brother, dies in the early morning hours of July 19 in the submerged car. More tragedy in Camelot. To this day, no one truly knows what happened that day but many will agree this cost the senator any chance of winning the presidency in the 1980s and 1990s.
August 9: Followers of Charles Manson murder Sharon Tate, (who was eight months pregnant), and her friends: Folgers coffee heiress Abigail Folger, Wojciech Frykowski, and Hollywood hairstylist Jay Sebring at the Los Angeles home of Tate and her husband, Roman Polanski. Also killed was Steven Parent, leaving from a visit to the Polanskis’ caretaker. This absolute twisted tale grasped the nation’s attention for months and to this day Charlie gets three squares and a cot, courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.
September 5: Lieutenant William Calley is charged with six counts of premeditated murder, for the 1968 My Lai Massacre deaths of one-hundred-nine Vietnamese civilians in My Lai, Vietnam. One more malignant conclusion to something that left a very black mark on U.S. military history.
November 9: A group of American Indians, led by Richard Oakes, seizes Alcatraz Island for nineteen months, inspiring a wave of renewed Indian pride and government reform. This one was about three-hundred years overdue, considering mistreatment, broken treaties, and outright lies perpetuated by the U.S. Government during the post-American Civil War era.
December 6: The Altamont Free Concert is held at the Altamont Speedway in Northern California. Hosted by the Rolling Stones, it was an attempt at a “Woodstock West” and is best known for the violence that occurred with a little help from their friends, the Hells Angels. Many see this failed festival as the “end of the sixties.”
Your narrative may contain sadness, but your soundtrack rocks, beginning with the top charting single of 1969, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” by The 5th Dimension (six weeks at #1 beginning April 12, 1969). Indeed, it was a dawning of a new age.
Here are several other Billboard Number #1 hit songs and how many weeks they held the spot.
Six weeks beginning July 12, 1969: “In the Year 2525” (Zager and Evans)
Five weeks beginning May 24, 1969: “Get Back’” (The Beatles w/Billy Preston)
Four weeks beginning February 15, 1969: “Everyday People” (Sly & The Family Stone)
Four weeks beginning March 15, 1969: “Dizzy” (Tommy Roe)
Four weeks beginning August 23, 1969: “Honky Tonk Women” (The Rolling Stones)
Four weeks beginning September 20, 1969: “Sugar, Sugar” (The Archies)
And let’s not forget that Midnight Cowboy was the Academy Award-winning Best Picture. “Hey, I’m walkin’ here!”
And in the end . . . I say thank you for your last #1 hit “Someday We’ll Be Together” (December 27, 1969), which not only closed out your year but the entire decade of the 1960s as well. It’s only fitting that it belonged to the Supremes, the most successful American group of the your turbulent, yet precious term. Even more poignant, the tune was Diana Ross’ last release with the group. Her solo career awaited. She bade farewell, as you needed to as well.
Soon, that magnificent shiny ball would drop on Times Square and Dick Clark would welcome in, well, me.