I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.—Martin Luther King, Jr.
Change Is Only a Good Thing If You Change in a Good Way.—Malcolm X
I don’t think that unless a greater effort is made by the government to win popular support that the war can be won out there. In the final analysis, it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisors, but they have to win it, the people of Vietnam, against the communists.–John F. Kennedy, interview with Walter Cronkite, September 2, 1963
They call upon us to supply American boys to do the job that Asian boys should do.– Lyndon B Johnson
“Defeat doesn’t finish a man — quit does”. From speech by Richard Nixon on November. 3, 1969
The conduit from the ‘50s carries strong optimism. John Fitzgerald Kennedy asks not what your country can do for you- he asks what you can do for your country. It’s inspiring. Jackie sets the example in class. Fear of nuclear war comes to a head with the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. Soviets back down. “Ich bin ein Berliner.” JFK at the helm equals comfort and security. Everyone is proud to be an American.
Dallas makes it all a bad joke. Dallas destroys Camelot and justifies cynicism. No more peering through rose-colored glasses. Was it Oswald or a conspiracy? Jack Ruby. Dealey Plaza, the Depository, Stemmons Freeway brings back memories that chill.
The ‘60s post-63 equals full-tilt boogie, balls to the walls. Flashpoints going off like photographers’ light bulbs. There are too many to track. Riots begin on August 11, 1965 in Watts after which blacks are no longer taken for granted. Then, amid coups and assassinations, Vietnam breaks out in earnest. More justified cynicism with body bags and Jane Fonda. People hate Jane; they still do. Giap and Westmoreland square off.
James Meredith becomes the first black student at Ole Miss. Violence but also hope abounds. Then Medgar Evers is killed by an assassin’s bullet amid voter registration in the South. It’s “Bloody Sunday” in Selma with dogs and hoses. More unrest and more killings occur. Malcolm being gunned down punctuates the morass. It’s bad juju.
“I Have a Dream” renews hope. The 1964 Civil Rights Act. MLK is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Stonewall Riots in New York are a turning point in the struggle for gay equality. Gays stand up and say “We will not take it anymore”
Nation of Islam and Black Panthers, Weather Underground Organization, SDS, “Black Power,” Berkley, the sexual revolution, and feminism are flash bulbs that are going off constantly.
To Kill a Mockingbird, Norman Bates and Psycho, The Apartment, On the Beach, Lolita, James Bond, The Group, In Cold Blood, The Peter Principle, Profiles in Courage, Elmer Gantry,Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, In the Heat of the Night, The Green Berets, Midnight Cowboy, Butterfield 8, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Easy Rider. “Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!” in Dr, Strangelove is unforgettable. .
Motown and Smoky Robinson are Supreme. Boston Celtics, Green Bay Packers. Andy Warhol, surfing. The Beatles hit the big time. Elvis’s star rises and fades over the decade. The Pill arrives and so does the miniskirt. The Space Race permeates.
Charlie Manson’s family does its horrific thing. The Boston Strangler snuffs out the dreams of thirteen women.
In sports, Bill Russell’s battles against Wilt Chamberlain are the stuff of legends. In 1961, Sandy Koufax amazes batters with his fast stuff. The first Super Bowl game is played in 1967. It wasn’t even sold out! Only one team mattered in professional basketball: the Boston Celtics won 9 of the 10 possible championships in the 60s.
1968 is the seminal year; it’s about politics, culture, innovation, and mostly unrest. The nation staggers through twelve months of turbulent and cataclysmic events that will remain with us forever. The year 1968 is all about countercultural freedom. Beatniks have become hippies.
Robert F. Kennedy declares his candidacy for president. President. Lyndon B. Johnson announces that he will not seek reelection. Walter Cronkite doubts the potential for American victory in Vietnam. Abbie Hoffman says, “People coming to Chicago should begin preparations for five days of energy-exchange.” He adds, “A modern revolutionary group heads for the television station.” The Yippies are coming, but Chicago police are prepared, energized and waiting. Young people seem to reject all forms of authority. Speak out, protest, and march. These are rebels with causes. Every injustice or perceived inequality suddenly becomes fair game for examination and protest. Chicago, Daley, and Nixon are all part of the mix.
And then, “I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!” But Memphis shatters the Dream as Reverend King is murdered and bloody riots break out in the cities. Newark and Detroit feel the heat big-time. Robert Kennedy delivers a stirring eulogy. But the unflinching dignity of the civil rights marchers wears down the oppressors. The Dream prevails. LBJ gets Civil Rights laws passed in 1964,
The Tet Offensive intensifies the war, as Bobby Kennedy says, “I have traveled and I have listened to the young people of our nation and felt their anger about the war that they are sent to fight and about the world they are about to inherit.” Later, he says, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why…I dream of things that never were, and ask why not? More hope.
Sirhan Sirhan snuffs out that dream as well as Bobby is assassinated minutes after giving a victory speech at the California primary. The country, becoming inured to assassinations, mourns again. The direction once again is irretrievably changed.
Amid mass rioting and chaos, Nixon wins over Humphrey on a “law and order” platform while Chicago police incongruously sap antiwar protesters in Lincoln Park. Nixon is the ONE.
“I Am a Woman-Not a Toy, a Pet, a mascot” states a sign at a Miss America Beauty Pageant Protest. Sisterhood is powerful. Shirley Chisholm is the first black woman elected to Congress.
Meanwhile, Jimi, Timothy Leary and the guru Maharaji-ji have the beat. Hippies, bell-bottoms, Woodstock, acid, LSD are all part of this. Psychedelic times enjoyed at Haight-Ashbury. “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Jimi says, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.” Steppenwolf sings “Born to Be Wild.” Like wow.
James Brown says, “Say It loud- I’m Black and I’m Proud.” John Carlos and Tommie Smith listen and raise their fists for black power and human rights at the Olympics in Mexico City. Cesar Chavez leads a farm workers’ movement in the rural sector.
The Apollo program’s race to space is big stuff. The U.S. the UK and the Soviet Union sign the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. This is big stuff, too. The year seems to end on a peaceful and hopeful note
The Woodstock Music Festival at Max Yasgur’s farm in August 1969.Jimi does his thing with Manic Depression and Purple Haze. Joan Baez and Santana rule. Janis is no Foxy Lady but she sings like one. Sly takes us higher. People gather together in the spirit of caring and sharing, Unique and legendary stuff. It’s a new beginning, as men walk on the moon in 1969.
The Altamont Music Festival is held later in 1969. The Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and the Stones headline the event. Bikers serve as the security force. The real music becomes “Sympathy for the Devil.” It’s a unique and chilling counterpoint to Woodstock. Fans are held “Under My Thumb.” Someone stabs a man holding a gun in front of the stage. It’s a downer at the end. Cosmic flower children wander across the hills toward home and an uncertain future with spooky windmills in the background. A bad way to end the ‘60s, but it’s about a generation that realizes it can make a difference just by standing up and being heard-and it does just that.
Jim Morrison of the Doors says, “I like ideas about the breaking away or overthrowing of established order. I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos, especially activity that seems to have no meaning. It seems to me to be the road towards external freedom is a way to bring about internal freedom.”
Hunter S.Thompson adds, “Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming “Wow! What a Ride!”
“I’m so mean I make Medicine sick” Muhammad Ali
Boxing is the only sport you can get your brain shook, your money took and you name in the undertaker book.—Joe Frazier
Boxing like mostly everything else went through changing times. Cassius Clay aka “The Louisville Lip” stops malefic Sonny Liston twice. Later he becomes Muhammad Ali and declares his alignment with the Nation of Islam. He becomes the right man for the right time. He “floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.” With television not being as important for boxing in the ‘60s, he uses his mouth and his brashness to attract attention and soon reigns supreme. He calls opponents bums and chumps and it starts something different from the prior decade; trash talk. He is a “Peck’s Bad Boy.” A new bravado begins. His sociopolitical defiance is in sync with the times.
But the single defining event of the decade in the sport came in 1967 when Ali refused his entry into the United States Army. He was arrested, suspended from boxing, and found guilty despite his intentions of being a conscientious objector due to his religious beliefs. He was later exonerated by the Supreme Court.
Quite simply, the decade in boxing belonged to Ali. He transcends boxing.
The WBA and WBC compete against each other, after the WBA changed its name from the National Boxing Association in 1962 and a group split from the WBA in 1963 to form the WBC. It adds to the confusion and is a precursor to more organizational confusion waiting in the wings. A new division was created in the Jr. Middleweights. More will follow.
Fewer ethnic fighters toil in the ring and the blacks and Hispanics rule the sport. Boxers from the old school give way to a new and more turbulent wave of fighters who are young, enthusiastic, and who seek bigger paydays.
At the weigh-in before the third Emille Griffith-Kid Paret Kid fight in 1962, the Kid, trying to gain a psychological edge, taunted Griffith, calling him a maricón (Spanish for “faggot”).Then on national TV in front of thousands of horrified eyes, Griffith traps the Kid on the ropes and knocks him out with eighteen unanswered power shots. Paret lapses into a coma and dies shortly after. Many think he was dead on his feet. There is the usual knee-jerk response to ban boxing. While it fails, it might have been the start of boxing becoming a non-mainstream sport. Norman Mailer, who was in attendance that night in a ringside seat, wrote, “As he took those eighteen punches something happened to everyone who was in psychic range of the event. Some part of his death reached out to us. … As he went down, the sound of Griffith’s punches echoed in the mind like a heavy axe in the distance chopping into a wet log.”
Griffith seems to be the quintessential fighter during the decade losing some and winning more, but post-Paret, his fire is gone. Bad juju permeates.
A year later “Sugar” Ramos stops Davey Moore in 10 rounds to win featherweight title. The back of Moore’s neck snapped against the ropes when he fell. He then lapses into a coma and later dies in the hospital. This one inspired Bob Dylan to write a song: Who killed Davey Moore?
Why an’ what’s the reason for?
“Not us,” says the angry crowd,
Whose screams filled the arena loud.
“It’s too bad he died that night
But we just like to see a fight.”
Governor Edmund “Pat” Brown called for the abolition of boxing, as did Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray. See the following link for a brilliant account of this tragedy by David Davis: https://lareviewofbooks.org/essay/fight-to-the-death-who-killed-davey-moore
Boxing was then banned from network television for many years. But toward the end of the decade, television supercharges boxing and people enjoy it in their own homes or favorite pubs as big screen sets become the norm. Television and big money purses began to rule the day. Somebody named Joe Frazier debuts in 1965 and then Ken Norton in 1967 and George Foreman in 1969. People watch great fights like Emile Griffith vs. Nino Benvenuti in 1967, the Patterson vs. Johansson Trilogy (as Ingo’s leg twitches in the second fight and horrifies onlookers), Liston vs. Patterson I, II, Ali vs. Liston I, II, Ortiz vs. Elorde I, II, and Harada vs. Jofre I, II. Rubin (Hurricane) Carter KOs Florentino Fernandez and Emille Griffith, Gene Fullmer, Dick Tiger, Jose Torres, and Bob Foster contribute greatly as the best fight the best, and then do it again and again.
Jerry Quarry is Mr Charisma. Jimmy Ellis, George Chuvalo, Oscar Bonavena, Joey Archer and Holly Mims make their mark. Ralph Dupas, Joey Giardello, Lionel Rose, Joey Giambra, and Carlos Monzon thrill fans as the great Sugar Ray Robinson winds down his career during the last half of the decade. Ernie Terrell beats Eddie Machen and Griffith beats Joey Archer twice—Joey is the last man to fight (and beat) Sugar Ray. Nicolino Locche struts his defensive wizardly beating Paul Fugi in Tokyo.
Somehow, Sugar Ray loses to both Moyer brothers-Denny and Phil. Denny has 141 fights between 1957 and 1975. He pays dearly as something called Dementia Pugilistica later renders him helpless in mind and body unable to care for himself or even recognize his family members. This dreaded malady will impact many more boxers (including Quarry, Griffith and Phil Moyer). It shows no respect for talent; it does not discriminate.
This was a fan’s decade in boxing if ever there was one. There were all-time great champions and contenders scattered across all of the weight divisions. There were great fights. It was an era in which it was common to fight every couple of weeks. In the end, however, the decade in boxing belonged to Ali.
The sixties close on a sad note as former heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano dies in plane crash in Newton, Iowa in 1969.