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The Swinging Sixties

What does a particular decade man to you? This is a question I attempt to answer in my Decades series, with each piece focusing on a different decade.

Here is the third of three parts: The Swinging Sixties

Also in this series: The Roaring Twenties and The Fighting Forties

The 1960s was such a pivotal decade in all areas of life, and to bring the whole decade together in one illustration was such a joy for me.


Our journey into space begins with the launch of Telstar, the world’s first communications satellite.

Meanwhile back on Earth, Stan Lee lays the foundation of Marvel Comics with the introduction of Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, and Hulk.

Readers everywhere are captivated by Truman Capote’s seminal true-crime novel ‘In Cold Blood’ and Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.

Alberto Giacometti sculpts his famous ‘L’Homme qui marche I’.

In Los Angeles, actress Marilyn Monroe is found dead in her bed after overdosing on barbiturates.

The Civil Rights movement in America is forever defined by Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech during the March on Washington.

The Berlin Wall is constructed physically and ideologically dividing Berlin from 1961 to 1989.

US President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas reportedly by lone gunman Lee Harvey Oswald.

In South Africa, revolutionary Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life imprisonment for conspiring to overthrow the state government (Apartheid).

Meanwhile, South African doctor Christiaan Barnard performed the first human heart transplant.

Bobby Charlton is an essential member of the English football team that wins the World Cup in 1966.

‘Psycho’ directed by Alfred Hitchcock scares audiences nationwide with it’s slow buildups to sudden shocks.

Jean-Luc Godard’s film ‘Breathless’ was one of the earliest, most influential examples of French New Wave cinema.

Tom Wolfe pens ‘The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test’, a firsthand account of the experiences of Ken Kesey and his band of Merry Pranksters, who traveled across the country in a colorfully painted school bus.

Walt Disney adapts ‘Mary Poppins’ into a musical fantasy film starring Julie Andrews in the titular role.

Argentinian revolutionary Che Guevara is executed in Bolivia making him a symbol of revolution for generations to come.

‘Goldfinger’, the third installment in the James Bond film series starring Sean Connery as the fictional MI6 agent James Bond is released to rave reviews.

Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein’s paints ‘Hopeless’, adapting the imagery and motifs of comic strips into his work.

The Beatles make their debut on American television starting the wave of Beatlemania across the world.

Maurice Sendak writes and illustrates the children’s picture book ‘Where the Wild Things Are’. Another children’s picture book, ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ is written and illustrated by Eric Carle, becoming a staple in classrooms across the globe. French singer-songwriter Serge Gainsbourg is equally famous for his number one hits as well as his romances with Brigitte Bardot and Jane Birkin. In the film, the genre of science fiction is pushed forward by the entertaining ‘Planet of the Apes’ and Stanley Kubrick’s epic ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’.

Harvard psychologist Timothy Leary becomes an advocate for LSD, coining the phrase, “Turn on, tune in, drop out”.

Thich Quang Duc, a Vietnamese monk burns himself to death at a busy Saigon road intersection to protest the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government.

Ford introduces the Mustang to the public, their most successful launch since the Model A.

Gangster Joseph Valachi testifies in court stating that the Italian-American Mafia actually existed, the first time a member had acknowledged its existence in public.

Boxer Cassius Clay beats Sonny Liston and wins the World Heavyweight Championship. He is then welcomed into the Nation of Islam by Malcolm X and the Honorable Elijah Muhammad, effectively changing his name to Muhammad Ali.

The Kray twins dominate the streets of London’s East End through murder, armed robbery, arson, protection rackets, and assaults.

Founding Rolling Stones member Brian Jones is discovered motionless at the bottom of his swimming pool. The coroner’s report stated “death by misadventure”, and noted his liver and heart were heavily enlarged by drug and alcohol abuse.

Bob Dylan performs his first electric concert at the Newport Folk Festival. Some sections of the audience booed Dylan’s performance to criticize him for moving away from political songwriting and for performing with an electric band instead.

‘The Bug’, aka Volkswagen Beetle is one of the most popular cars during this decade, especially amongst hippies, who would often adorn their rides with psychedelic art.

The Manson Family, led by self-proclaimed prophet Charles Manson gains international notoriety after the brutal murder of actress Sharon Tate and four others. They were imprisoned shortly afterward.

‘Sesame Street’ debuts on television introducing Jim Henson’s Muppets to the world.

Mao Zedong launches the Cultural Revolution in China. Millions will be persecuted as he asserts his authority.

With the emergence of television as a source of entertainment and information, graphic news footage from Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement brought horrifying, moving images of the bloody reality of armed conflict into living rooms for the first time. One key example is the execution of Viet Cong member Nguyễn Văn Lém that was aired on national television.

The birth control pill is introduced effectively ushering in the Sexual Revolution.

US Astronaut Neil Armstrong is the first man on the moon.

Richard Nixon is sworn in as the 37th President of the United States.

US involvement in the Vietnam War rages on.

Second-wave feminism spreads throughout the world symbolized by the burning of bras and spearheaded by feminists like Gloria Steinem.

The movement against the Vietnam War is led by activists such as Abbie Hoffman who was one of the Chicago Eight arrested for violent confrontations with police during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. Many in the peace movement within the US were students, mothers, or anti-establishment hippies. Their persistence eventually forced the government to end US involvement in the war.

As infighting increases within The Beatles, ‘Abbey Road’ becomes their last studio recording project as John Lennon goes on to preach the benefits of ‘Bagism’ and ‘Bed Peace’ with Yoko Ono.

The Stonewall Riots were violent demonstrations against a police raid that took place at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar located on Christopher Street, New York City. They are widely considered to constitute the most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the modern fight for LGBT rights in the United States.

Boeing 727 debuts, opening the door to travel for millions.

Television series ‘Star Trek’ is aired on television, allowing it’s viewers to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations and to boldly go where no one has gone before.

The Factory was artist’s Andy Warhol New York City studio. Famed for its groundbreaking parties, The Factory was the hip hangout for artistic types, amphetamine users, and the Warhol ‘superstars’. In the studio, Warhol’s workers would make silkscreens and lithographs under his direction.

Yasser Arafat becomes the leader of the Palestine Liberation Organisation.

‘The Summer of Love’ brought as many as 100,000 young hippies to San Francisco’s neighborhood of Haight-Ashbury.

‘The Lizard King’ is an alter ego used by Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, to imitate a Native American shaman.

The band Jefferson Airplane released the acid-inspired ‘White Rabbit’. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’, the song was supposed to be a slap to parents who read their children such novels and then wondered why their children later used drugs!

‘The Flintstones’ became the first animated series to be nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, but lost out to ‘The Jack Benny Program’.

Older teenagers and adults have admitted to enjoying the cartoon ‘Where Are You Scooby-Doo?’ because of presumed subversive themes such as that Shaggy is assumed to be a user of cannabis and Velma is assumed to be a lesbian!

‘Batman’, a television series starring Adam West as the caped-crusader entertains audiences with its camp style, upbeat theme music, and its intentionally humorous, simplistic morality.

The advertising agencies of Madison Avenue continue to enjoy their heyday.

The Zodiac killer continued to murder his victims in Northern California and taunting law enforcement and newspapers with his infamous cryptograms. He would sign his letters with a crosshair-like symbol.

‘Oh! Calcutta!’ was an Off-Broadway avant-garde theatrical show that sparked considerable controversy at the time, because it featured extended scenes of total nudity, both male and female.

The most overtly political statements in the history of the modern Olympics occurred when two black American athletes raised a black-gloved fist during the medal ceremony of the 200-meter running event.

Bobby Seale and Huey Newton founded the Black Panther Party to challenge police brutality.

Women of the party such as Angela Davis were portrayed as revolutionaries and active participants in the armed self-defense movement.

Indian guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi achieved fame as the guru to the Beatles, the Beach Boys, and other celebrities.

Easy Rider is the landmark counterculture film that explores the societal landscape, issues, and tensions in the United States during the 1960s, such as the rise of the hippie movement, drug use, and communal lifestyle.

The Woodstock Festival is widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history, as well as the definitive nexus for the larger counterculture generation. One of the key moments from this festival was Jimi Hendrix playing his version of the Star-Spangled Banner.

Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho'
Birth Control Pill
The Kray Twins
'To Kill a Mockingbird' by Harper Lee
'Where the Wild Things Are' by Maurice Sendak
Vietnamese Buddhist monk burned himself to death in protest of the persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government
'I Have a Dream' speech by Martin Luther King Jr.
Muhammad Ali vs. Sonny Liston
The Beatles make their American debut on the 'Ed Sullivan Show'
JFK Assassination
Andy Warhol
Star Trek
“No, Mr Bond, I expect you to die” - Goldfinger
Serge Gainsbourg
'In Cold Blood' by Truman Capote
Bob Dylan goes electric
1968 Olympics: Two African-American athletes raised a black-gloved fist during the playing of the US national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner"
The Ford Mustang is unveiled
VW Bug
Vietnam War
The Manson Family gain international notoriety after the brutal murder of actress Sharon Tate and four others
'The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test' by Tom Wolfe
Sci-fi films are pushed forward by Planet of the Apes and 2001: A Space Odyssey
The execution of a Viet Cong member is aired on national television
Jefferson Airplane released the acid-inspired White Rabbit
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." - Neil Armstrong
The Summer of Love
The Beatles release Abbey Road and John Lennon and his wife Yoko Ono hold two week-long Bed-Ins for Peace
The Black Panther Party
'Easy Rider'

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