1960 1969

The sixties were a decade of great change. Abroad, the Cold War and the Vietnam War continued. At home, John F. Kennedy became president. During the 60s both he and Martin Luther King Junior were assassinated. Meanwhile, a social revolution began that was reflected in fashion, music, and popular entertainment.






  • 8-track tape
  • Household Microwave
  • Birth of the Internet


  • Assassination of JKF
  • Assassination of MLK
  • First man on the moon

Defining Decades Webpage

We try harder. (1962) Avis


One of the first things that come to mind when thinking of the music scene in the 1960s is the “British Invasion”, where music groups in England experienced breakthrough success in the U.S.  The Beatles were responsible for creating the breakthrough, and would go on to become the best-selling rock group of all time.  Other British groups that followed include:  The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Yardbirds, Manfred Mann, and Herman’s Hermits.

Motown Record Corporation was established in 1960.  This label provided the impetus for R&B and soul music to gain mainstream popularity.  Featured artists included Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Jackson Five, The Four Tops, The Temptations and The Marvelettes.

Rock music was defined by a number of different sub-genres, such as folk rock, psychedelic rock, and surf rock, among others.  Fold rock often included political messages; Bob Dylan, The Mamas & The Papas, Simon and Garfunkel, and Crosby, Stills & Nash.  Psychedelic rock grew out of folk rock combined with the drug culture prevalent during the decade.  The Doors, The Byrds, and The Grateful Dead are a few examples of such groups.  The Beach Boys are the most popular group to emerge from surf rock, which was born on the west coast.


Social changes in the 1960s led to dramatic changes in the film industry.  This constituted the beginning of the “New Hollywood” era that dabbled in the risqué, such as sexually explicit films and the developing drug culture.  Examples of such films include Easy Rider and Barbarella.

The highest grossing film of the decade was The Sound of Music, which also claimed a number of Academy Awards, including Best Picture.  Other top films from the decade spanned a range of interests.  These included:  Cool Hand Luke, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Pink Panther, Psycho, 2001:  A Space Odyssey, Midnight Cowboy, Lawrence of Arabia and Spartacus.

On the small screen, television shows were designed to be family friendly.  Unlike today, there were not multiple T.V.s in the house, and there were only a few channels available, so the entire family would sit and watch together.  Some of the popular family shows were The Ed Sullivan Show, The Flintstones, Bonanza, and The Wonderful World of Disney.

Other top shows from the 1960s include Star Trek, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, The Twilight Zone, My Three Sons, Dragnet, The Beverly Hillbillies, Dragnet, The Tonight Show and Laugh-In.


The 1960’s fashion was an evolving scene, as a number of emblematic styles came out of this decade. Many of the influences on the 60’s fashion reflected the social atmosphere of the time. Women’s trends early in the decade maintained the refined femininity of the previous decade. Jacqueline Kennedy, one of fashions iconic legends, popularized many of the elegant styles seen in the beginning of the decade. Some of those styles were pillbox hats, pastel suits with short boxy jackets and oversized buttons, simple, geometric dresses or shifts. Also for formal attire, full-skirted formal gowns were worn with low necklines and close-fitting waists. Capri trousers were the main choice for women and girls casual wear. Another fashion trend seen in the beginning of the 1960’s is stiletto heels, which were a perfect complement to the classic elegance worn in the first part of the decade. For men, suits were bright and colorful as opposed to the pale, toned shades of the previous decade. Men’s styles included frills and cravats, wide ties with crazy prints, stripes and patterns and trouser straps, leather boots and collarless jackets.

The advent of Mary Quant’s mini-skirt changed everything in the world of 1960’s fashion. This mid-decade mini was a must-have, especially amongst young adults. Following the mini-skirt is the mini-dress with an A-line shape, or sleeveless shift. Another iconic style to emerge during this decade came in “1964, when French designer Andre Courreges introduced the ‘space look’, with trouser suits, white boots, goggles, and box-shaped dresses whose skirts soared three inches above the knee.” Many of the influences seen in the mid-1960’s have its origins in Britain as they were the trendsetters of these iconic fashions. The young group branded themselves as the Mods, which was short for modernists, and catered to the younger generation. The styles seen on the Mods represented the popular culture overtaking this young generation, and marked a divergence from the refinement seen earlier in the decade. For men, some of these mod styles were double-breasted suits of crushed velvet or striped patterns, brocade waistcoats, shirts with frilled collars, and their hair worn below the collarbone and a ‘dandified look.’ For women, velvet mini dresses with lace-collars and matching cuffs, wide tent dresses and false eyelashes were in vogue, as was pale lipstick. Hemlines rose above mid-thigh, naming the new micro-minis, and bell-bottom pants came into fashion. These trends were donned by legendary icons Twiggy and Rolling Stone’s guitarist, Brian Jones, and could be seen in areas such Carnaby Street and Chelsea’s Kings Road.

Towards the end of the decade, influenced by the Vietnam War, emerged the androgynous hippie style. Both men and women wore “frayed bell-bottomed jeans, tie-dyed shirts, work shirts, and headbands and sandals. At times, women would go barefoot, and some went braless. Some other hippie-styles were fringed buckskin vests, flowing caftans, Mexican peasant blouses, gypsy-style skirts, scarves, bangles, and Indian prints. For the conservative hippie style, there were the ‘lounging’ or ‘hostess’ pajamas, which consisted of a tunic top over floor-length culottes, and were usually made of polyester or chiffon.”


Early in the 1960’s many of the 1950’s styled cars remained popular until mid-decade. Cars were still being made with lavish chrome, and flamboyant taillights. Car technology continued to improve the conveniences of automobiles, such as power steering, and power windows, which were becoming more prevalent. In the mid-1960’s car companies began to manufacture high performance cars, which ultimately replaced the extravagance of the 1950’s styles.

One of the most popular cars to come out of the 1960’s is the Chevy Camaro. “The Camaro debuted in September 1966, for the 1967 model year, on a new rear-wheel drive GMF-body platform. It would be available as a 2-door, 2+2 seating, coupe or convertible with a choice of 250 cu in (4.1 L) inline-6 and 302 cu in (4.9 L), 307 cu in (5.0 L), 327 cu in (5.4 L), 350 cu in (5.7 L), or 396 cu in (6.5 L) V8 power plants. The Camaro was touted as having the same conventional rear-drive, front-engine configuration as Mustang and Chevy II Nova. In addition, the Camaro was designed to fit a variety of power plants in the engine bay. This first-generation of Camaros would last until the 1969.”

The Chevy Corvette Sting Ray was another popular vehicle made during the 1960's. The Sting Ray was a sports car produced from years 1963 through 1967. By 1965, “the Sting Ray was in its third season, with a cleaned up style.” The1965 model came with an all-new braking system and larger power plants. The styling alterations were subtle, confined to a smoothed-out hood, a trio of working vertical exhaust vents in the front fenders, restyled wheel covers and rocker-panel moldings, and minor interior trim revisions. “The 1965 Corvette Sting Ray became ferocious with the mid-year debut of a big-block V-8, the 425 hp (317 kW) 396 in (6.5 L) ("big block") V8.”

Another popular car during this era is the Ford Shelby Mustang. The Ford Shelby Mustang, was actually the Mustang Cobra, and manufactured by a company called American Shelby. “By 1965 G.T. 350 was considered a street-legal racecar, and as such was not built for comfort or ease of driving; the 30 "G.T. 350R" race-spec cars were built specifically to race under SCCA rules. By 1966, the G.T. 350 had some of its sharper edges smoothed out for the comfort of casual drivers (i.e back seats, different colors, automatic transmission). This trend continued every year, with the cars becoming progressively larger, heavier and more comfortable. By 1969, the G.T. 350s and 500s were largely styling modifications to a stock Mustang, and, by1969, Caroll Shelby was no longer involved in the Shelby GT program, and design was done in-house by Ford.



The Eight Track tape recording system was popular from 1965 to the late 1970s. Although today the 8-track is dismissed as a failure because of all its problems it was a big success from a contemporary standpoint. The 8-track tape was the first format to achieve a national mass market and it paved the way for many innovations in portable music systems. A continuous loop of 1/4-inch wide magnetic tape with eight parallel soundtracks was housed in a plastic cartridge. It actually contained four stereo programs and could hold twice as much music as its competitor the four track tape. It might well be remembered as the first automobile tape deck. Ironically, it was first developed by William Powell Lear of the Learjet Corporation.


The first counter-top domestic microwave oven was introduced in 1967 by the Amana Corporation (a division of Raytheon). It was powered by 100-volts, cost just under $500 and was smaller, safer and more reliable than earlier models. A microwave oven works by causing water molecules in the foodstuff to vibrate producing heat that cooks, warms, or thaws food. The first Raytheon commercial microwave oven was the 1161 Radarange, which had been marketed in 1954. It was rated at 1600 watts but was so large (as big as a refrigerator and weighed 750 lbs.) and expensive ( as much as $3k) that it was only useful commercially. The counter-top microwave oven revolutionized "home cooking" - and requires care to be used safely.


The Internet began as a Cold War project to create a communications network that was immune to a nuclear attack. In 1969 the U.S. government created ARPANET, connecting four western universities and allowing researchers to use the mainframes of any of the networked institutions. ARPANET was a project of the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) a branch of the military that developed top secret systems and weapons during the Cold War. ARPANET allowed information to be shared through "packet switching," a message sent on the network would find its way to its destination via any route available.

There is an opposing view to ARPAnet's origins. Charles M. Herzfeld, the former director of claimed that ARPAnet was not created as a result of a military need, but that "it came out of our frustration that there were only a limited number of large, powerful research computers in the country and that many research investigators who should have access were geographically separated from them."
In either case ARPANET was the model-T of the information highway, the grandfather of the internet. Enjoy the vintage video depicting what the internet of the future would look like!


November 22, 1962

Shortly after noon on November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated as he rode in a motorcade through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas. Kennedy was the youngest man elected President; sadly he was the youngest to die. His untimely, unexpected, violent death was a huge shock to the world, Americans deeply mourned his loss. His assassination has been overshadowed by various conspiracy theories, many questions have been raised. Did Lee Harvey Oswald really assassinate President John Fitzgerald Kennedy, or was Kennedy's death the result of some strange, secret plot?

April 4, 1968

While standing on the balcony of his motel room in Memphis, Tennessee, where he was to lead a protest march for the second time in sympathy with the city's striking garbage workers, Martin Luther King was assassinated. He had been in Memphis on just one week before to march in support of the Memphis Sanitation Workers Union. That event had led to rioting and looting. He returned dedicated to the ideal of peaceful protests, he would not allow violence to disrupt the Civil Rights Movement. The leader who had spent more than thirteen years dedicated to nonviolent protest was killed by a sniper. His murder was followed by riots in dozens of cities, violence and controversy raged even while the world mourned. Many believed the FBI was responsible for the assassination. James Earl Ray was arrested, plead guilty, and was sentenced to 99 years in prison. He later recanted his confession - many believe he was innocent, members of the King family among them.

July 20, 1969

Apollo 11 the first manned mission landed on the moon. Launched from Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969, at 08:32 a.m. EST the spaccraft carried a crew of three: Mission Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins, and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. As he stepped from the lunar module Neil Armstrong's made his famous speech "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" as the world watched. He had just taken the first steps by a human on another planetary body, followed closely by Buzz Aldrin. The astronauts returned to Earth with"moon rocks" but the first mission plan was simple - perform a manned lunar landing and return the mission safely to Earth. This flight rekindled the excitement felt in the early 1960s during the first Mercury flights, and set the stage for later Apollo landing missions. Five more landing missions followed at approximately six-month intervals through December 1972.

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