The 1970’s. My coming of age decade. While each decade carries its fair share of events that become synonymous with the time in which they occurred, the 1970‘s seems to have a bit more than it’s share. Events like, Watergate, the end of Vietnam War, presidential resignation, oil embargo and the ensuing lines that followed, recession, 13.3% inflation, and the going up and coming down of Skylab. And this is simply a very small beginning to what could be a monumental list. Many things that began in the 1960’s, to root and grew in the 1970’s. As with the decades that came before and the ones that have followed, the 70’s provided it’s own soundtrack and palette on which we expressed our creativity.
The Grammy Award for Best Song was given to The Games People Play by Joe South (1970), Bridge over Troubled Water by Simon and Garfunkel (1971), You’ve Got a Friend by James Taylor and Carole King (1972), The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Roberta Flack (1973), Killing Me Softly With His Song by Roberta Flack (1974), The Way We Were by Barbra Streisand (1975), Send in the Clowns by Judy Collins (1976), I Write the Songs by Barry Manilow (1977), a tie, Evergreen by Barbra Streisand and You Light Up My Life by Debby Boone (1978) and Just the Way You Are by Billy Joel (1979). And for the record, Let It Be by The Beatles was nominated in 1971.
Looking quickly at literature, the decade gave us titles such as, Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson, All The President’s Men by Woodward and Bernstein, Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer, and The World According to Garp by John Irving. And, in 1974, a little known author released his first novel, Carrie. Since then, Stephen King has sold over 350 million copies of his works.
The Academy Award for Best Motion Picture was given to Patton (1970), The French Connection (1971), The Godfather (1972), The Sting (1973), The Godfather Part II (1974), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Rocky (1976), Annie Hall (1977), The Deer Hunter (1978) and Kramer vs. Kramer (1979). Meryl Streep, the most nominated actor/actress in Academy history, won her first Oscar for her role in Kramer vs. Kramer. Her co-star Dustin Hoffman also won his first statuette for his portrayal of Ted Kramer. And while we’re on Academy history, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest is one of only three films to have one the “Big Five” Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Writing). The only other times this has occurred was with 1934’s It Happened One Night and 1991’s The Silence of the Lambs.
In the early 70’s, a fairly unknown director named George Lucas joined with Francis Ford Coppola and Gary Kurtz and decided to make a movie. They spent roughly $1.27 million and put together a little thing titled American Graffiti. It was a teenage coming of age story set in the early 60‘s follows the lives the lives of a few groups of teenagers during one night and early morning in Modesto, California. It helped to launch and further the careers of Richard Dreyfuss and Ron Howard. Oh, and a guy named Harrison Ford. It became one of the most profitable films of all time and was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Picture.
The film sparked a revival of interest in the 50’s and 60’s. This in turn gave birth to television’s Happy Days and provided multiple theming opportunities for high school homecoming dances. I admit, that in 1974 I went to the homecoming dance with my hair greased back and a pack of Lucky Stripes rolled up in the sleeve of my white t-shirt. The film also did something else - it made a instant millionaire of George Lucas who took some of his profit and began serious development of an opus set among the stars.
Looking at the Walt Disney Company, the animation division gave us The Aristocats on December 24, 1970. They followed with Robin Hood being released on November 8, 1973, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh on March 11, 1977 and The Rescuers on June 22, 1977. On the live-action front, Bedknobs and Broomsticks opened its full release on December 13, 1971 and we were introduced to the small village of Passamaquoddy and a green dragon named Elliott in Pete’s Dragon on November 3, 1977.
In the sports world, Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in Houston, Texas on September 20, 1973. The Pittsburgh Steelers became the first team to win four Super Bowl Championships (1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979).
Next, we look at a decade that saw video gaming go from "Pong" to "Pac-Man". See you in the 80's.
More to follow...