Retrospective ’69

1969 Was Both a Year of Protest and the Year Fordham Opened the Lowenstein Building


Published: February 12, 2009

As you may or may not know by now, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) is planning an expansion of its campus that is proposed to be finished in 30 years; however, it was only 40 years ago that this campus opened up its doors to students.

1969 was an important year in Fordham history. The Leon Lowenstein Building opened in January of that year.  But just like today, the classroom was not isolated from the radical changes occurring in the world at large.

On New Year’s Eve 1968, people had no idea of the year that was ahead of them. Among other things that seem to characterize the latter half of the 1960s, nothing would come closer to defining American culture as the year 1969, a year of youthful rebellion and revolution. A culture, torn apart by the Vietnam War and sewn back together by the poetic outcries and the artistic expression of everyday people, became a milestone for the generations that followed.

1969 was a year of impact. Art was in full bloom, with new forms of self-expression, new cinematic standards and a fresh sound in music that gave youth its voice. What point of comparison would we have for today’s music without having first experienced the blistering guitars on Led Zeppelin’s first album and the miracle of sensational songwriting on The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” (both released in 1969). With Woodstock in the summer, people embraced artists like Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana and Creedence Clearwater Revival. The famous arts and music festival would later become iconic of the year itself.

“Easy Rider” would use this music to communicate the idea of counter-culture to the rest of the world. Music by Steppenwolf and The Byrds helped “Easy Rider” lend itself to a culture essentially run by the youth. The film was essentially a music video showcasing not only the music but the spirit of the times. The idea of independent films as we know it today was almost nonexistent until “Easy Rider” was released; it helped people believe that they could get their voices heard.

A year dominated by movies like “Funny Girl” and “Oliver!”(1968) was followed by a swarm of movies like “Easy Rider” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” that would forever change the face of cinema. In a time of financial crisis (sound familiar?) for the movie production studios, “Easy Rider” would lead studios to release films like “Love Story.” This move put the studios on track, and they were soon budgeting for big budget blockbusters like “The Godfather” and “Jaws.”

Fed up youth took on the higher powers with a new sense of entitlement through freedom of speech. John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s famous “bed-in” took place in 1969, giving communication a whole new meaning. The battle for free speech reached its pinnacle in this year. 1969 would be the year the Smothers Brother’s Comedy Hour was cancelled over controversial content. In May, a protest at People’s Park in Berkeley, Calif., turned into “Bloody Thursday,” when a student was shot and killed.

Throughout this semester, the arts and culture section will be producing a retrospective on key events in 1969 and how they have affected the current trends in culture 40 years later.