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The Swinging Sixties Essay

The sixties were a time of rapid changes in all spheres, including fashion, music, literature, politics and sport. Everything was characterized by a revolution of some sort, either sexual revolution, political revolution or even revolution regarding recurring themes in literature. It was the time of ultimate freedom and love was the highest virtue; above all and that is visible in most of the aspects of the 60’s. This decade became synonymous not only with love but also with freedom in every aspect of life. Fashion broke free from the chains of gender roles in the 50’s so tailored suits were no longer reserved only for me.

Literature was more personal and its topics were more controversial and used to be considered taboo. This era is also called The Swinging Sixties because of the fall of these taboos that were mostly about experimenting with mostly drugs or sexuality. When it comes to politics, it was also a revolutionary era even though there were a lot of tension between the USA and the Soviet Union regarding Cuba, nuclear missiles and space exploration. Fashion changes rapidly every day and the sixties were no different – on the contrary, 60’s were a decade in which the fashion was the matter of some serious changes.

In the fifties, women were more dependent on men and that was even visible in their fashion sense. Lines were feminine – narrow waist, pencil skirts that enhanced the figure, sleek haircuts with and subtle makeup with only a thin eyeliner line pointed outwards, red lipstick and brownish eye shadow. Colours were not bright or vibrant at all, they were either darker (grey) or they were light, like beige, light lime and light pink. The sixties emerged as a contrast of the fifties – colours were bright and vibrant, styles were bolder, women gained more freedom and everything was revolutionized.

Some of the most famous 60’s styles include waistless bag dress, funky oversized florals, graphic op-art lines, psychedelic lines, patterned tights, knee-high go-go boots, animal and ethnical prints and mini skirts. Subcultures of the time had a great influence on the fashion as well. Where would the fashion be if it were not for the psychedelic culture with its people that were known for using psychedelic drugs. They used them to experience highly distorted and surreal visuals, vibrant colours, cartoon typography and full spectrums. These people also often experienced hallucinations and synesthesia which also influenced the fashion.

Because of all that, the psychedelic fashion was that of vibrant colours, with kaleidoscopic prints and vividly coloured jewelry. Along with the psychedelic culture, one of the first things that come in mind when talking about sixties is the hippie culture. Hippies have created their own fashion, as well as their own movement that was all about peace, love, sexual revolution and prevailing gender differences. They used to wear second hand clothes, bell bottom pants, tie-dyed garments, vests, long, full skirts and they listened to psychedelic rock. Their symbols and iconography were purposely borrowed from ”low” or ”primitive” cultures.

Their fashion represented their disorderly vagrant life style so both men and women had long hair (due to trying to prevail gender differences) and they were often barefoot or wore sandals. Completely opposite style is the mod style. It originated in London in the late 1950’s but emerged to its greatest popularity in the 60’s. The original mod scene was associated to amphetamine driven all night partying but around 1966, this culture started to decline. The original mods were getting in the age in which they should bear children and earn money for they families so they didn’t have the time or funds to pay for their expenses.

The mods symbol was the Royal Air Force roundel. Their opinion on gender roles was revolutional as well, they accepted the idea that a young woman should be attached to a man; instead she should go out, have her own source of income and be independent. When it comes to music, the most important events that occurred were The Summer of Love in 1967 and Woodstock in 1969. The Summer of Love was a social phenomenon that gathered 100 000 people of all age near San Francisco. It was the melting pot of love, politics and sexual revolution.

It attracted a variety of people, ranging from high school and college students to middle-aged people and soldiers that were based within driving distance. The Woodstock Music and Art Fair occurred in 1969 on a dairy farm in White Lake, New York. At first, it was not considered to be as popular as it grew, but 500 000 people attended this three – day festival during which 32 acts performed. Even though it had numerous possibilities of fatalities, riots and catastrophe, 500 000 people spent three days in love, peace and music and this festival is actually considered a victory of peace and love.

Rock music was the most popular type of music but it came in the variety of genres and the most popular was psychedelic rock. This kind of music tried to imitate the sounds while under the effect of these drugs. It was pioneered by artists such as Beatles but it gained popularity with the bands like Jefferson Airplane, The Jimi Hendrix experience, The Doors and Pink Floyd. Rock and roll was still popular in the sixties, though not as much as in the 50’s. Elvis Presley was still active but his manager set him a tight filming schedule so he did not have much time for music.

Nevertheless, some of his most famous songs come from this decade as they were recorded as soundtracks to his movies. Songs like Viva Las Vegas and Can’t help falling in love were not popular at all at that time but gained the popularity later while Crying in the chapel was a top ten hit at that moment. Except for the psychedelic rock and rock and roll music, blues rock, folk rock and surf rock were also popular with artists such as Janis Joplin, Simon and Garfunkel and The Beach Boys. On the other hand, there was something completely different than rock that helped emerge African – American people and their music to the mainstream.

It was the distinctive ”Motown sound” made by two major record companies, Motown and Tamla. The latter was characterized by r’n’b influenced music and typical Motown early hits were more based on catchy pop tunes mixed with soul music. These artists were well groomed and toured for a large amount of time and the most notable acts were The Marvelettes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Donna Summer and the Supremes and Jackson 5. As a slow transfer between the music and poetry, Leonard Cohen is the right example.

He is a Canadian musician, songwriter, poet and novelist. His first album was published in 1967 (Songs of Leonard Cohen) but he wrote poetry throughout all 1960’s. While he was living in Hydra, Greece, he published a poetry collection Flowers for Hitler (1964) and the novels ”The favourite game” and ”Beautiful losers”. The novel ”The favourite game” is actually an autobiographical ‘‘bildungsroman’’ about a young man that finds his identity through writing. Recurring themes in his work include sex, love, religion, politics, depression and music itself.

Since he was depressed for most of his life, many of his works are bathed in that feeling. His literally influences were Walt Whitman, Henry Miller and Federico Garcia Lorca whose poems he liked so much that he even named his daughter after him (Lorca). Confessional poetry is a style of poetry that emerged in the United States in the late 50’s and gained popularity during the 60’s. It is also known as the poetry of the personal. These writers were trying to express their deepest fears and emotions because they were often troubled individuals burdened with depression, suicide and death.

These poems are autobiographical and they were special because these writers spoke out loud about the things that were considered taboo at the time; mental illness, sexuality, infidelity and suicide. Most famous writers were Robert Lowell and his students Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton and William De Vitt Snodgrass. This poetry style had a backlash in the 70’s and the 80’s because these new poets believed that the poetry should be about others, about their surroundings, about nature and that it is selfish to write just about yourself.

Confessional poetry influenced many works of the 1990’s such as Elizabeth Wurtzel’s Prozac nation and Dave Peltzer’s A child called it. One of the major representatives of this writing style was Sylvia Plath. Her recurring themes include women victimization, rage, rebellion and her poems had a psychoanalytic and mythic dimension since she loved to read Freud. She is credited with advancing the genre of confessional poetry and is best know for her collection Ariel and a semi-autobiographical novel The Bell Jar. She won a Pulitzer Prize posthumously for The Collected Poems.

Prose in the 1960’s reflected what was happening in everyday life, so post war feelings were dominant. Since this age was the age of revolution and liberation, writers were often writing about topics that were considered taboo in the past. Their themes also involved subjects of sexual exploration (they were one of the first writers to openly write about their homosexual experiences) and their work often consisted of sexually explicit images. To kill a mockingbird is considered a classic of modern American literature and it is a novel written by Harper Lee in 1960.

It was immediately successful and won a Pulitzer Prize. The plot is loosely based on author’s childhood and her observations of family and neighbours. The main theme of the novel is mostly controversial, which was typical for the 60’s and, even though it is praised for its humour, it also deals with difficult topics like rape and racial inequality. One flew over the cuckoo’s nest is a novel by Ken Kesey and it is situated in a mental hospital. It was published in 1962 and included in Time’s magazine’s “100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005” list.

As for the political, scene, Cuban missile crisis, or as it is often called in Cuba, October crisis was one of the major confrontations of the Cold War. It lasted for 13 days in October 1962 and it was a confrontation between Cuba and Soviet Union on one side and the United States on the other. It is considered to be a point in the Cold War in which the parties were closest to starting a nuclear war. The Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschev learned of the missile installments in Turkey, near the USSR and he wanted to introduce the nuclear missiles to Cuba to prevent American attacks.

Cuba gladly accepted this offer as they were afraid of the USA. The United States wanted to attack Cuba via air and sea but decided to block them instead. The US stated that it would not allow shipping any weapons to Cuba unless the Soviet Union removes the missile bases that were already under the construction or even already built. While Kennedy and Kruschev were trying to get to an agreement, Soviet ships attempted to run the blockade which only burst the flame and the situation got so serious that the order was given to the US navy to fire warning shots and then open fire.

In the end, two sides reached an agreement – Kruschev would remove the missile bases from Cuba and Kennedy would dismantle all missiles that they have set in Italy and Turkey against the Soviet Union. This confrontation is considered to be a confrontation of the Titans even though the United States outnumbered the Soviet Union when it comes to weaponry. That wasn’t the only political event concerning Cuba; in 1959, Che Guevara and Fidel Castro led a revolution in Cuba and their revolutionary movement seized the power over the entire country. As soon as the new government was established, the US attacked Cuba.

Many members of the UN as well as the US populace supported the cause, even though USA didn’t agree with it. The US populace even thought of Guevara and Castro as ‘‘romantic freedom fighters’’. President Eisenhower approved the plan to overthrow the Cuban government by force. He also approved of the economic sanctions to be imposed on Cuba, thus excreting economic warfare. It turned out to be very effective, especially regarding oil and sugar production in Cuba which went down drastically. It would have been the end of the country if it wasn’t for nationalization of the U. S. wned banks and corporations and help of the Soviet Union.

All of this wasn’t enough to overthrow the government so USA had to turn to some more direct assaults – The Bay of Pigs. It has been an unsuccessful attempt by the US to overthrow the new founded government led by Guevara and Castro. The US invaded Cuba by Cuban exiles and the attack lasted for 72 hours in which Cubans managed to resist the attack. Another main political event that took place in the 50’s and the 60’s was the Space Race; a competition between the US and the Soviet Union for supremacy in space exploration.

Space race began with the successful Soviet launch of an artificial satellite in 1957; the Sputnik 1. One of the main events during the Space Race occurred in 1961 when Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth one time and became the first man in space. The USA dominated in the second half of the decade and it all culminated in 1969 when Edward ‘‘Buzz’’ Aldrin and Neil Armstrong became the first men to walk on the Moon – the Apollo 11 mission. Changes weren’t occurring only on the political sphere, 1960’s were also a time of great changes in sport. Winning is not everything; it is the only thing” is the quote that can summarize the fan’s and player’s attitude towards sports. Introduction of the television in homes allowed sports to be seen by a much wider audience because people didn’t have to go to stadiums to watch sports anymore.

The need to win also stems from the fact that most of the players and clubs had a sponsor so they were somewhat required to win for them. Players were under a lot of pressure to win and that was the first time that illegal substances that enhanced their performance appeared. Even hough sports in the 60’s started being commercialized and were controversial and scandalous, fans were rewarded with some of the most memorable moments, performances and athletes in sports history. Great characteristic about the sport in the 60’s was the fight against racism. Some of the most famous athletes of the time were actually African – American; Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russel, Abebe Bikila (who won the marathon running barefoot and became the first black African Olympic champion) and Muhammed Ali. The 60’s were indeed the age of revolution and it was exactly what the society needed.

This revolution occurred at the right time and if it wasn’t for the 60’s, our everyday would be dull and lifeless, locked with the chains of shame over the things that should be normal, things like human sexuality. We’ve made a progress since then but we are desperately in need of the new 60’s; we need a revolution, especially in Croatia. We need people to achieve the Western point of view and to realize that being different is not a bad thing, that we as society should just live and let live and that riots and bombings are not the solution.

Sure, this is an era burdened with many problems but we should really look back to the 60’s and learn something from them – learn to be happy for the small things, for the freedom, love, unity, nature. Even though it was also an era in which the nuclear war almost began, it was also an era in which the government didn’t control the people. The mass had something to say and they said it in every way possible and the music was one of their strongest allies. We need someone to just stand up and say ‘‘Give peace a chance. ’’


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