From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
The 1960s decade refers to the years from January 1, 1960 to December 31, 1969, inclusive. The Sixties has also come to refer to the complex of inter-related cultural and political events which occurred in approximately that period, in Western countries, particularly Britain, France, the United States and West Germany. Social upheaval was not limited to just these nations, reaching large scale in nations such as Japan, Mexico and Canada as well. The term is used both nostalgically by those who participated in those events, and pejoratively by those who regard the time as a period whose harmful effects are still being felt today. The decade was also labeled the Swinging Sixties because of the libertine attitudes that emerged during this decade.
The sixties were a time of great social change and drug use. A social revolution swept all across the world. In America, examples include the American civil rights movement and the rise of feminism and gay rights which continued into the next few decades. Homosexual acts between consenting adults in private were legalized in England, Canada, and Wales in 1967. The "Sixties" has become synonymous with all the new, exciting, radical, subversive and/or dangerous (depending on one's viewpoint) events and trends of the period, which continued to develop in the 1970s, 1980s and beyond. In Africa the 60s were a period of radical change as countries gained independence from their European colonial rulers, only for this rule to be replaced in many cases by civil war or corrupt dictatorships.
Problems with periodization
As with the Seventies, popular memory has conflated into the Sixties some events which did not actually occur during this time period. For example, although some of the most dramatic events of the American civil rights movement occurred in the early-1960s, the movement had already begun in earnest during the 1950s. On the other hand, the rise of feminism and gay rights began in the 1960s and continued into the next few decades. Homosexual acts between consenting adults in private were legalized in England, Canada, and Wales in 1967. The "Sixties" has become synonymous with all the new, exciting, radical, subversive and/or dangerous (depending on one's viewpoint) events and trends of the period, which continued to develop in the 1970s, 1980s and beyond. In Africa the 60s were a period of radical change as countries gained independence from their European colonial rulers, only for this rule to be replaced in many cases by civil war or corrupt dictatorships.
Example: The 1960s never occurred in Spain
'The 1960s', though technically applicable to anywhere in the world according to Common Era numbering, has a certain set of specific cultural connotations in certain countries. For this reason it may be possible to say such things as 'The 1960s never occurred in Spain.' This would mean that the sexual revolution, counterculture, youth rebellion and so on never developed during that decade in Spain's conservative Roman Catholic culture and under Francisco Franco's authoritarian regime.
The term counterculture came to prominence in the news media as it was used to refer to the youth rebellion and sexual revolution that swept North America, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand during the 1960s and early 1970s. The term counterculture was first attested in the English language in 1968.
The counterculture of the 1960s began in the United States as a reaction against the conservative social norms of the 1950s, the political conservatism (and perceived social repression) of the Cold War period, and the US government's extensive military intervention in Vietnam. The movement quickly spread to Europe and the rest of the world.
In the 1960s, the beats (AKA beatniks) grew to be an even larger subculture, spreading around the world. Other 1960s subcultures included radicals, peaceniks, mods, rockers, bikers, hippies and the freak scene. One of the main transitional features between the beat scene and the hippies was the Merry Pranksters' journey across the United States with Neal Cassady, in a yellow school bus named Furthur. In the USA, the hippies' big year was 1967, the so-called summer of love.
The rude boy culture originated in the ghettos of Jamaica, coinciding with the popular rise of rocksteady music, dancehall celebrations and sound system dances. Rude boys dressed in the latest fashions, and many were involved with gangs and violence. This subculture then spread to the United Kingdom and other countries.
The mod subculture began with a few cliques of trendy teenage boys in London, England in the late 1950s, but was at its most popular during the early 1960s. Mods were were obsessed with new fashions such as slim-cut suits; and music styles such as modern jazz, rhythm and blues, soul, ska, and some beat music. Many of them rode scooters.
The mod and rude boy cultures both influenced the skinhead subculture of the late 1960s. The skinheads were a harder, more working class version of mods who wore basic clean-cut clothing styles and favoured ska, rocksteady, soul and early reggae music.
Subcultures were often based on socializing and wild behavior, but some of them were centered around politics. In the United States, these included the Black Panthers and the Yippies. Allen Ginsberg took part in several protest movements, including those for gay rights and those against the Vietnam War and nuclear weapons. In Paris, France in May 1968, there was a university student uprising, supported by Jean Paul Sartre and 121 other intellectuals who signed a statement asserting "the right to disobedience." The uprising brought the country to a standstill, and caused the government to call a general election rather than run the risk of being toppled from power.
The Hacker culture was beginning to form in the 1960s, due to the increased usage of computers at colleges and universities. Students who were fascinated by the possible uses of computers and other technologies began figuring out ways to make technology more freely accessible. The international anti-art movement Fluxus also had its beginnings in the 1960s, evolving out of the Beat subculture.
The counterculture movement dominated the second half of the 1960s, its most famous moments being the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967, and the Woodstock Festival in upstate New York in 1969. Psychedelic drugs, especially LSD, were widely used medicinally, spiritually and recreationally throughout the late 1960s, and were popularized by Timothy Leary with his slogan "Turn on, tune in, drop out". Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters also played a part in the role of "turning heads on". Psychedelic influenced the music, artwork and films of the decade, and a number of prominent musicians died of drug overdoses (see 27 Club). There was a growing interest in Eastern religions and philosophy, and many attempts were made to found communes, which varied from supporting free love to religious puritanism.
Gay rights movement
The United States, in the middle of a social revolution, led the world in LGBT rights in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Inspired by the civil-rights movement and the women's movement, early gay-rights pioneers had begun, by the 1960s, to build a movement troll. These groups were rather conservative in their practices, emphasizing that gays were just like straights and deserved full equality. This philosophy would be dominant again after AIDS, but by the very end of the 1960s, the movement's goals would change and become more radical, demanding a right to be different, and encouraging gay pride.
The symbolic birth of the gay rights movement would not come until the decade had almost come to a close. Gays were not allowed by law to congregate. Gay establishments such as the Stonewall Inn in New York City were routinely raided by the police to arrest gay people. On a night in late June 1969, LGBT people resisted, for the first time, a police raid, and rebelled openly in the streets. This uprising called the Stonewall Riots began a new period of the LGBT rights movement that in the next decade would cause dramatic change both inside the LGBT community and in the mainstream American culture.
- Sexual revolution in 1960s America, Sexual revolution in England, Sexual revolution in Scandinavia, Sexual revolution in Germany
Along with artists such as Roy Lichtenstein and Claes Oldenburg, Andy Warhol appropriated images from commercial art and popular culture as well as the techniques of these industries. Often called "pop artists", they saw mass popular culture as the main vernacular culture, shared by all irrespective of education. These artists fully engaged with the ephemera produced from this mass-produced culture, embracing expendability and distancing themselves from the evidence of an artist's hand.
- 1960s music, Music of North American counterculture, Cultural appropriation in western music of the 1960s
Popular music entered an era of "all hits", as numerous artists released recordings, beginning in the 1950s, as 45-rpm "singles" (with another on the flip side), and radio stations tended to play only the most popular of the wide variety of records being made. Also, bands tended to record only the best of their songs as a chance to become a hit record. The taste of the American listeners expanded from the folksinger, doo-wop and saxophone sounds of the 1950s to the Motown sound, folk rock and the British Invasion. The Los Angeles and San Francisco Sound began in this period with many popular bands coming out of LA and the Haight-Ashbury district, well known for its hippie culture. The rise of the counterculture movement, particularly among the youth, created a market for rock, soul, pop, reggae and blues music.
Significant events in music in the 1960s:
- Elvis Presley returned to civilian life in the U.S. after two years away in the U.S. Army. He resumes his musical career by recording "It's Now or Never" and "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" in March 1960.
- Motown Record Corporation was founded in 1960. Its first Top Ten hit was "Shop Around" by the Miracles in 1960. "Shop Around" peaked at number-two on the Billboard Hot 100, and was Motown's first million-selling record.
- Folksinger and activist Joan Baez released her debut album on Vanguard Records in December 1960.
- The Marvelettes scored Motown Record Corporation's first US #1 pop hit, "Please Mr. Postman" in 1961. Motown would score 110 Billboard Top-Ten hits during its run.
- The Four Seasons released three straight number one hits
- In a widely anticipated and publicized event, The Beatles arrive in America in February 1964, spearheading the British Invasion.
- The Mary Poppins Original Soundtrack tops record charts. Sherman Brothers receive Grammys and double Oscars.
- Lesley Gore: At age 17 hits Number one on Billboard with "It's My Party" and '64 with Number 2 "You Don't Own Me" behind the Beatles "I Wanna Hold Your Hand."
- The Supremes scored twelve number-one hit singles between 1964 and 1969, beginning with "Where Did Our Love Go".
- The Kinks release "You Really Got Me" in late 1964, which tops the British charts; it is regarded as the first hard rock hit and a blueprint for related genres, such as heavy metal.
- John Coltrane released A Love Supreme in late 1964, considered among the most acclaimed jazz albums of the era.
- The Grateful Dead was formed in 1965 (originally The Warlocks) thus paving the way, giving birth to acid rock.
- Bob Dylan went electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival.
- Cilla Black's number-one hit "Anyone Who had a Heart" still remains the top-selling single by a female artist in the UK from 1964.
- The Rolling Stones had a huge #1 hit with their song "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" in the summer of 1965.
- The Byrds released a cover of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man", which reached #1 on the U.S. charts and repeated the feat in the U.K. shortly thereafter. The extremely influential track effectively creates the musical subgenre of folk rock.
- Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" is a top-five hit on both sides of the Atlantic during the summer of 1965.
- Bob Dylan's 1965 albums Bringing It All Back Home and Highway 61 Revisited ushered in album-focused rock and the "folk rock" genre.
- Simon and Garfunkel released "The Sound of Silence" single in 1965.
- The Beach Boys released Pet Sounds in 1966, which significantly influenced the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album a year later.
- Bob Dylan was called "Judas" by an audience member during the Manchester Free Trade Hall concert, the start of the bootleg recording industry follows, with recordings of this concert circulating for 30 years – wrongly labeled as – The Royal Albert Hall Concert before a legitimate release in 1998 as The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert.
- In February 1966, Nancy Sinatra's song "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'" became very popular.
- In 1966, The Supremes A' Go-Go was the first album by a female group to reach the top position of the Billboard magazine pop albums chart in the United States.
- The Seekers were the first Australian Group to have a number one with "Georgy Girl" in 1966.
- Jefferson Airplane released the influential Surrealistic Pillow in 1967.
- The Velvet Underground released its self-titled debut album The Velvet Underground & Nico in 1967.
- The Doors released its self-titled debut album The Doors' in January 1967'.
- Love released Forever Changes in 1967.
- Cream (band) released "Disraeli Gears" in 1967.
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience released two successful albums during 1967 Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold as Love that innovate both guitar, trio and recording techniques.
- The Beatles released Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band in June 1967.
- The Moody Blues release the album Days of Future Passed in November 1967.
- R & B legend Otis Redding has his first No. 1 hit with the legendary Sitting on the Dock of the Bay. He also played at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 just before he died in a plane crash.
- Pink Floyd released its debut record The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.
- Bob Dylan released the Country rock album John Wesley Harding in December 1967.
- The Bee Gees released their international debut album Bee Gees 1st in July 1967 which included the pop standard "To Love Somebody".
- The Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 was the beginning of the so-called "Summer of Love".
- Johnny Cash released At Folsom Prison in 1968
- 1968: after The Yardbirds fold, Led Zeppelin was formed by Jimmy Page and manager Peter Grant, with Robert Plant, John Bonham and John Paul Jones; and, released their debut album Led Zeppelin.
- The Band released the roots rock album Music from Big Pink in 1968.
- Big Brother and the Holding Company, with Janis Joplin as lead singer, became an overnight sensation after their performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 and released their second album Cheap Thrills in 1968.
- Gram Parsons with The Byrds released the extremely influential LP Sweetheart of the Rodeo in late 1968, forming the basis for country rock.
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience released the highly influential double LP Electric Ladyland in 1968 that furthered the guitar and studio innovations of his previous two albums.
- Simon and Garfunkel released the single "Mrs. Robinson" in 1968; featured in the film "The Graduate".
- Sly & the Family Stone revolutionized black music with their massive 1968 hit single "Dance to the Music" and by 1969 became international sensations with the release of their hit record Stand!. The band cemented their position as a vital counterculture band when they performed at the Woodstock Festival.
- The Rolling Stones filmed the TV special The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus in December 1968 but the film was not released for transmission. Considered for decades as a fabled "lost" performance until released in North America on Laserdisc and VHS in 1996. Features performances from The Who; The Dirty Mac featuring John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Mitch Mitchell; Jethro Tull and Taj Mahal.
- The Woodstock Festival, and four months later, the Altamont Free Concert in 1969.
- The Who released and toured the first rock opera Tommy in 1969.
- Proto-punk band MC5 released the live album Kick Out the Jams in 1969.
- Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band released the avant garde Trout Mask Replica in 1969.
- The Stooges released their debut album in 1969.
- The Flying Burrito Brothers released their influential debut The Gilded Palace of Sin in 1969.
- King Crimson released their debut album In the Court of the Crimson King in 1969.
The highest-grossing film of the decade was 20th Century Fox's The Sound of Music (1965).
Some of Hollywood's most notable blockbuster films of the 1960s include:
- Breakfast at Tiffany's
- Lawrence of Arabia
- The Hustler
- Carnival of Souls
- The Birds
- The Pink Panther
- Dr. Strangelove
- Mary Poppins
- The Sound of Music
- Doctor Zhivago
- The Jungle Book
- The Dirty Dozen
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- Bonnie and Clyde
- Cool Hand Luke
- The Graduate
- Rosemary's Baby
- Midnight Cowboy
- Medium Cool
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Night of the Living Dead
- Easy Rider
- Ice Station Zebra
- Planet of the Apes
- The Lion In Winter
- The Wild Bunch
The counterculture movement had a significant effect on cinema. Movies began to break social taboos such as sex and violence causing both controversy and fascination. They turned increasingly dramatic, unbalanced, and hectic as the cultural revolution was starting. This was the beginning of the New Hollywood era that dominated the next decade in theatres and revolutionized the film industry. Films of this time also focused on the changes happening in the world. Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider (1969) focused on the drug culture of the time. Movies also became more sexually explicit, such as Roger Vadim's Barbarella (1968) as the counterculture progressed.
In Europe, Art Cinema gains wider distribution and sees movements like la Nouvelle Vague (The French New Wave) featuring French filmmakers such as Roger Vadim, François Truffaut, Alain Resnais, and Jean-Luc Godard; Cinéma Vérité documentary movement in Canada, France and the United States; Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, Chilean filmmaker Alexandro Jodorowsky and Polish filmmakers Roman Polanski and Wojciech Jerzy Has produced original and offbeat masterpieces and the high-point of Italian filmmaking with Michelangelo Antonioni and Federico Fellini making some of their most known films during this period. Notable films from this period include: La Dolce Vita, 8½; La Notte; L'Eclisse, The Red Desert; Blowup; Satyricon; Accattone; The Gospel According to St. Matthew; Theorem; Winter Light; The Silence; Persona; Shame; A Passion; Au Hasard Balthazar; Mouchette; Last Year at Marienbad; Chronique d'un été; Titicut Follies; High School; Salesman; La jetée; Warrendale; Knife in the Water; Repulsion; The Saragossa Manuscript; El Topo; A Hard Day's Night; and the cinema verite Dont Look Back.
In Japan, a film version of the story of the forty-seven ronin entitled Chushingura: Hana no Maki, Yuki no Maki directed by Hiroshi Inagaki was released in 1962, the legendary story was also remade as a television series in Japan. Academy Award winning Japanese director Akira Kurosawa produced Yojimbo (1961), and Sanjuro (1962), which both starred Toshiro Mifune as a mysterious Samurai swordsman for hire. Like his previous films both had a profound influence around the world. The Spaghetti Western genre was a direct outgrowth of the Kurosawa films. The influence of these films is most apparent in Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars (1964) starring Clint Eastwood and Walter Hill's Last Man Standing (1996). Yojimbo was also the origin of the "Man with No Name" trend which included Sergio Leone's For a Few Dollars More, and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly both also starring Clint Eastwood, and arguably continued through his 1968 opus Once Upon a Time in the West, starring Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, Claudia Cardinale, and Jason Robards. The Magnificent Seven a 1960 American western film directed by John Sturges was a remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 film, Seven Samurai.
The 1960s were also about experimentation. With the explosion of light-weight and affordable cameras, the underground avant-garde film movement thrived. Canada's Michael Snow, Americans Kenneth Anger, Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol, and Jack Smith. Notable films in this genre are: Dog Star Man; Scorpio Rising; Wavelength; Chelsea Girls; Blow Job; Vinyl; Flaming Creatures.
Significant events in the film industry in the 1960s:
- Removal of the Motion Picture Association of America's Production Code in 1967.
- The decline and end of the Studio System.
- The rise of 'art house' films and theaters.
- The end of the classical Hollywood cinema era.
- The beginning of the New Hollywood Era due to the counterculture.
- The rise of independent producers that worked outside of the Studio System.
- Move to all-color production in Hollywood films.
- The invention of the Nagra 1/4", sync-sound, portable open-reel tape deck.
- Expo 67 where new film formats like Imax were invented and new ways of displaying film were tested.
- Flat-bed film editing tables appear, like the Steenbeck, they eventually replace the Moviola editing platform.
- The French New Wave.
- Direct Cinema and Cinéma vérité documentaries.
- The decline and end of The Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies .
- Birth control pill
- Swinging Sixties
- 1960s art
- 1960s music
- 1960s subcultures
- Counterculture of the 1960s
- Underground press