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How 1969 was a watershed year for pop culture

Posted at 7:43 AM, Jul 24, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-24 10:06:03-04

There are some years that shift the cultural landscape more than others and 1969 was a one of them.

Quentin Tarantino’s new film “Once Upon A Time in…Hollywood,” which is set in 1969, explores what was happening in the creative scene 50 years ago.

In the movie, Margot Robbie portrays the late actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered, along with her unborn child and six others, by Charles Manson’s followers. The tragedy set off an ongoing fascination with Hollywood true crime, but several other events happened in 1969 that still reverberate to this day.

Here are a few:

The Beatles last live performance

The British band which stormed the world and resulted in mania gave their final live performance on the roof of the Apple building in London, England.

The surprise rooftop performance lasted for 42 minutes and marked the last time that John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr would all publicly perform together.

These days only McCartney and Starr are still around (Lennon was fatally shot by Mark David Chapman in 1980, and Harrison died after a battle with lung cancer in 2001).

It was recently announced that McCartney, 77, will be working on his first stage musical, an adaptation of the iconic Christmas film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Mister Rogers goes to Washington, DC

Fred Rogers, known to millions as Mister Rogers from “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” testified before Congress to try and stop then President Richard Nixon from slashing funding for public media.

The beloved TV star offered a moving speech in which he explained what he tried to accomplish with his show.

“I end the program by saying, ‘You’ve made this day a special day, by just your being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you, and I like you, just the way you are.'” he said. “And I feel that if we in public television can only make it clear that feelings are mentionable and manageable, we will have done a great service for mental health.”

Sen. John O. Pastore, then chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Communication, was touched and both National Public Radio (NPR) and the Pubic Broadcasting Service (PBS) remain integral parts of the media landscape today.

Rogers, who died of cancer in 2003, is the subject of the forthcoming film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” in which Tom Hanks portrays Mr. Rogers.

‘Sesame Street’ premieres

Speaking of PBS, Big Bird and the gang made their premiere in 1969, and children’s television has not been the same since.

The show’s mix of live sketch comedy, puppets and animation to teach children was both revolutionary and a hit.

The Kennedy Center recently announced that the program will be among its group of 2019 honorees.

Gay rights milestone

The Stonewall uprising in New York City during the summer of 1969 shifted the fight for LGBTQ rights.

World Pride was held in New York City this year and celebrated the anniversary of the pivotal, historical event.

‘The Godfather’ begins

The novel by Mario Puzo was first published in March 1969 and led to the iconic 1972 film of the same name.

Centered around the tale of the fictional Corleone crime family, the book, like the movie, was the first in a series.

The book sequels continued even after Puzo’s death from heart failure in 1999.

“The Godfather” inspired other mob movies, including “Goodfellas” and “Once Upon A Time in America,” as well as TV shows like “The Sopranos.”

Woodstock

Held between August 15 to 18, this outdoor concert attracted hundreds of thousands to a dairy farm in upstate New York and set the lineup bar for all music festivals that have followed.

More than 30 acts performed during the weekend, billed as “three days of peace and music,” in the midst of the Vietnam War.

Woodstock became one of the symbols of counterculture and strife at the time.

Not much has changed it seems.

Attempts to mark the 50th anniversary with a tribute concert titled Woodstock 50 have met multiple roadblocks, including the loss of a planned venue and investors.