Appreciating all that makes America special

Americana: 1969

Neil Armstrong on the moon. Uploaded by

Neil Armstrong on the moon. Uploaded by

"By the time we got to Woodstock we were half a million strong." Uploaded by

"By the time we got to Woodstock we were half a million strong." Uploaded by

It’s a Great American Things first – a year is recognized. Three events propelled this selection onto the list: The first man walks on the moon, Woodstock is the high point of the youth revolution, and I graduated from high school and started college. Okay, maybe just the first two.

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” were the famous words spoken by Neil Armstrong as he stepped onto the surface of the moon. He and Buzz Aldrin had taken the Eagle landing module down while Apollo 11 crew member Michael Collins continued to orbit above. The date was July 20, 1969, just eight years after President John Kennedy issued the challenge for Americans to reach the moon “before this decade is out.”

Woodstock poster, uploaded by

Woodstock poster, uploaded by

Then, less than a month later, and more than a world away, a crowd estimated at between 400,000 to 500,000 gathered at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in upstate New York for a long weekend that changed rock and roll history. The event was planned as a profit-making concert, but that plan didn’t exactly work out. Instead, the crowd heard 32 of the era’s best musicians (who invited Sha-Na-Na?), including The Who, Janis Joplin, The Band, Jimi Hendrix, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The crowd struggled against inadequate food and sanitation, not to mention rain and mud. But it was a badge of honor for the generation that the festival was peaceful. (Altamont was to come later in the year and end that dream.)

Before we leave 1969, let’s look at some of the other mileposts of the year. Number one song: Sugar Sugar. Academy Award for Best Picture: Midnight Cowboy. Sesame Street debuted. But, then, so did Penthouse. Ted Kennedy proved he needed driving lessons – and a conscience.

Thanks to John (who posts as jmq on the Virgin-Islands-On-Line message board) for giving me the idea for the 100th post. John has helped before, by writing No. 23: Bruce Springsteen. He wins nothing except my gratitude, and that’s enough, isn’t it John? John?

The video: Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock performing “Purple Haze”:


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  1. 1969 was also the year I got married! 😉

  2. 1969 was also the year I got married, in June… still married!
    I remember watching the moon walk on TV…we were at Fort Bragg, NC; my husband had been back from Vietnam for about six weeks. We didn’t make it to Woodstock.
    Good choice for #100.

  3. Robin – I guess your undying gratitude will have to suffice for now, unless you run into me on STJ then you will have to buy me a drink.
    Myself, I was 12 in 1969 and more taken by the fact that the Jets, Mets, and Knicks won championships around that time.
    Cool timeline on 1969 here reflecting on lots you covered plus more.
    Indeed, what a year in American culture.