Summer of 1969 – a few things to remember (a reprise)

Last week, our friend Jill posted a more detail write-up (link at end) on Brian Adams’ song “Summer of ’69′” that is worth the read. At the back end of the following repeat post I made during the year’s 50th anniversary, there are few paragraphs on events during that year.

While 1968 was a year of significant occurrences, we are now reflecting on the events of fifity years ago in 1969. Bryan Adams sang of this year from a personal standpoint in “Summer of ’69,” so it is a great way to kick off:

“I got my first real six-string
Bought it at the five-and-dime
Played it till my fingers bled
It was the summer of ’69
Me and some guys from school
Had a band and we tried real hard
Jimmy quit and Jody got married
I should’ve known we’d never get far
Oh when I look back now
That summer seemed to last forever
And if I had the choice
Ya I’d always want to be there
Those were the best days of my life”

This song was penned by Adams and James Douglas Vallance and reveals how the band was so important to the life of the singer. Yet, I find of interest how he interjects how life rears its head and alters the dreams. I do not know how autobiographical the song is, but I am glad Adams stuck with it, as he has crafted and performed many memorable songs.

Fifty years ago, we saw the final straw that caused action to occur on environmental protection. Following the reaction to Rachel Carson’s push with ‘Silent Spring,” the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland caught fire as it was so polluted by chemical dumping. Seeing this in retrospect, it amazes me that companies would dump or drain chemical run-off into a river and be surprised by the result. Within six months, President Nixon inked the law to create the Environmental Protection Agency, one of his two greatest accomplishments (opening dialogue with China was the other).

Later this summer, we will reflect on Neil Armstrong taking “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as he is the first human to walk on the moon. Buzz Aldrin would soon join him for a lunar walkabout. These actions opened up science as a possible career for many young people and it also showed us that we are mere occupants on our planet. So, it is crucial we take care of where we live for our children and grandchildren. Maybe this helped provide additional context for enacting the EPA.

In August, will be the fiftieth anniversary of Woodstock where 300,000 or so people ventured to a farm in upstate New York for a three day concert. This event still amazes me and I am intrigued by a friend’s recounting of what happened as he was there as a young college student. From his view, he remembers there were so many people, things like food, water and restrooms were dear. He recalls making food runs for people. The music and atmosphere were wonderful, but the challenges are overlooked in memory.

Finally, people who do not follow baseball or football will yawn, but this was the year of two huge upsets, which in actuality, should not have been as surprising. In January, Broadway Joe Namath led the New York Jets over the heavily favored Baltimore Colts in the Super Bowl. Namath had bragged that they would win the game the preceding week, but what many failed to realize, Namath had a terrific set of receivers and two of the best running backs in the game. This win led to the merger of two rival football leagues.

In October, the New York Mets easily won the baseball World Series over the heavily favored Baltimore Orioles (it was a tough year for Baltimore fans). For the first part of the decade, the new Mets were the worst team in baseball. What was underestimated by the Orioles is the Mets had two future Hall of Fame pitchers – Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan and another excellent one in Jerry Koosman. Good pitching will beat good hitting almost every time. I mention these two events as when you look under the hood, the outcomes are less surprising, even though they were at the time.

The decade ended with two eventful years. Unfortunately, the US remained in Vietnam fighting a war which, we learned later, we knew we could not win. Many Americans and Vietnamese died, as a result fighting a war that would last several more years. We should remember people die in wars, before we go out and fight another one. As a Vietnamese soldier said in Ken Burns’ documentary on the war, people who feel they can win a war, have never fought in one.

19 thoughts on “Summer of 1969 – a few things to remember (a reprise)

  1. I never saw a summary like this. 1969 was a mega year. I love the emotion beneath the song: the early years that formed a person to form the person.

  2. Many thanks for the shout out, Keith! Wow … lots happened in 1969! 1969 was also a personal milestone for me … I hit the big 18 years of age and left home the next day! Turns out to have been a mistake, but I have no regrets, for some really great things came of it.

  3. Note to Readers: One more sporting event occurred in 1969 which was Bill Russell retired from playing after the Boston Celtics beat the stacked Los Angeles Lakers team to win the NBA championship. Russell was the consummate team player and led the Celtics to eleven NBA championships, more than any other player. His college teams won two NCAA championships and he was on an Olympic Gold medal winning basketball team in 1956. That tallies to fourteen basketball championships, which may never be rivaled.

  4. Note to Readers: Some of the more popular songs from 1969 include some big names:

    “Come Together” and “Something” by The Beatles
    “Suspicious Minds” by Elvis Presley
    “Hot fun in the Summertime” by Sly and the Family Stone
    “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond
    And two songs from the musical play “Hair” – “Aquarius” by The Fifth Dimensions and “Hair” by The Cowsills

  5. Note to Readers: On a personal note, as I started the 6th grade in late summer of 1969, several exciting things were happening. I went steady with a girl named Sharon whose mother did not want us to. So, each morning I would give her my ID bracelet and each afternoon she would give it back to avoid detection. I also got to participate in my first spin the bottle game at a party. I still can remember the excitement when the bottle pointed at a girl I thought was cute. Pretty heady stuff.

    • Thanks Roger. It is indeed. Think about it. It was reported later that candidate Richard Nixon actually committed treason and called the South Vietnamese leader and asked him not to sign a peace deal in October 1968 as he could get a better one. The reason he was discovered is the CIA was bugging the SV leader. How many more Americans died in 1969 and later until the agreement was signed four years later. Then there are the Pentagon Papers which were further indicting of presidents from Ike to JFK to LBJ to Nixon who knew we could not win the war.

      • Indeed Keith. Folk lore would blame LBJ alone with Nixon as a co-star, and yet from the French defeat in then Indo-China American administrations convinced themselves ‘It could be done’
        ‘The Best and The Brightest’ by the late David Halberstam is a fascinating account of JFK’s most talented collection of folk (in industry, commerce, and theory) being completely out of their individual and collective depths when dealing with an insurgency and guerrilla war conducted by a foe already battle hardened and determined.

        Another book which brings the reader up short is Philip Caputo’s ‘Tour of Duty’, with his visceral anger at and sense of personal betrayal by in JFK his part in the Vietnam Involvement.

      • Roger, arrogance is a lousy general isn’t it? Then we later invade Iraq with similar arrogance trusting the wrong Iraqis (as we did in South Vietnam), having too few interpreters and firing Saddam Hussein’s police force leaving a country in more turmoil. Thanks for the suggested reading. Keith

  6. I like history, so this was enjoyable (though I admit I’m one of those non-sports types, so I glazed over those two paragraphs.) Interesting take on Woodstock. Great quote about the Vietnam War. :/

    • Thanks Betsy. Not everyone is a sports fan, so no worries. Did you check out the comments? Roger and I had a good discussion on Vietnam, plus I mention a few of the more popular songs for the year. Thanks for stopping by. Keith

      • Betsy, I left off some of the more classic rock tunes and noted the more popular songs. Please forgive. Here are some rock favorites from that year:

        Cinnamon Girl by Neil Young
        Fortunate Son and Born on the Bayou by Creedence Clearwater Revival
        Can’t find my way home by Blind Faith
        Communication Breakdown by Led Zeppelin
        Suite Judy Blue Eyes by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young


  7. Gosh I do like that song Keith. It’s a favourite along with many other women, I suspect. I feel like it’s so nostalgic, especially for those of us that lived through that decade. I was quite young at the time, but it was a time of carefree youth, unfettered by the reins of technology, of responsibility and in Australia, it was a boom time. Regarding Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring – it was a book I discovered as an environmental science student in the eighties and it was profound. It changed my view and perspective forever and importance should never be underestimated.
    I was astounded that such things were such things were happening and her words affected me greatly.

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