Writing about 1967 during 2020 has been a remarkable experience in seeing how much things have changed in the last 53 years – and how much they haven’t.
Week 24 of my week-by-week history of 1967 was a crucial one, for it brought the first two rock festivals (then still called “pop” festivals) in one week: Sunday was the second day of the Fantasy Faire on Mt. Tamalpais in Marin County just to the north of San Francisco, and Friday and Saturday were the first two days of the three-day Monterey International Pop Festival, some distance to the south.
Between them they featured a large portion of the bands that were creating a new kind of music for a new kind of audience. Last week, we discussed the Fantasy Faire; this week, it’s Monterey’s turn.
But what makes 1967 resonate so much now are four historical events that marked this week, June 11-17. Because music1967.com is a music history, I only mention them in passing, as a framework. But their contemporary echoes demand a bit more exploration. I won’t go into much depth here, either (four major events!), but I want to honor them.
That’s particularly true with the event that began Week 24, on June 11: It was then that policeman James Calvert shot and killed a 19-year-old, unarmed black teenager named Martin Chambers. Calvert claimed that Chambers was running away from a crime scene, and was a prior felon; Chambers’ two friends, witnesses to the event, say that he had stopped, arms in the air. In any case, Calvert shot the 19-year-old in the back, killing him.
There was a two-day investigation that Chambers was not, in fact, a felon, had no prior record and no weapon. Nevertheless, the investigation found that Calvert was innocent of all wrong doing. Chambers was, of course, just dead.
Three days of unrest followed, and this would be the start of a summer of rioting that would reach more than 150 cities around the U.S., all the way to the nation’s capital. Deja vu anyone?
This state-sanctioned murder – one of what we now know, in 2020, to be untold numbers over the decades, right to this year – took place during a week in which Thurgood Marshall became the first black man to be nominated to the highest court in the country. It was a controversial nomination, and one that would be repeated only twice in the subsequent 53 years (and one of those was Clarence Thomas!).
Perhaps the most positive, and symbolic, event of the week – and the one with immediate positive effects on real lives – was the (still all-white male) Supreme Court’s decision in Loving v. Virginia, which finally abolished laws in 16 U.S. states that made interracial marriage a crime. Think about that for a minute, it you despair that we’ve made no progress.
So the Monterey International Pop Festival, which I address most directly, was hardly the most important event of the week (and I haven’t even mentioned Saturday’s test, by the Communist government of China, still a weak, “sleeping giant” of a hydrogen bomb!) But music1967.com is a music history, so that’s where we go this week.
There are now 24 weeks of music1967.com available to enjoy. I will continue to post a week every week in 2020, as well as go back and flesh out some of the previous weeks with playlists, bibliographies and etc. This is a long-term, ongoing project. But enjoy what’s up, there’s more to come.
Prior weeks include:
Week Two: January 8-14, focuses on London, where Jimi Hendrix’s first single is rising on the charts and England’s big-name guitarists – Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Pete Townshend – are struggling to get a grip on this new force.
Week Five: January 29-February 4 takes us to Los Angeles, where recording artists from The Beach Boys to Frank Zappa to Frank Sinatra (and Antonio Carlos Jobim) take advantage of the heavyweight skills of the world’s best studio musicians, creating a wide variety of amazing music.
Week Eight: February 19-26 finds us in Nashville, as well as “Nashville West,” aka Bakersfield, California. Here a bumper crop of new artists is rising like summer corn: Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, Tammy Wynette and others join country stalwarts like Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson.
Or jump to Week 17: April 23-29, which takes us to a place few American music fans were thinking about at the time: Jamaica. Just five years independent, the Caribbean nation was a hotbed of new music, influenced by American soul and influencing British mods – and a struggle for survival.