Summer of 1969

One of my current projects is a book titled The Summer of 1969: Events that Shaped the World, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. While reading John Updike’s Rabbit Redux, I was struck by how busy the summer was. Next thing I knew, I was brainstorming a table of contents.

I start at the beginning of the summer and proceed day by day, with one of Ralph Abernathy’s 44 arrests during his time as a leader in the African American civil rights movement; Cleveland, Ohio’s polluted Cuyahoga River catching fire; and Judy Garland’s death at the beginning. The book proceeds through the summer, wrapping up with the escalation of the American war or drugs, the London Street Commune bringing awareness to homelessness in the United Kingdom, and Willie Mays joining Major League Baseball’s 600 Home Run club. The events cover 44 countries and progress in the women’s, LGBT, environmental, civil rights, neurodiversity, peace, and decolonization movements. I make sure to balance politics and international relations with plenty of music, sports, and film history.

The book is currently at 124,435 words, with 111 of 123 chapters complete. It will discuss the following (bold chapters are complete):

June 21 (Summer Solstice) – Civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy arrested in South Carolina protest

June 22 – Cuyahoga River Fire

June 22 – Judy Garland dies

June 22 – Corrective Move in Yemen

June 23 – Warren Burger becomes Chief Justice of Supreme Court in USA

June 24 – United Kingdom severs diplomatic ties with Rhodesia

June 25 – Peru announces plan to take control of foreign-owned, and large domestically-owned, lands

June 25 – Canadian government proposes to abolish the Indian Act

June 26 – Argentines protest against foreign investment by burning Nelson Rockefeller in effigy

June 27 – El Salvador and Honduras sever diplomatic ties in buildup to Futbol War

June 27 – North Vietnam victorious in Campaign Toan Thang in Laos

June 28 – Stonewall Riots in New York

June 28 – Malay-Indian race riots in Sentul

June 29 – Former prime minister of Zaire Moise Tshombe dies during extradition process for alleged assassination

June 30 – Spain returns Ifni province to Morocco

Charles was invested as Prince of Wales on July 1, officially placing him next in line for the throne.

June 30 – Nigeria cuts off Red Cross aid to Biafra state


July 1 – Charles invested as Prince of Wales

July 1 – John Lennon and Yoko Ono in car crash

July 3 – Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones) dies at age 27

July 4 – Release of “Give Peace a Chance”

July 4 – Russian nuclear test

July 4 – “Annual Reminder” picket in Philadelphia helps kick off LGBTQ liberation movement

July 4 – Ohio Fireworks Derecho

July 4 – Two people attacked by Zodiac killer; one dies

July 5 – Tom Mboya, Kenyan Minister of Justice, assassinated

July 7 – Charles Evers elected first African American mayor of a biracial town

July 8 – Mick Jagger’s girlfriend, Marianne Faithfull, in coma after drug overdose

July 8 – USA begins withdrawing troops from Vietnam

July 9 – United States Department of Agriculture stops use of DDT and several other chemicals

July 11 – David Bowie releases “Space Oddity”

July 12 – Rioting in Northern Ireland; start of The Troubles

July 13 – Russia launches unmanned ship to moon

July 13 – Al Pacino makes film debut in Me, Natalie

July 14 – Easy Rider released

July 14 – USA withdraws all bills higher than $100 from circulation

Apollo 11 crew: Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin

July 14 – Act of Free Choice voting begins in West Papua

July 15 – Woodstock festival banned from Wallkill, New York

July 16 – Apollo 11 launched

July 17 – Leo Kanner publicly recants “refrigerator mother” theory

July 18 – Joe Namath threatened with ban from NFL; sells bar linked to criminals

July 18 – Chappaquiddick accident

July 20 – Apollo 11 lands on moon

July 21 – Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on moon

July 21 – Russian ship impacts moon

July 22 – Juan Carlos named next leader of Spain

July 23 – MLB All Star Game

July 23 – Russia launches satellites

July 24 – Muhammad Ali sentenced for refusing induction into army

July 24 – Jennifer Lopez born

July 25 – Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young perform for the first time

July 25 – Nixon Doctrine: Asian allies of USA responsible for their own defense

July 25  – Ted Kennedy pleads guilty to leaving scene of an accident

July 26 – Yangjiang Earthquake

July 27 – Triple H born

July 28 – Major League Baseball announces plans to induct Negro League players into Hall of Fame

July 29 – Mariner 6 sends photos of Mars

July 31 – Racial disturbances in Baton Rouge; National Guard mobilizes

July 31 – UK eliminates halfpenny

July 31 – Elvis Presley returns to live performances

July 31 – First visit of a pope to Africa


August 2 – Richard Nixon visits Romania

August 2 – Soviet defector Anatoly Kuznetsov speaks out against censorship of his memoir, Babi Yar

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park, site of an annual observance of the anniversary of the bombing of the city

August 3 – National Academy of Sciences pushes for exploration of outer planets

August 3 – Israel reasserts ownership of Golan Heights, Gaza Strip, and Sinai Peninsula

August 4 – West Germany extends war crimes statute of limitations to enable continued prosecution of Nazis

August 5 – Willie Stargell hits home run out of Dodger Stadium

August 5 – Ulster Volunteer Force bombs television studio in Northern Ireland

August 6 – Commemoration in Hiroshima on 24th anniversary of atomic bombing

August 7 – Tests indicate no life on moon, but possibility on Mars

August 8 – Beatles’ Abbey Road picture taken

August 9 – Disneyland opens Haunted Mansion

August 9 – Manson Family kills Sharon Tate and friends

August 9 – Archaeologists announce possible breakthrough in search for Noah’s Ark

August 12 – Boston Celtics sold

August 12 – Battle of the Bogside begins

August 13 – Battle during Sino-Soviet border conflict

August 15 – Woodstock Festival opens

August 16 – Day Two of Woodstock

August 17 – Day Three of Woodstock

August 17 – Hurricane Camille hits Mississippi coast

August 17 – Third heart transplant patient dies, having survived 19 months

August 17 – American helicopter shot down in North Korea

August 21 – Al Aqsa Mosque fire

August 21 – Protests in Prague commemorating anniversary of Soviet invasion

August 22 – Tran Van Huong resigns as Prime Minister of Republic of Vietnam

August 22 – Cuban Diplomat Expelled from the United States

August 23 – Egyptian President Nasser calls for war against Israel

Rocky Marciano, 49-0 boxer

August 24 – V. V. Giri becomes fourth president of India

August 25 – Soldiers from Company A refuse to follow orders in Vietnam

August 25 – Fifteen prisoners executed in Iraq

August 27 – Bobby Seale indicted for murder of suspected Black Panther informant

August 27 – Failed launch of Pioneer E

August 29 – TWA flight hijacked and diverted to Syria

August 29 – First multiparty election in Republic of Ghana

August 31 – Rocky Marciano dies


September 1 – Muammar Gaddafi takes power in Libya following coup

September 1 – First UFO encounter and abduction to be confirmed true

September 2 – Ho Chi Minh dies

September 2 – First ATM in United States

September 2 – First information exchanged between two computers

September 4 – American ambassador kidnapped in Brazil

September 5 – Lt. William Calley charged for My Lai Massacre

September 6 – Cabaret closes its original Broadway run after 1,165 shows

September 7 – French-English equality in Canada

September 9 – Two-plane collision kills 83 in Indiana

September 9 – Rod Laver wins all four tennis Grand Slam events

September 10 – New York Mets move into first place

September 11 – Parliamentary Elections Conclude in Afghanistan

September 13 – Scooby Doo, Where Are You! premieres

September 13 – Ethiopian plane taken by Eritrean hijackers

September 13 – Klaus-Jürgen Kluge killed while trying to cross Berlin Wall

September 14 – Female suffrage in Schaffhausen, Switzerland rejected in referendum

September 16 – Rosalio Muñoz, figure in Chicano Movement, accuses U.S. government of genocide

1969 was the beginning of the end for The Beatles.

September 17 – Richard Nixon pushes for 10% increase in social security benefits

September 18 – Attack on Hindu temple triggers Gujarat Riots

September 19 – USSR responds to American speech before United Nations, disagreeing on road to peace in Vietnam

September 20 – Last Warner Brothers cartoon (Injun Trouble) released

September 20 – John Lennon tells Beatles he is leaving the group

September 20 – “Sugar Sugar” reaches #1 for The Archies

September 21 – The Woody Allen Special airs

September 21 – Police evict London Street Commune squatters

September 21 – United States launches “Operation Intercept” in fight against marijuana

September 22 – Willie Mays becomes second to hit 600 career home runs


Here’s a sample chapter to show you what to expect:

September 6

Cabaret Closes Original Broadway Run after 1,165 Performances

The recorded history of theater in New York dates back to 1732, when British actors presented plays in a building near the intersection of Pearl Street and Maiden Lane near the southern tip of Manhattan. Among the performances was The Recruiting Officer by George Farquhar, the first play ever shown in New York. The first true theater was not opened until 1750, when Thomas Kean and Walter Murray opened the Theater on Nassau Street. This was short-lived, however, and the building was demolished four years later. The Theatre on John Street was built nearby in 1767 and housed performances until 1798, although no records of professionally staged plays exist during the time of the Revolutionary War.

The Park Theatre was built in 1798 near the current location of City Hall, half a mile north of the previous theatres. It seated over 2,000 patrons and actively recruited successful actors from Britain. By the 1820s, theater had caught on with the public, and several new locations opened. Among these was Nimblo’s Garden, which held 3,000 spectators. Although it was located on Broadway Street (now known simply as Broadway), it was still far south of the current theater district. Playhouses became a central part of American social life, and people of all social classes attended the performances. This led to disaster in May 1849, when aristocratic supporters of English actor William Macready and anti-English supporters of American actor Edward Forrest clashed in riots that killed at least 25 people.

In the mid-1800s, theaters continued moving north from the expensive properties in southern Manhattan to reduce expenses. Up to that point, theaters had housed a constantly changing series of plays. In March 1857, The Elves opened in a theater run by actress and manager Laura Keene. It ran until May 6, closing after its fiftieth performance. This was followed by a wave of long-running plays, including The Black Crook, a Charles Barras play with an original score. By today’s definition, this was the first musical ever produced, and it ran for 474 shows.

The Empire Theatre opened in 1893 and became the first performance house in what is now the Theater District. Improved transportation benefitted in several ways, including making theaters accessible to more people and giving people a safer alternative to walking the streets at night. As the profits increased, a group of six men joined together to take control of bookings in America’s major theaters. Against the protests of theater managers and actors, the Theatrical Syndicate wielded a great amount of power from 1896 to 1910. The financial success of plays, and the ability for greater numbers to attend, allowed the same plays to run for increasingly long stretches. Lightnin’ opened in 1918 and became the first show in American with over 1,000 performances. During this period, the district also became known for being lit up at night with glowing signs and thousands of lightbulbs.

Broadway theater overcame challenges in the following decades, including fears of losing its audience to motion pictures, as well as a decline in the Great Depression and the difficulties of the wartime years. Although some theaters failed, the district remained strong. The 1940s brought a surge in the popularity of musicals, and Oklahoma! ran for over 2,000 shows between 1943 and 1948. By the 1960s, however, the genre was in a state of decline, partially due to the rise in popularity of rock and roll. Many Americans had little interest in going to theaters to watch what they believed to be outdated performances. Some musicals remained very successful and enjoyed long runs, including Hello, Dolly! And Fiddler on the Roof, both of which opened in 1964 and continued into the 1970s.

Cabaret, the story of a love triangle set against the nightclub scene and rise of the Nazi Party in 1930s Germany, was a critical and financial success. The premise originated in the 1945 Christopher Isherwood novella Goodbye to Berlin. The story was adapted in 1951 to create the Broadway play I Am a Camera, upon which Cabaret was based. Cabaret opened at the Broadhurst Theatre on November 20, 1966. Written by Joe Masteroff, and featuring music and lyrics from John Kander and Fred Ebb, the play follows two pairs of lovers.

The primary couple is Sally Bowles, a performer at Berlin’s Kit Kat Klub, and Cliff Bradshaw, an American writer. They live in a boarding house owned by Fräulein Schneider, who is in a relationship with fruit vendor Herr Schultz. The play opens at the club, where the Master of Ceremonies greets the audience and sets the scene. Sally soon loses her job, and she meets Cliff, who is working as a private English tutor. The majority of the play follows the complications in their relationship, although much focus is also placed on the rise of the Nazi Party.

Herr Schultz proposes to Schneider, but he encounters discrimination and threats when it is discovered that he is Jewish. Schneider is afraid for their safety, and the tension is escalated by scenes in the Kit Kat Klub. A waiter sings the pro-Nazi song “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” and the Master of Ceremonies angers Nazi supporters with a song defending Jewish people. Characters are faced with the decision to stand up to the reality of Third Reich and their personal troubles or to preserve themselves by running away.

Cabaret ran for 1,165 performances, moving to the Imperial Theatre in 1966 and then ending its run at the Broadway Theatre. When it closed, it was the twenty-third longest running show in Broadway history, and the tenth longest running musical. The play won eight Tony Awards in 1967, including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Choreography, Best Scenic Design, and Best Costume Design. The score also won a Grammy Award at the 1968 ceremony. The play’s success led to a run in London’s West End in 1968, where it was performed 336 times. Both the New York and London runs were brought back, with some minor changes, in later years, including a 1998 New York revival that ran until 2004, ending with 2,377 performances. Altogether, the show has been performed 4,191 times on Broadway, not including previews. The musical was adapted into a 1972 film starring Liza Minnelli as Sally Bowles. The movie won eight Academy Awards, including Best Actress for Minnelli, Best Director, and Best Original Song Score or Adaptation Score.

Cabaret entertained and excited audiences despite dealing with significant relationship struggles against a backdrop of racism and fear. It balanced the dark themes with compelling stories of love, with the Master of Ceremonies providing comic relief. The score enhances the emotions, from the opening sexuality and humour of “Willkommen” through the anthemic “Tomorrow Belongs to Me,” and wrapping up with the play’s best-known song, “Cabaret,” in which Sally reflects that “life is a cabaret.” The show remains well-known due to its multiple lengthy runs and memorable score. It serves as a criticism of not only Nazi Germany, but also discrimination as a whole. Although its original Broadway run ended in 1969, its multiple revivals and performances in London and around the world demonstrate the show’s lasting relevance and appeal.

All images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Image credits:

Prince Charles – Allen Warren image (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported)

Apollo 11 astronauts – NASA image (Public Domain)

Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park – BriYYZ image (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic)

Rocky Marciano – Mohamed Said Momo image (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International)

The Beatles – Photographer unknown (Public Domain)