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1969 by Rob Kirkpatrick
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Apr 12, 2011

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Read in April, 2011

Everyone knows the 60’s were a revolutionary time in America. It was the decade when JFK ushered in a new generation of political promise, the U.S. put a man on the moon and the Beatles and Height Ashbury begat hippies, psychedelics and power to the people.

But it was the year 1969 that capped off the decade and brought many of its ideas to a crashing end. Author Rob Kirkpatrick chose to zone in on the events of that year which, just two years after the “summer of love,” conspired to end the hippie-dippy era (peace, love, dove) through the politics of the Vietnam War, the Tate/LaBianca murders, the lunar landing, the first Boeing 747, the breakup of the Beatles and the death by Hell’s Angels at the Rolling Stone’s Altamont festival.

Like a news journalist, Kirkpatrick weaves the story, based on myriad factual references, of a year when the lights went out on the 60’s dream. Through recounts of politics, film, music and sports, “1969: The Year Everything Changed” offers a vivid portrayal of a more colorful time; an experimental time where almost anything was considered off-limits. A time, when – as Kirkpatrick references Theodore Roszak’s book, “The
Making of a Counter Culture – and a commentary of the Broadway musical Hair became a metaphor for youth-society as a whole; a “group-tribal activity searching for a new and meaningful way of life.”

Kirkpatrick covers a lot of ground in his recantation of these twelve months of American history. Highlights range from the political (Black Panthers, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)) to Nixon’s expansion of the Vietnam War into Cambodia (“Operation Breakfast”), to sports (Joe Namath and the AFL’s emergence in Super Bowl III, the Amazing Mets, etc.), to films (I am Curious Yellow to Easy Rider) to music (Blind Faith, Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, Woodstock, et al…). The author revisits much of the journalism of the times piecing together the historical and cultural details of these events that might otherwise be lost to time – even at one point correcting the record (for example, when Rolling Stone reported that the Altamont killing happened during “Sympathy for the Devil” instead of several songs later.)

In all, “1969″ is a book that should surely have been written before now. The fact that it wasn’t, only served for Kirkpatrick to correct the error while getting it right
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