Portal:1960s

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The 1960s was a decade that began on January 1, 1960 and ended on December 31, 1969. The 1960s term also refers to an era more often called The Sixties, denoting the complex of inter-related cultural and political trends across the globe. This "cultural decade" is more loosely defined than the actual decade, beginning around 1963 and ending around 1974.

"The Sixties", as they are known in both scholarship and popular culture, is a term used by historians, journalists, and other objective academics; in some cases nostalgically to describe the counterculture and revolution in social norms about clothing, music, drugs, dress, formalities and schooling. Conservatives denounce the decade as one of irresponsible excess and flamboyance, and decay of social order. The decade was also labeled the Swinging Sixties because of the fall or relaxation of social taboos especially relating to racism and sexism that occurred during this time.

The 1960s became synonymous with the new, radical, and subversive events and trends of the period. In Africa the 1960s was a period of radical political change as 32 countries gained independence from their European colonial rulers.

Some commentators have seen in this era a classical Jungian nightmare cycle, where a rigid culture, unable to contain the demands for greater individual freedom, broke free of the social constraints of the previous age through extreme deviation from the norm. Christopher Booker charts the rise, success, fall/nightmare and explosion in the London scene of the 1960s. However, this alone does not explain the mass nature of the phenomenon.

Several nations such as the U.S., France, Germany and Britain turned to the left in the early and mid 1960s. In the United States, John F. Kennedy, a Keynesian and staunch anti-communist, pushed for social reforms. His assassination in 1963 was a stunning shock. Liberal reforms were finally passed under Lyndon B. Johnson including civil rights for African Americans and healthcare for the elderly and the poor. Despite his large-scale Great Society programs, Johnson was increasingly reviled by the New Left at home and abroad. The heavy-handed American role in the Vietnam War outraged student protestors across the globe, as they found peasant rebellion typified by Ho Chi Minh and Che Guevara more appealing. Italy formed its first left-of-center government in March 1962 with a coalition of Christian Democrats, Social Democrats, and moderate Republicans. Socialists joined the ruling block in December 1963. In Britain, the Labour Party gained power in 1964. In Brazil, João Goulart became president after Jânio Quadros resigned.

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The Beatles in 1964
The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. Their best-known lineup, consisting of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, became considered by many as the greatest and most influential act of the rock era. Rooted in skiffle and 1950s rock and roll, the Beatles later utilized several genres, ranging from pop ballads to psychedelic rock, often incorporating classical elements in innovative ways. In the early 1960s, their enormous popularity first emerged as "Beatlemania", but as their songwriting grew in sophistication, they came to be perceived by fans and cultural observers as an embodiment of the ideals shared by the era's sociocultural revolutions. They gained popularity in the United Kingdom after their first modest hit, "Love Me Do", in late 1962. They acquired the nickname the "Fab Four" as Beatlemania grew in Britain over the following year, and by early 1964 they had become international stars, leading the "British Invasion" of the United States pop market. From 1965 on, the Beatles produced what many critics consider their finest material. After their break-up in 1970, they each enjoyed successful musical careers.

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Joan Baez and Bob Dylan
Credit: Rowland Scherman, USIA

American folk singers Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, performing a duet at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963. Both were relatively new recording artists at the time, with Baez being at the forefront of American roots revival and Dylan having just released his second album. Baez was especially influential in introducing audiences to Dylan's music by recording several of his early songs and inviting him onstage during her own concerts.

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Tents in Resurrection City in Washington, D.C.

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Suharto in 1993
Suharto (8 June 1921 – 27 January 2008) was the second President of Indonesia, holding the office for 31 years from the ousting of Sukarno in 1967 until his resignation in 1998. During the Japanese occupation of Indonesia, Suharto served in Japanese-organised Indonesian security forces. Indonesia's independence struggle saw his joining the newly formed Indonesian army. Suharto rose to the rank of major general following Indonesian independence. An attempted coup on 30 September 1965 allegedly backed by the Indonesian Communist Party was countered by Suharto-led troops. The army subsequently led an anti-communist purge and Suharto wrested power from Indonesia's founding president, Sukarno. He was appointed acting president in 1967, replacing Sukarno, and elected President the following year. Under his "New Order" administration, Suharto constructed a strong, centralised and military-dominated government. For most of his presidency, Indonesia experienced significant economic growth and industrialisation, dramatically improving health, education and living standards. By the 1990s, the New Order's authoritarianism and widespread corruption were a source of discontent and, following a severe financial crisis, led to widespread unrest and his resignation in May 1998. Suharto died in 2008 and was given a state funeral.

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