The History of Rock Music: 1966-1969

Genres and musicians of the Sixties
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History of Rock Music | 1955-66 | 1966-69 | 1970-76 | 1976-89 | The early 1990s | The late 1990s | The 2000s | Alpha index
Musicians of 1955-66 | 1967-69 | 1970-76 | 1977-89 | 1990s in the US | 1990s outside the US | 2000s
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(Copyright © 2009 Piero Scaruffi)

Part 2. The Classics (roughly 1966-69)

  1. The Late 1960s: The Democratization of Politics
  2. Psychedelia 1965-68
  3. The Age of the Revivals 1966-69
  4. Solo Careers 1967-69
  5. Electronics and Rock 1968-70
  6. Progressive-rock 1968-72
  7. Canterbury 1968-73
  8. Kosmische Musik 1969-72
  9. Hard-rock 1969-73

The Late 1960s: The Democratization of Politics

The various pacifist strains of the late 1950s and early 1960s converged in the hippie movement of San Francisco. The hippies celebrated their first "Summer of Love" in 1966 while Huey Newton, Bobby Seale, Angela Davis and other black activists founded the "Black Panther Party" in nearby Oakland, one of the most visible groups creating a season of urban violence. There were racial and political riots for the rest of the decade, culminating in the assassination of Martin Luther King (1968). Meanwhile the Vietnam war become more and more unpopular, especially after it was learned that USA troops had massacred more than 500 civilians at My Lai. Public opinion was feeling disenfranchised from the political system. The dissatisfaction was best represented by the demonstrations at the Democratic Convention of 1968 in Chicago: that turned out to be a key event in the evolution of the USA democracy. After 1968 the parties became more democratic (primaries became the standard method of picking candidates, thus replacing the party machines that had previously dominated politics) and referendums became more commonplace.
The counterculture didn't rely on computers and social media, which didn't exist at the time, but was nonetheless able to mobilize masses. Activists communicated very effectively using telephones, print media, posters, flyers, bulletin boards and word-of-mouth, especially on campuses. For example, the Pentagon of October 1967 demonstration was huge: over 100,000 participants. A large number were college students.
Feminism was making inroads, and in 1969 Sylvia Rivera opened a new front in the civil-rights movement by founding the "Gay Liberation Movement".
In Europe all these problems were given an ideological twist. The student riots spread to West Berlin in 1967 and then to Paris in 1968. Student demonstrations forced Charles DeGaulle to resign in 1969. Leftist students and leftist unions led Italy into political chaos.
Nonetheless, the USA won the "space race" in 1969 when Neil Armstrong became the first man to set foot on the Moon. It is debatable whether that event is more important as the beginning of an era or as the end of an era.
Hallucinogenic drugs were an integral part of this generation's rituals of self-discovery. Heroin and marijuana had been banned several decades earlier (1924 and 1937). The revival began with unrelated episodes in different places: in 1943 the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann accidentally discovered the hallucinogenic effects of LSD; in 1953 the CIA financed a project named "MkUltra" to study the effects of psychoactive drugs (with Stanford student Ken Kesey among its 1959 volunteers); in 1954 Aldous Huxley published "The Doors of Perception", a book on mescaline (to which he had been introduced a year earlier by the USA psychiatrist Humphry Osmond); and in 1960 Timothy Leary began a research program at Harvard to study hallucinogenic drugs (with poet Allen Ginsberg as one of the first volunteers).

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(Copyright © 2009 Piero Scaruffi)