Culture of the 1960s

 
Buzz Aldrin.jpg

Ascent: 1960

Decline: 1969

Cultural Hallmarks: Space Race and moon landing, counterculture; impact of the Cold War, civil rights movement, anti-war protests, cassette tapes, ARPANET, Minimalism, Earthworks, Funk Art, New Journalism, Silver Age of Comic Books, girl groups, surf rock, British Invasion, Woodstock, New Hollywood, Art Cinema, French New Wave, television, early video games


The 1960s was a decade of counterculture in social norms and a falling away of social taboos as demands for greater individual freedom led to what was seen as an extreme deviation from the norm. As the last decade closed, European nations had completed reconstruction and began prospering economically, leading to a rise of those in the middle-class. In terms of the era’s cultural expanse, historians usually define the 1960s as lasting from President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963 to the Watergate Scandal in 1974.

The Cold War between the United States and Soviet Union continued to dominate geopolitics with the latter becoming a superpower and seeking influence in the developing world. While direct tensions settled down following Kennedy’s assassination, the two powers would vy for control of the Third World through a series of proxy wars, insurgencies and puppet governments throughout Latin America, Africa and Asia. The passing of The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution in 1964 gave President Lyndon B. Johnson authorization for the use of military force in Southeast Asia and more than 500,000 troops would be sent to Vietnam after 1966.

Domestically in the United States, civil disobedience campaigns pushed for social reforms. These reforms, along with the assassination of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., the Memphis sanitation strike, anti-Vietnam war protests and the charges filed against the Chicago Seven for conspiracy and inciting to riot during the 1968 Democratic National Convention characterized United States politics in the 1960s.

Technologically, the Space Race was at an all time high and man would make it to the moon in 1969. The first heart transplant was performed, AstroTurf and Cassette Tapes were introduced and the public got their first look at the computer mouse, the paper paradigm Graphical User Interface, video conferencing, teleconferencing, email and hypertext.

Art in the 1960s was varied. Reacting against Abstract Expressionism, artists including Frank Stella, Kenneth Noland, Donald Judd, David Smith, Anthony Caro, and Robert Ryman explored Minimalism. Instead of making art as a form of self expression, they sought to create objective art free of metaphor, neutral surfaces, and repetition.

Monochrome painting by Yves Klein

Monochrome painting by Yves Klein

Earthworks as a movement emerged in this decade as a protest against the commercialization of art in America. Rejecting galleries and museums and inspired by Minimalism, Cubism, De Stijl, and conceptual art, these artists created by using natural materials where they were found.

Popular in the 1960s, Funk Art grew in popularity bringing figuration back into painting. Artists such as Robert Ameson, Gladys Nilsson, Jim Nutt, and Viola Frey identified with their works personally and demonstrated their personal feelings, emotions and processes through them.

The early 1960s saw the near dissolution of the rock-and-roll movement and the rise of girl groups like The Supremes and The Shirelles with their light pop themes about teenage romance. However, rock-and-roll lived on through the surf rock subgenre, seeing The Beach Boys skyrocket in popularity, and the British Invasion begun by the Beatles who would pave the way for the Rolling Stones and the Kinks in America.

The Beatles

The Beatles

On the West Coast, the Bakersfield sound led by Merle Haggard and Buck Owens produced a rise in the popularity of country music. Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette and other female country artists gained mainstream recognition as well.

Likewise, the public would begin to prefer albums over singles in this decade and the counterculture movement prompted artists to take on serious themes and social commentary. Additionally, the Woodstock festival in 1969 would close out the 1960s musically.

Literature in the 1960s reflected the era’s turbulent landscape. The line became blurred between fact and fiction and novels and reporting. New Journalism combined reporting with techniques of fictional writing, taking the facts and adding drama and immediacy to the story.

Postmodernist Literature is said to have peaked in the 1960s with writers employing playful writing, metafiction, pastiche, temporal distortion, maximalism, minimalism and fragmentation, among others, as themes. Though there were a number of Postmodern writers, Postmodernism was not an organized movement and therefore had no leaders.

representation of  The Brave and the Bold  #54 cover

representation of The Brave and the Bold #54 cover

At the same time, the Silver Age of Comic Books was in full swing after having started in 1956. Comics in the 1960s would see the rise of Stan Lee, Gardner Fox, Steve Ditko, Jack Kirby and Carmine Infantino as writers and artists and the origins of Spider-Man in Amazing Fantasy #15 (1963), The X-Men in X-Men #1 (1961), Ant-Man in Tales to Astonish #35 (1962), the Fantastic Four in Fantastic Four #1 (1961), The Hulk in The Incredible Hulk #1 (1962), Iron Man in Tales of Suspense #39 (1963), the Teen Titans in The Brave and the Bold #54 (1965), Doctor Strange in Strange Tales #110 (1963), Thor in Journey into Mystery # 83 (1962), and Daredevil in Daredevil #1 (1964).

Influenced by the counterculture movement, the New Hollywood era took shape in the mid-1960s and directors would focus on all the changes happening in the world. This meant the end of the Golden Age of Hollywood and the death of the studio system. Meanwhile in Europe, Art Cinema would gain wider attention and the French New Wave became one of the most influential movements in cinematic history.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 2001: A Space Odyssey, The Love Bug, Dr. No., From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Mary Poppins, West Side Story, The Wild Bunch, Planet of the Apes, Easy Rider, and The Graduate are only some of the notable blockbuster releases in this decade.

Jean Luc Godard, French New Wave director

Jean Luc Godard, French New Wave director

At home, the amount of television shows increased and one of the most popular shows in the 1960s was The Flintstones, which received millions of views per episode. Gunsmoke, Gilligan’s Island, I Dream of Jeannie, The Andy Griffith Show, Bewitched, Mission: Impossible, Star Trek, Bonanza, The Tonight Show, Batman, The Outer Limits,The Dick Van Dyke Show and many others were also popular.

Space Travel

Space Travel

The decade was home to numerous early video games. Steve Russell collaborated with Martin Graetz and Wayne Wiitanen to program a space combat game called Spacewar! on the PDP-1 computer in 1962. They would share their program with all of the PDP-1 installations at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and become the first known video game to be played at multiple computer installations.

Further, Ken Thompson would develop Space Travel in 1969 at Bell Labs. Played on the GECOS mainframe computer, the PDP-7 minicomputer and the Multics Operating system, it was a space travel simulation game where the player flew a ship around a two-dimensional scale model of the solar system.

Sociological Timeline

  • Jan. 15, 1960 - Three Tales debuts as the first televised anime
  • Feb 18, 1960 - 1960 Winter Olympics open in Placer County, California
  • March 2, 1960 - Lucille Ball files for divorce from Desi Arnaz
  • May 6, 1960 - President Eisenhower signs Civil Rights Act of 1960 into law
  • June 1, 1960 - New Zealand’s first television station begins broadcasting
  • June 10, 1960 - Domino’s Pizza established
  • July 4, 1960 -  50-star Flag of the United States first officially flown over Philadelphia
  • July 25, 1960 - Woolworth Company’s lunch counter serves a meal to its first African-American customer
  • Aug. 25, 1960 - 1960 Summer Olympic Games open in Rome
  • Sept. 5, 1960 - Cassius Clay wins gold medal in light-heavyweight boxing
  • Sept. 10, 1960 - Abebe Bikila becomes first person from Sub-Saharan Africa to win Olympic gold
  • Sept. 14, 1960 - Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela form OPEC
  • Sept. 26, 1960 - First televised presidential election debate
  • Sept. 30, 1960 - The Flintstones premiere
  • Oct. 13, 1960 - Pittsburgh Pirates defeat New York Yankees 10-9 in 1960 World Series
  • Oct. 29, 1960 - Cassius Clay wins first professional boxing match
  • Oct. 30, 1960 - First successful kidney transplant in the United Kingdom
  • Nov. 8, 1960 - John F. Kennedy elected president
  • 1961 - Ken doll introduced
  • Jan. 1, 1961 - Farthing no longer legal tender in the United Kingdom
  • Jan. 3, 1961 - United States severs diplomatic relations with Cuba
  • Feb. 9, 1961 - Beatles perform for the first time at The Cavern Club
  • March 1, 1961 - President Kennedy establishes the Peace Corps
  • March 29, 1961 - 23rd amendment ratified, allows Washington, D.C. residents to vote in presidential elections
  • April 17, 1961 - Bay of Pigs invasion
  • Aug. 1, 1961 - Six Flags Over Texas opens
  • Aug. 13, 1961 - Construction of Berlin Wall begins
  • Oct. 9, 1961 - New York Yankees defeat Cincinnati Reds 13-5 in 1961 World Series
  • Nov. 21, 1961 - “La Ronde” opens in Honolulu as the first revolving restaurant in the United States
  • Dec. 11, 1961 - American involvement in the Vietnam War officially begins
  • Feb 4, 1962 - The Sunday Times in the United Kingdom becomes the first paper to print a color supplement
  • March 21, 1962 - Taco Bell founded
  • April 10, 1962 - First Major League Baseball game played at Dodger Stadium
  • July 2, 1962 - Walmart opens
  • Aug. 5, 1962 - Death of Marilyn Monroe; Nelson Mandela arrested, charged with incitement to rebellion
  • Sept. 12, 1962 - President Kennedy reaffirms the United States will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade
  • Sept. 23, 1962 - The Jetsons premieres
  • Oct. 1, 1962 - James Meredith becomes first African-American student to register at the University of Mississippi; Johnny Carson takes over as host of The Tonight Show
  • Oct. 14, 1962 - Cuban Missile Crisis begins
  • Oct. 16, 1962 - New York Yankees defeat San Francisco Giants 1-0 to win 1962 World Series
  • Oct. 28, 1962 - Cuban Missile Crisis ends
  • 1963 - Harvey Ball invents smiley face symbol; Porsche 911 produced
  • Jan. 8, 1963 - Mona Lisa exhibited in United States for the first time
  • March 21, 1963 - Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary closes
  • March 22, 1963 - Beatles release their first album
  • April 29, 1963 - Buddy Rogers becomes first WWWF Champion
  • May 1, 1963 - Coca Cola introduces Tab Cola as its first diet drink
  • July 1, 1963 - United States Postal Service introduces ZIP codes
  • Aug. 28, 1963 - Martin Luther King Jr. delivers “I Have a Dream” speech
  • Oct. 6, 1963 - Los Angeles Dodgers defeat New York Yankees 2-1 in 1963 World Series
  • Nov. 18, 1963 - First push-button telephone made available
  • Nov. 22, 1963 - Assassination of President Kennedy; Lyndon B. Johnson becomes President
  • Nov. 23, 1963 - First episode of Doctor Who broadcast
  • Dec. 26, 1963 - Beatlemania begins on an international level
  • 1964 - Pontiac GTO debuts as first muscle car; Pete Townshend of The Who destroys his first guitar
  • Jan. 11, 1964 - First statement of smoking being hazardous to health by United States government
  • Jan. 23, 1964 - 24th amendment ratified, outlaws poll tax
  • Jan. 29, 1964 - 1964 Winter Olympics open in Innsbruck, Austria
  • Feb. 1, 1964 - The Beatles hit number one on United States singles charts for the first time
  • Feb. 7, 1964 - Beatles arrive in United States for the first time
  • Feb. 9, 1964 - Beatles appear on The Ed Sullivan Show for their first live performance on American television
  • March 6, 1964 - Cassius Clay changes his name to Muhammad Ali
  • March 30, 1964 - Jeopardy debuts
  • April 16, 1964 - The Rolling Stones release debut album
  • April 17, 1964 - First Ford Mustang introduced
  • April 17, 1964 - Shea Stadium opens
  • July 2, 1964 - President Johnson signs Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law, abolishes racial segregation in the United States
  • Aug. 1, 1964 - Final Looney Tune released
  • Sept. 17, 1964 - Bewitched premieres
  • Sept. 18, 1964 - The Addams Family premieres
  • Oct. 2, 1964 - The Kinks release their first album
  • Oct. 10, 1964 - 1964 Summer Olympics open in Tokyo
  • Oct. 12, 1964 - Soviet Union launches Voskhod 1 into Earth orbit as the first spacecraft with multi-person crew
  • Oct. 15, 1964 - St. Louis Cardinals defeat New York Yankees 7-5 in 1964 World Series
  • 1965 - Tokyo becomes largest city in the world
  • March 8, 1965 - 3,500 United States Marines become first American ground combat troops in Vietnam
  • April 9, 1965 - Charlie Brown and Peanuts characters appear on the cover of Time
  • June 3, 1965 - Ed White makes the first United States space walk
  • July 25, 1965 - Bob Dylan controversially “goes electric” at Newport Folk Festival
  • Aug. 1, 1965 - Cigarette advertising banned on British television
  • Aug. 11, 1965 - Watts Riots begin in Los Angeles
  • Aug. 13, 1965 - Jefferson Airplane debuts
  • Aug. 15, 1965 - The Beatles perform first stadium concert in history at Shea Stadium
  • Oct. 15, 1965 - Los Angeles Dodgers defeat Minnesota Twins 2-0 in 1965 World Series
  • Nov. 7, 1965 - Pillsbury Doughboy created
  • Dec. 3, 1965 - The Who releases their first album
  • Dec. 9, 1965 - A Charlie Brown Christmas premieres
  • Jan. 13, 1966 - Robert Weaver becomes first African-American Cabinet member, appointed United States Secretary of Housing and Urban Development
  • Jan. 16, 1966 - Chicago Bulls founded
  • Feb. 3, 1966 - Soviet Luna 9 makes first controlled rocket-assisted landing on the moon
  • April 3, 1966 - Soviet Luna 10 the first manmade object to enter lunar orbit
  • April 30, 1966 - Church of Satan formed
  • May 16, 1966 - The Beach Boys release Pet Sounds
  • Sept. 8, 1966 - Star Trek premieres
  • Oct. 9, 1966 - Baltimore Orioles defeat Los Angeles Dodgers 1-0 in 1966 World Series
  • Nov. 8, 1966 - Edward Brooke becomes first African-American elected to United States Senate since Reconstruction
  • Dec. 18, 1966 - How the Grinch Stole Christmas premieres
  • Dec. 24, 1966 - New York television station WPIX broadcasts The Yule Log for the first time
  • 1967 - Summer of Love
  • Jan. 4, 1967 - The Doors release debut album
  • Jan. 15, 1967  - Green Bay Packers defeat Kansas City Chiefs 35-10 in Super Bowl I
  • Feb. 10, 1967 - 25th amendment ratified, codifies presidential succession and disability
  • May 12, 1967 - The Jimi Hendrix Experience releases debut album
  • June 1, 1967 - Beatles release Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • June 5, 1967 - Six Day War begins
  • June 10, 1967 - Six Day War ends
  • Aug. 5, 1967 - Pink Floyd releases debut album
  • Aug. 13, 1967 - Fleetwood Mac make live debut
  • Oct. 12, 1967 - St. Louis Cardinals defeat Boston Red Sox 7-2 in 1967 World Series
  • 1968 - United Artists pulls Censored Eleven from Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies library
  • Jan. 14, 1968 - Green Bay Packers defeat Oakland Raiders 33-14 in Super Bowl II
  • April 4, 1968 - Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Sept. 20, 1968 - Hawaii Five-O premieres
  • Oct. 10, 1968 - Detroit Tigers defeat St. Louis Cardinals 4-1 in 1968 World Series
  • Oct. 11, 1968 - Apollo 7 becomes first manned Apollo mission
  • Oct. 12, 1968 - Games of the XIX Olympiad open in Mexico City
  • Oct. 25, 1968 - Led Zeppelin makes its first live performance
  • Nov. 5, 1968 - Richard Nixon elected President
  • Nov. 14, 1968 - Yale University announces it will admit women
  • Nov. 22, 1968 - Beatles release White Album
  • Dec. 3, 1968 - Elvis makes his comeback in a videotaped NBC television special
  • Dec. 24, 1968 - Apollo 8 enters orbit around the Moon, Frank Borman, Jim Lovell and William A. Anders become first humans to see the far side of the moon and Earth as a whole
  • 1969 - Unix invented; First strain of the AIDS virus migrates to the United States; Long John Silver’s opens; Montreal Expos debut as first Major League Baseball team outside the United States
  • Jan. 12, 1969 - Led Zeppelin release first album in the United States
  • Jan. 12, 1969 - New York Jets defeat Baltimore Colts 16-7 in Super Bowl III
  • Jan. 30, 1969 - Beatles give last public performance on the roof of Apple Records
  • June 28, 1969 - Stonewall riots in New York City, modern gay rights movements in the United States begin
  • July 8, 1969 - Troops begin to withdraw from Vietnam
  • July 16, 1969 - Apollo 11 lifts off
  • July 20, 1969 - Apollo 11 lands on the moon, Neil Armstrong becomes first man on the moon
  • August 1969 - Manson family murders
  • Aug. 8, 1969 - Beatles take Abbey Road crossing photo
  • Aug. 15, 1969 - Woodstock Festival begins
  • Aug. 18, 1969 - Woodstock Festival ends
  • Sept. 2, 1969 - First ATM installed in New York
  • Sept. 13, 1969 - Scooby-Doo premieres
  • Sept. 20, 1969 - Last theatrical Warner Bros. cartoon released
  • Sept. 24, 1969 - Chicago Eight trial begins
  • Sept. 26, 1969 - The Brady Bunch premieres
  • Oct. 5, 1969 - Monty Python’s Flying Circus premieres
  • Oct. 16, 1969 - New York Mets defeat Baltimore Orioles 5-3 in 1969 World Series
  • Oct. 29, 1969 - First message sent over internet forerunner ARPANET
  • Nov. 10, 1969 - Sesame Street premieres