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1969 was quite a year, and so we’ve had plenty of “50th Anniversary” moments this year: the fiftieth anniversary of the first humans on the moon, of Woodstock, and of the Beatles’ last recorded album, Abbey Road. It was the year that Monty Python’s Flying Circus and Sesame Street premiered on television, and some movies from this year included Midnight Cowboy, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Easy Rider. Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five were among the books published in 1969. So it was a remarkable year, and there’s plenty for us to commemorate now, fifty years later.
But there was a dark side to 1969. The Vietnam War was raging on, and student unrest was simmering in America (which would boil over the following spring with the Kent State shootings). It was the year of the Tate-Labianca murders, with the Manson Family becoming the first highly visible sign that the peace and love generation had its own violent, dangerous shadow side. And then, on December 6 — fifty years ago today — came Altamont.
Morning - Washington - Post - Feature - Concert
This morning, the Washington Post published a lengthy feature profiling the free concert at the Altamont Speedway, east of San Francisco. It was meant to be a “West Coast Woodstock,” featuring bands like the Rolling Stones, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Santana, and Crosby Stills Nash and Young. But with over 300,000 people showing up for the free concert, almost no logistical infrastructure to handle a crowd that size and “security” provided by the ****’s Angels Motorcycle Gang (!), it turned out to be the “Anti-Woodstock” — and since the Stones were being filmed, the violence and chaos that culminated in a man getting knifed to death was all caught on film, showing up in the documentary Gimme...
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