Topics in the News
Art and Humanities Funding
Business and Art,
The business of America may be business, as a U.S. president once remarked, but during the 1960s the business of America, both in the private and public sectors, became increasingly involved with art.
One exhibition shows this trend: backed by $500,000 to purchase art, Chase Manhattan Bank showed its collection at the Whitney Museum of Art in New York in 1960. Similarly, in 1962 S. C. Johnson and Son (of Johnson Wax) paid $750,000 for 102 works by contemporary American painters, including Andrew Wyeth and Willem de Kooning. The works were shown for a month at the Milwaukee Art Center then sent on tour abroad. In 1963 the New York Metropolitan Opera received $135,000 from American Export and Isbrandtsen Lines to stage a new production of Giuseppi Verdi's opera Aida.
No Help from the Government
Grant organizations such as the Ford Foundation were already providing generous financial assistance to performers and artistic organizations in the 1950s, but they stepped up their efforts in the early 1960s, in part responding to a perceived lack of such support from the government, which had not directly aided artists or groups since the New Deal launched during the Depression in the 1930s. In 1963, for instance, the Ford Foundation announced that it...
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Art Everywhere: An Explosion of Art Movements
The Art of Less: Minimalism
Back to Basics
As the gulf between high and low culture widened in art, music, and literature during the 1960s, works in these arts often became increasingly difficult and complex. In response, some artists and com-posers went the opposite direction, creating works with a bare-bones, back-to-basics approach that drew attention to form and materials rather than content or meaning. The result was named minimalism by art critic Barbara Rose.
Image Pop-UpFrank Stella removed subjects and content from his painting. As a result, color and shape remain the focus.
Minimalism first appeared in paintings by artists, such as Frank Stella, who rejected the emotional content of abstract expressionism. Instead, such work—called post-painterly abstraction—removed subjects and personality entirely from the picture; the work was not a picture of anything save itself. The resulting works, similar to Ellsworth Kelly's hard-edge paintings, consisted of flat color in geometric shapes.
The trend was first identified as minimalism in sculpture when artists such as Carl Andre, Donald Judd, and Robert...
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In the early 1960s "folk music" was defined broadly. For some it included the "hillbilly music" that provided the roots of modern country-and-western music; for others it included rural and working-class tunes such as those performed by Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger; and for others it included popularized, often sanitized versions, by performers such as Burl Ives and the Kingston Trio. Then something new happened.
The New Stars
In 1962 the first of a new generation of performers appeared, most prominently Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, and Peter, Paul and Mary, all unaffected musicians whose straightforward delivery of a repertoire that included traditional songs and new compositions after traditional models attracted a large, appreciative audience. In particular, folk musicians addressed contemporary issues facing college students, notably civil rights and, later, the Vietnam War.
The Folk-Music Revival
While performers such as Baez and Dylan—and later Judy Collins and Joni Mitchell—were popular, the folk-music phenomenon spurred a new interest in less-played indigenous forms such as bluegrass and Dixieland jazz. Soon songs such as Seeger's "If I Had a Hammer" and Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind" were adopted by folk performers of all sorts. Folk festivals drew...
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From Rock 'n' Roll to Rock and Pop
Rock 'n' Roll Dead?
By 1960 rock 'n' roll was the most popular music among young people—not only in America but internationally. However, it comprised only one segment of American popular music, which also included country music, rhythm and blues, folk music and crooners such as Frank Sinatra. In fact, the charts early in the 1960s reflected such a diversity of musical styles that some unfriendly to the new music in the late 1950s announced that rock 'n' roll was passe. In February 1962 New York radio station WINS, which had been among the first in the country to jump aboard the rock 'n' roll bandwagon, instituted a new policy by playing sixty-six straight hours of Frank Sinatra as a death knell to rock 'n' roll.
Reports of its demise were highly exaggerated. In April WINS began playing rock 'n' roll again, including Chubby Checker's "The Twist," which had set off a national dance craze in 1960. Rock "n' roll flourished in the early 1960s, during which time sentimental songs, dance music, and doo-wop proliferated. Then, in 1964, the British Invasion arrived, led by a group that would prove to be a tremendous influence on American rock 'n' roll: the Beatles.
The Boys from Liverpool
The Beatles—singer-songwriter-guitarists John Lennon and Paul McCartney, guitarist...
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Hippies and their Music: Woodstock
The Making of a Legend
One of many popular-music festivals of the 1960s, the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair of 15-17 August 1969 began as an organized event, descended into chaos, and emerged as the most legendary rock festival in history, known simply as Woodstock. It has since come to symbolize an era of peaceful, free-loving, drug-taking hippie youth, carefree before harsher realities hit—such as the untimely drug-related deaths of rockers Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and the shootings of student protesters and bystanders at Kent State University—all the following year. During and after the 1970s thousands of rock fans claimed to have been present at Woodstock, and it is quite possible they were: the festival attracted nearly half a million people, most in their teens and twenties.
A Surprising Turnout
The promoters of the event hardly expected such a turnout—they expected perhaps two hundred thousand at the most. Given the fact that Woodstock featured most of the top performers in rock and that it promised to be a gathering of like-minded hippies and fellow travelers, the surprise was that there were not more. Perhaps they were detained by the traffic jams into the small rural community near Bethel, New York; and after all, the six-hundred-acre farm owned by Max Yasgur, where the festival was held, could hold only so many....
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The Motown Sound
Black rhythm and blues provided the foundation for rock 'n' roll in the 1950s, and, as racial attitudes relaxed, black performers such as Chuck Berry, the Coasters, and Chubby Checker attracted large audiences. However, it was not until the 1960s that black performers in general received unrestricted radio play. The music that came from the Motor City of Detroit, Michigan, in the 1960s, was the Motown Sound.
In creating Tamla Motown in 1959, Berry Gordy, Jr., established the first major label owned and operated by blacks. The music he produced had its roots in gospel, jazz, and rhythm and blues, but the Mo-town Sound, with its rock 'n' roll beat backed by orchestral accompaniment, was definitely commercial pop music—and in terms of commercial and popular success, it took off in the early 1960s. This success was due in part to the songwriting efforts of Lamont Dozier and brothers Eddie and Brian Holland, who created such hits as "Please Mr. Postman" by the Marvelettes and "Baby Love," "Stop! In the Name of Love," "Where Did Our Love Go?," and "You Can't Hurry Love" by the Supremes. Another important songwriter for Motown was Smokey Robinson, who wrote "My Guy" (performed by Mary Wells) and "The Way You Do the Things You Do" (performed by The Temptations), as well as "The Tracks of My Tears" which he...
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The Death of the Studio System
During the summer of 1961 20th Century-Fox took its back lot apart, a poignant symbol of the dismantling of the Hollywood studio system that became final later in the 1960s. Rather than creating motion pictures, the studios gradually assumed the role of financing and distributing films made by producers, directors, and actors not on the studio bankroll.
Rising Costs, Shrinking Audiences
Motion pictures entered the 1960s in fairly bad shape in general: fewer movies were being made, and they were attracting smaller audiences. The most common scapegoat was television, but as expenses increased so did the number of admissions required to produce enough revenue to cover them. Such increases were justified by some; after all, Ben-Hur(1959) had cost fifteen million dollars to make yet grossed one hundred million dollars. Not every movie could be Ben-Hur, but to studios it seemed a safer bet to invest in stars and spectacle in hopes of large profits than in low-budget films with unknown actors or stories. Cleopatra (1963), starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, was released after years of delays and a cost of thirty-seven million dollars. In addition, unions and guilds often insisted on better wages, driving their demands home with strikes that crippled the industry, and aggressive...
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On the Stage
The British Invasion.
The best-known British Invasion of the 1960s occurred in rock 'n' roll, but American theaters also experienced an influx of talent from the United Kingdom, prompting one member of Actors Equity to claim that "New York is a British Festival." Irish playwright Brendan Behan's The Hostage was widely discussed in 1960, as were Samuel Beckett's Krapp's Last Tape and Shelagh Delaney's A Taste of Honey. In the 1960s American theaters discovered British talents ranging from Harold Pinter and Tom Stoppard to the antic revue Beyond the Fringe.
Edward Albee and the Theater of the Absurd.
One of the most respected dramatists, however, was an American: Edward Albee's one-act play The Zoo Story (1960) attracted the critics' attention and prepared the way for his biggest success, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?(1962). Albee, perhaps incorrectly, was lumped in with other playwrights identified by critic Martin Esslin in 1961 as creators of the theater of the absurd. According to Esslin, these playwrights incorporated the existentialist ideas of French philosophers such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus, particularly their notions that life is essentially meaningless, that former supports such as religion and society have collapsed, and that all efforts to make sense out of life are...
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Poetry and Politics: The Blackm Arts Movement and the Black Aesthetic
From Negro to Black.
After the death of Richard Wright in 1960, the two most respected Negro writers in America were Ralph Ellison and James Baldwin. As the civil rights movement progressed throughout the decade and some factions became increasingly militant, the term Negro was rejected by many in favor of Black, especially in phrases such as Black Power and names of groups, such as the Black Panthers. As "Negro" writers, Ellison and Baldwin were deemed by some to be insufficiently militant, despite their incisive critiques of race relations in America. Such writers, their critics said, relied too heavily on white literary models, when what was needed, they claimed, was a Black Aesthetic that wedded poetry and politics, art and social concerns. The Black Arts Movement was born.
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Reasons not to Kill Yourself Even Though Life is Meaningless: The Rise of Black Humor
During the 1960s there were plenty of reasons to be depressed: leaders were assassinated, the military was involved in one questionable conflict after another, and French philosophers claimed that life was meaningless. The response of several writers of experimental fiction was to laugh in the face of death and despair, and the reaction was so widespread that it earned a name: black humor.
Writers of black humor portrayed antiheroes caught up in an absurd world in which traditional values seemed no longer to apply and in which the individual appeared lost in a maze of systems. As bleak as they were, the novels were still funny. Examples include John Barth's The Sot-Weed Factor (1960), Joseph Heller's Catch-22 (1961), Thomas Pynchon's V. (1963), John Hawkes's Second Skin (1964), and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s Slaughterhouse-Five (1969). Both Catch-22 and Slaughterhouse-Five, for instance, include serious depictions of the horrors and stupidity of war, but both also include comic characters and situations. In Slaughterhouse-Five, the reader follows both Billy Pilgrim's horrific experiences during the war and his abduction by one-eyed aliens shaped like plungers. Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 (1966) includes, in addition to its themes of conspiracy and...
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Self-Reflexive Reflections: Metafiction
For many intellectuals in the late 1960s, God was dead and so was the novel. After the heyday of realism in the nineteenth century and the experiments of the modernists in the early part of the twentieth, it seemed as if there truly was nothing new to do infiction. However, some writers proceeded to use this very situation as both subject and technique. The writers of metafiction, as it was called, wrote about the process of writing when there is nothing left to write about, and since all possible techniques had been used, they used all possible techniques to comment on the situation. This new metafiction, also called superfiction or surfiction by some, differed from self-reflexive fiction of the past—in which the author would comment on the story—in the postmodern assumption that reality is an artificial construction rather than something that can be captured by literature.
The prophet and chief practitioner of metafiction was John Barth, who began employing its techniques in his 1960 novel The Sot-Weed Factor, polished them in his novel Giles Goat-Boy (1966), and spelled out its main points in an often-cited essay, "The Literature of Exhaustion," published in Atlantic Monthly in 1967. He proclaimed that fiction had reached a dead end, a point of exhaustion, but that a promising...
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Slouching Toward Popularity: Faction and the New Journalism
One of the most-discussed books of the 1960s was Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (1966). Variously promoted as a "nonfiction novel" and as "faction," the book was based on actual murders in Kansas on 15 November 1959, the trial in May 1960, and the hanging of the murderers in April 1965. Capote, already a well-known novelist, interviewed people in Kansas and wrote about the story in the form of a novel. Sales of the book skyrocketed, and Capote, no resister of publicity, basked in the limelight. Scores of imitations followed, with varying success. The most notable example, Norman Mailer's The Armies of the Night: History as a Novel, the Novel as History (1968), was about his participation in an October 1967 peace march on the Pentagon and includes Mailer as a character.
The New Journalism.
Almost as popular were books with firmer roots in journalism—or the New Journalism, to be precise. The New Journalism was a controversial movement emerging in the mid 1960s that wedded fictional techniques with reporting. After a start in fictionlike stories in the New York Herald Tribune and in magazines such as Esquire, the Village Voice, and Rolling Stone, the New Journalism moved to books, thanks primarily to the popularity of its unofficial spokesman, Tom Wolfe. His first collection of magazine...
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To Bedlam and Back: The New American Poetry
The New American Poetry.
Donald M. Allen signaled the beginning of a new era in American poetry early in the decade with the publication of his anthology The New American Poetry, 1945-1960 in 1960. In addition to publishing Beat poets from the 1950s such as Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen included many younger or little-known poets whose approaches sometimes differed radically from the carefully constructed and highly intellectual poetry then favored by most professors and critics.
Like most of the new art movements and much of the experimental fiction of the late 1950s and the 1960s, this new poetry was an explicit rejection of modernism, which had dominated the arts in America and Europe since the early decades of the twentieth century. For instance, in his book In Defense of Ignorance (1960) poet Karl Shapiro attacks the influence of modernism on American poetry and criticism, particularly that generated by advocates of American-born British poet T. S. Eliot. Instead, many of the new poets adopted Walt Whitman or William Carlos Williams as models.
In particular, confessional poetry rebelled against the impersonality advocated by modernist ideals. Poets such as John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Theodore Roethke, and Anne...
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What's Everyone Reading? Popular Fiction and Nonfiction
Histories of twelve hundred pages generally do not sell well, but William L. Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (1960), about Nazi Germany, proved an exception by selling more than half a million copies and remaining on the best-seller list through 1961. It was a good decade for nonfiction in general, though best-seller-list definitions of what constituted nonfiction in some cases seemed arbitrary, including Charles M. Schulz's "Peanuts" collections and Rod McKuen's books of poems, for example. Readers are always interested in sex, and Helen Gurley Brown's Sex and the Single Girl (1962) found a voracious readership.
Despite the concerns of critics, professors, and others that quality fiction was being smothered by a mass of popular fiction, it was also a good decade for literature: J. D. Salinger's Franny and Zooey(1961), Katherine Anne Porter's Ship of Fools (1962), William Faulkner's The Reivers (1962), Mary McCarthy's The Group (1963), Saul Bellow's Herzog (1964), Bernard Malamud's The Fixer (1966), Truman Capote's In Cold Blood (1966), Philip Roth's controversial Portnoy's Complaint (1969), and Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.'s Slaughterhouse-Five (1969) all reached the best-seller lists.
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Young Adult and Children's Literature
Books for children and young adults continued their dramatic rise begun in the 1950s. There was a boom in demand for children's books and books for young adults due to increased library funding resulting from the education acts passed in 1965.
Concerned Parents and Librarians.
Also on the rise was the concern of parents and others about the content of the books. A popular target was J. D. Salinger's The Catcher in the Rye (1951), an adult novel popular with adolescent readers that self-appointed censors found objectionable due to its language, certain sexual situations, and its criticism of the adult world. In general, books for children and young adults became controversial for presenting critical observations of adults, often couched in more-realistic settings, and for showing children in ways some parents and librarians preferred not to see them. The work of many new young-adult writers, influenced by Salinger, would have been labeled as adult fiction only a decade earlier; examples include Emily Neville's It's Like This, Cat (1963), S. E. Hinton's The Outsiders(1967), and Paul ZindeFs My Darling, My Hamburger(1969). Books for younger children, though not nearly as graphic, nevertheless stirred controversy, especially Mau-rice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are (1963), which featured...
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Albee, Edward 1928-
Playwright Edward Albee stood out in the midst of what many critics saw as a drearyperiodforAmericantheater in the 1960s. His one-act plays The Zoo Story (1960), The Sandbox (1960), The Death of Bessie Smith (1960), and The American Dream (1961) were critical and commercial Off-Broadway successes, and then he im-pressed everyone with his first full-length play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf ? (1962). Starring Uta Hagen and Arthur Hill as Martha and George, it ran for 644 performances on Broadway and was launched on an international tour.
His reputation was further enhanced by his 1962 stage adaptation of Carson McCullers's The Ballad of the Sad Cafe, which opened on Broadway the following year. After Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf'? Albee was the most sought-after playwright in America: he took part in an Off-Broadway production of Ugo Betti's Corruption in the Palace of Justice in 1963 and was said to be working on two plays, a novel, and an opera simultaneously. The experience was a heady one for a young playwright whose first work had appeared only five years earlier. Before that, he had attended various private schools and college (without graduating) and had worked at odd jobs. Indeed, it appeared as if his...
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Brubeck, Dave 1920-
JAZZ PIANIST, COMPOSER
One of the most innovative and popular figures in jazz during a decade filled with innovative and popular performers was pianist and composer Dave Brubeck. At the same time, Brubeck was one of the most controversial figures in jazz: while he and his quartet, which included alto saxophonist Paul Desmond and drummer Joe Morello, were highly successful, especially on the college campuses where they often took their music, some criticized their work for being overly intellectual, claiming it lacked genuine feeling.
It was understandable that Brubeck's music was consciously complex, since he had trained under some of the most experimental classical composers of the twentieth century, including Darius Milhaud. Brubeck experimented with quotation from classical composers in his jazz compositions—thus anticipating Gunther Schuller's concept of a "Third Stream" combining classical and jazz techniques—and incorporated atonality, counterpoint, and unusual time signatures. In stark contrast to the "free jazz" or "progressive jazz" of figures such as Ornette Coleman, which was admired only by a small coterie of jazz fans, the Brubeck Quartet's intelligent lyricism was widely appreciated. The quartet's single "Take Five" (1962), for instance, written in 5/4 time,...
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Cash, Johnny 1932-
A Solid Reputation.
Since the 1950s country music had gained an increasing amount of respect in American culture, in contrast to its earlier status as "hillbilly music." One of the singers and songwriters responsible for this improvement was Johnny Cash, who solidified his position during the 1960s as one of the greatest country musicians.
The Sun Records Days.
Cash began his recording career in 1955 and was one of the pioneers of rockabilly, a combination of country music with rhythm and blues or rock 'n roll, at Sun Records in Memphis. With his pared-down accompaniments, steady rhythms, and inimitable baritone on recordings such as "I Walk the Line" (1956), he quickly became a star, engaging in dozens of recordings and tour dates by the 1960s.
Ring of Fire.
In 1961 June Carter, a descendant of the legendary Carter family, joined Cash's tour group, and she and Cash co-wrote his 1963 hit "Ring of Fire." In the mid 1960s Cash ruined his marriage and nearly killed himself through drug addiction. Aided by Carter, whom he married in 1968, and a return to the religion of his youth, Cash overcame his addiction and came back stronger than ever. In 1969 he enjoyed a Top 40 hit with "A Boy Named Sue" and became the star of his own television...
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Coltrane, John 1926-1967
A Link between Styles.
The career of John Coltrane, one of the most influential jazz saxophonists of the 1960s and after, bridges the mature bebop of the 1950s and the experimental developments of the late 1960s.
Sheets of Sound.
Coltrane played with bebop masters Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk during the 1950s before starting his own quartet in 1960. Composed of Coltrane, pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Jimmy Garrison, and drummer Elvin Jones, the group allowed Coltrane to expand on the melodic and harmonic possibilities of jazz. Coltrane's music from this period, usually described as consisting of "sheets of sound," was both structurally complex and emotionally rich, including long improvisations, unorthodox chords, and elements of Eastern music. The effect was popular with many jazz fans, particularly on Coltrane's famous version of "My Favorite Things" (1961).
Innovations Cut Short.
In 1966, impressed with Ornette Coleman's experiments in free jazz that evaded conventional harmonic structure altogether, Coltrane went in a new direction to explore the new sound. Although he died of cancer the following year, Coltrane has remained a major influence for many young musicians, who revere him as one of the great performers...
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Dylan, Bob 1941-
FOLK AND ROCK PERFORMER, SONGWRITER
The Man from Minnesota.
Soon after coming to national attention in 1962, Bob Dylan was recognized as one of the most promising songwriters and performers in the new folk-music revival. Born Robert Zimmerman in Duluth, Minnesota, he moved to New York in 1960 and soon established himself in the folk-music scene, playing in coffee-houses in Greenwich Village.
In 1962 he recorded his first album, a compilation of traditional folk songs in the manner of his hero Woody Guthrie, called Bob Dylan. The same year he wrote "Blowin' in the Wind," which rhetorically questioned establishment attitudes and claimed that "the answer …is blowin' in the wind." This stance of youthful challenge and expectation of imminent social change was popular with young listeners; the song was successfully recorded by Peter, Paul & Mary the following year, setting the stage for Dylan's own successful version of his 1963 album The Freewheelin Bob Dylan, which also included the hits 'AA Hard Rain's a-Gonna Fall" and "Masters of War." Such songs...
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Hendrix, Jimi 1942-1970
A Great Rock Guitarist.
Jimi Hendrix was born James Marshall Hendrix in Seattle. He taught himself to play by listening to blues recordings; left-handed, he used a re-strung right-handed guitar. He became known in the late 1960s for doing even stranger things with the instrument, such as playing it be-hind his back, playing it with his teeth, and setting it on fire. At times his stage pyromania overshadowed his musical pyrotechnics, but he is now recognized as perhaps the most influential rock guitarist in history.
Play Fast, Die Young.
Hendrix began his career as a studio musician in the early 1960s and formed his own band in 1965. The following year he created a new band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and started to form a new sound, called acid rock, that employed intentional feed-back and other deliberate distortions. His stage antics rather than his music gained him notoriety at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival (captured on film in the cinema verite documentary...
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Joplin, Janis 1943-1970
Image Pop-UpJanis Joplin (1943–1970) was a popular singer and icon of youth rebellion in the late 1960s.
A Symbol of the 1960s.
Janis Joplin was more than just one of the most talented blues and rock vocalists of the twentieth century: she was also a personality, a symbol of rebellion adopted by youth anxious to "let it all hang out" in the late 1960s. Uninhibited both as a per-former and in her personal life, Joplin personified what many saw as the spirit of rock in the late 1960s, and her untimely death was a sobering reminder of where the excesses of the rock spirit could lead.
An outcast as an adolescent, Joplin ran away from her Port Arthur, Texas, home at age seventeen and worked as a singer in different cities before joining the rock group Big Brother and the Holding Company in San Francisco in 1966. Thanks to Joplin's versatile, roaring vocals and equally unrestrained performance style, the group stopped the show at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. The following year their album Cheap Thrills had exceptional sales, spurred in part by media stories about Joplin's lifestyle of sex,...
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Kesey, Ken 1935-
During the 1960s writer Ken Kesey was as famous for his promotion of the hippie lifestyle as he was for any-thing he published. Stepping into the shoes vacated by the Beat Generation of the 1950s, Kesey and his circle of followers, called the Merry Pranksters, stood out even among nonconformists in an age of rebellion against conformity.
Kesey became famous at age twenty-seven with his first novel, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest(1962). The protagonist, Randle J. McMurphy, is a patient in a mental hospital. Though the consequences of his actions are sometimes disastrous, to many readers he was a figure admirable for his dramatic challenges to convention and authority. This stance made the character, and Kesey by extension, popular with young readers in particular. Kesey's next novel, Sometimes a Great Notion (1964), was less successful, perhaps because its conservative Oregonians were a radical departure from what readers most admired in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
On the Road.
For the remainder of the 1960s Kesey stopped writing and became a character himself. To celebrate the publication of Sometimes a Great Notion, he and the Merry Pranksters left California in a bus painted with...
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Kubrick, Stanley 1928-
FILM WRITER, DIRECTOR, PRODUCER
Though producing a film only every few years, writer and director Stanley Kubrick stands out as one of the most notable and unconventional filmmakers of the 1960s. Kubrick is a perfect example of what critics in the 1960s called the auteur theory, the belief that, despite the collaborative nature of film, the director infuses the work with his or her personal artistry and vision.
He began writing, producing, and directing low-budget films in the 1950s, scoring a success with the World War I film Paths of Glory (1957). One of its stars, Kirk Douglas, was producing Spartacus(1960), and he hired Kubrick as its new director. Though this was his first experience with a larger budget, the 1960 film dissatisfied Kubrick, who preferred doing things his way. His adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's 1955 novel Lolita (1962), though memorable for Peter Sellers's antic portrayal of Clare Quilty, was panned by critics, but audiences came in droves for his next two efforts.
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964), which Kubrick called a "nightmare comedy" about the threat of nuclear war, was both a critical and commercial success. Critical...
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Poitier, Sidney 1927-
The Noble Mr. Poitier.
"You're like us, but you're not like us," says Lulu to the character played by Sidney Poitier in the 1967 British film To Sir, with Love. Such sentiments were shared by many filmgoers concerning the actor and the roles he played—especially white filmgoers, comforted during a decade of racial unrest by this handsome black man who played friendly, hard-working characters who, though allowed to reveal "ethnic" characteristics occasionally, spoke ''standard" English flawlessly and almost always wore a tie. The first black leading man in Hollywood, he was also the only one to win an Academy Award for Best Actor.
A Responsible Model.
Born in Miami to parents from the Bahamas, where he spent his youth, Poitier began his acting career on the New York stage in 1946. He made his first film in 1950 and had several roles during the decade. His portrayal in The Blackboard Jungle(1955) of a black urban youth with promise was indicative of things to come. After an acclaimed performance in the 1961 film...
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Pynchon, Thomas 1937-
Paranoia and conspiracy theories abounded during the 1960s, proferring speculations about topics ranging from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the Vietnam War to whether or not the U.S. Air Force was storing aliens and UFOs in Dayton, Ohio. It was hardly surprising, then, that the works of an author for whom paranoia and conspiracies were major plot devices should appear during the decade—an author made all the more appealing by the fact that apparently no one knew where he was or what he looked like. His name was Thomas Pynchon, and only two published photo-graphs of him are known: one from his high-school yearbook and one from his Navy years. In his efforts to avoid publicity, he became one of the most discussed writers of the 1960s.
A Cult Phenomenon.
After studying at Cornell University, Pynchon burst on the literary scene with his first novel, V., in 1963. A long, difficult book, it was not a best-seller, but it did gain Pynchon a cult following and respectful attention from critics. A similar response greeted his next novel, The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), which was shorter and somewhat more accessible. Nonetheless, the reader has to struggle with Pynchon's writing in both books: he loads his books with detail ranging from science and history to trivia...
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Rauschenberg, Robert 1925-
One of the most respected and representive artists of the 1960s, Robert Rauschenberg experimented with a variety of new styles during the decade. Like those of Jasper Johns, Rauschenberg's works bridge the transition from abstract expressionism to pop art and beyond. He was among a handful of contemporary artists to have work presented in a retrospective. At the Jewish Museum of New York in 1963 many of his "combine" paintings, which feature assorted materials such as photographs, newspapers, clocks, and stuffed animals, were displayed to an appreciative public. Similarly, an exhibition of his work at Whitechapel Gallery in London broke previous attendance records. The following year he won two mil-lion lire in the prestigious Venice Biennale. He was the first American to win the prize.
Pioneering New Styles.
During the 1960s Rauschenberg also helped to design sets for experimental modern dances staged by Merce Cunningham to the equally experimental music of John Cage, and in the late 1960s he became identified as one of the artists involved in a new style called luminal art, which featured movement and light as integral aspects of the work. In 1968, when "environments" were all the rage in the art world, Rauschenberg was praised for his efforts, particularly one in which people...
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Streisand, Barbra 1942-
Barbra Streisand first came to the attention of audiences and critics with a small role in I Can Get It for You Wholesale(1962), her first Broadway role, in which she stopped the show. In her second, as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl (1964), she was the show. The musical was critically acclaimed primarily for the presence of this young singer and comedian from Brooklyn, and it ran for a total of 1,348 performances.
If You Ain't Got Elegance.
A star was born: Streisand recorded three albums in 1963 and 1964 and made several television appearances in addition to her stage work. She took the role of Fanny Brice to the London production of the musical and to the screen in the 1968 film version. Not only was the movie very popular, but it also earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress, making her the first to win that award for a first film. She also starred in the 1969 film version of Hello,...
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Vonnegut, Kurt, Jr. 1922-2007
A Writer for Youth.
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., entered the 1960s regarded as a promising but obscure science-fiction writer and left it as one of the most respected and popular figures of American literature. In particular, he was adopted by young readers on college campuses as a guru of sorts, one of the few people over thirty who could be trusted, given his cynical view of society.
From the Science-Fiction Ghetto.
Since his fiction before 1960 typically used futuristic settings to critique American society, mainstream publishers shunned his work as science fiction, leading him to publish it in science-fiction magazines and paperbacks—both the kiss of death during the 1950s as far as critics were concerned. Even when he turned to World War II as a setting in his novel Mother Night (1962) publishers and critics refused to see him as anything but a "popular".
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Warhol, Andy 1930-1987
More Than Fifteen Minutes of Fame.
Andy Warhol is the pop artist known to many in the general public for saying that at some point everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. During the 1960s Warhol himself was famous for much longer, a celebrity to both artists and the public alike. No other artist, with the possible exception of Truman Capote, was invited to as many parties and as noted for his extravagant behavior.
In the early 1960s Warhol went from being a shy artist from Pennsylvania who supported himself in advertising to the flamboyant enfant terrible of pop art and the avant-garde art scene in New York. He used Campbell's Soup cans, Brillo boxes, and photographs of movie stars (notably Marilyn Monroe) as subjects. His mass-produced paintings employ silk-screening rather than conventional brush strokes, both commenting on and celebrating the commercialization of art. Similarly, he promoted himself as an artist, becoming a self-made celebrity. A failed assassination attempt in 1968 made headlines when a disgruntled actress who had appeared in one of his films...
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People in the News
Contralto Marian Anderson gave her farewell concert at Carnegie Hall on 18 April 1965, bringing her thirty-year career to a close.
Jazz trumpeter Louis Armstrong began a goodwill tour of Africa, partially sponsored by the U.S. State Department, on 13 October 1960 to enthusiastic acclaim.
The New York City Ballet, under the artistic direction of George Balanchine, made an acclaimed tour of Russia. It was his first visit to his homeland in forty years.
On 15 March 1964 British actor Richard Burton married Elizabeth Taylor after a highly publicized romance and after the two divorced their respective spouses. It was his second marriage and her fifth.
In November 1966 writer Truman Capote hosted an extravagant Black and White Ball in New York—a masquerade for which attire was limited to those two colors. Its guest list of 540 included prominent figures in the arts, the sciences, politics, and high society.
Noted musician Ray Charles was arrested in 1965 for possession of heroin, to which he had been addicted since age sixteen. After one year in rehabilitation, he returned to performances and recording in full force.
A new dance craze shared by both teens and adults was started in 1960 by rock 'n' roll performer Chubby Checker's...
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Fiction: Advise and Consent by Allen Drury
Drama: Fiorellol, by George Abbott, Jerome Weidman, Sheldon Harnick, and Jerry Bock
Poetry: Heart's Needle, by W. D. Snodgrass
Music: Second String Quarter by Elliott Carter
Fiction: To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
Drama: All the Way Home, by Tad Mosel
Poetry: Times Three: Selected Verse from Three Decades, by Phyllis McGinley
Music: Symphony No. 7, by Walter Piston
Fiction: The Edge of Sadness, by Edwin O'Connor
Drama: How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, by Frank Loesser and Abe Burrows
Poetry: Poems, by Alan Dugan
Music: The Crucible, by Robert Ward
Fiction: The Reivers, by William Faulkner
Drama: no award
Poetry: Pictures from Brueghel, by...
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Gracie Allen, 58, comedian, wife and partner of George Burns, 27 August 1964.
Laverne Andrews, 51, oldest of the singing trio the Andrews Sisters, 8 May 1967.
Fay Bainter, 74, stage and film actress, 16 April 1968.
Tallulah Bankhead, 65, stage and screen star, 12 December 1968.
Diana Barrymore, 38, stage and film actress, 25 January 1960.
Vicki Baum, 64, novelist (GrandHotel), playwright, and screenwriter, 29 August 1960.
William Baziotes, 52, abstract painter, 5 June 1963.
Sylvia Beach, 75, supporter of American writers in Paris and first publisher of James Joyce's 1922 novel Ulysses,6 October 1962.
William Bendix, 58, film actor (The Hairy Ape, The Babe Ruth Story), 14 December 1964.
R. P. Blackmur, 61, literary critic, 2 February 1965.
Marc Blitzstein, 58, composer and translator of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera, 22 January 1964.
Charles Boni, 74, cofounder of the Modern Library and of the publishing house Boni and Liveright, 14 February 1969.
Anthony Boucher (William Anthony Parker White), 56,...
(The entire section is 1671 words.)
Carlos Clarens, An Illustrated History of the Horror Film (New York: Putnam, 1967);
Bosley Crowther, The Great Films: Fifty Golden Years of Motion Pictures (New York: Putnam, 1967);
George N. Fenin and William K. Everson, The Western(New York: Orion, 1963);
Pauline Kael, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Boston: Atlantic-Little, Brown, 1968);
Dwight Macdonald, Dwight Macdonald on Movies (New York: Prentice Hall, 1969);
Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema: Directors and Directions, 1929-1968 (New York: Dutton, 1968);
Richard Schickel, The Disney Version: The Life, Times, Art and Commerce of Walt Disney (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1968);
Film Culture, periodical.
Jonathan Eisen, The Age of Koch Sounds of the American Cultural Revolution—A Reader (New York: Random House, 1969);
Orrin Keepnews and Bill Grauer, Jr., A Pictorial History of Jazz, second edition (New York: Crown, 1966);
George Martin, The Opera Companion (New York: Dodd, 1961);
Wilfrid Mellers, Music in a New Found Land (New York: Knopf,...
(The entire section is 370 words.)
Important Events in the Arts, 1960–1969
- The second annual Photography in the Fine Arts Project is held at the IBM Gallery in New York; it is twice as big and occupies three times as much space as the original.
- Leslie Fiedler's controversial Love and Death in the American Novel quickly becomes one of the best-known books in the history of American literary criticism.
- Astounding Science Fiction, one of the most popular science-fiction magazines since the 1930s, changes its name to Analog.
- Motown Records is formed by Berry Gordy, who intends that this record label will become the "sound of young America."
- On January 3, the Moscow State Symphony begins a successful seven-week tour of the United States at Carnegie Hall in New York. It is the first Soviet orchestra to perform in the United States.
- In March, seven of the eight major film studios are crippled by an actors' strike.
- On March 4, baritone Leonard Warren collapses and dies during a performance of La Forza del Destino at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
- On March 16, the merger of Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., and Random House, Inc., is completed, with Random in control.
- On July 3, the city council of Newport, Rhode Island, votes to cancel remaining...
(The entire section is 3962 words.)