1964 — Adam “MCA” Yauch of the Beastie Boys born

Adam Yauch was born and bred in Brooklyn. His Catholic father and Jewish mother raised him without religion – although he later found Buddhism without their help. He is best known as a founding member of the Beastie Boys, and along with Mike D, one of only two members to have stayed with the band for its entire career.

Yauch was a political activist, especially concerned with the issue of Tibetan freedom, but also a film-maker and a music producer. He died in 2014 from a cancer affecting his parotid gland and lymph nodes. He was 47 years old.

Referenced in:
The Chanukah Song (Part II) — Adam Sandler

1964 — Cassius Clay defeats Sonny Liston

Generally acknowledged as one of the greatest – if not, as he so often proclaimed, “the greatest” – Cassius Clay, or Muhammad Ali as he is better known, first fought Sonny Liston on February 25, 1964 in Miami Beach, Florida. Clay was an up and comer who had won gold for boxing in 1960, and recently defeated the British Heavyweight champion, Henry Cooper. Liston was the reigning World Heavyweight champion, who had knocked out Floyd Patterson in the first round of their title bout.

Coming into the bout, Liston and Clay were each immensely unpopular – Clay was seen as boastful and Liston was a convicted criminal – but most agreed that the champion would hold onto his title. 43 out of 46 sportswriters predicted that Liston would win with a knockout. In the event, Clay defeated Liston in the sixth round, although the match was not awarded until Liston refused to leave his corner at the bell beginning the seventh. Clay was declared the winner by a technical knockout.

The following year, in the rematch, Clay – now calling himself the more familiar Muhammad Ali – knocked out Liston in the first round of their rematch. Ali would go on to be the most successful heavyweight boxer of the modern era, but Liston would never again reach so high.

Referenced in:
Black Superman — Johnny Wakelin

1964 – The bodies of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Mickey Schwerner are discovered

James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner became martyrs to the Civil Rights Movement when they were lynched in Philedelphia, Mississippi. The three had traveled to the town to investigate the burning of a church which had hosted civil rights events, but they were arrested on trumped up charges, and then released only when they could be ambushed and murdered by the Ku Klux Klan. Their bodies were buried and their car hidden and burned.

A few weeks later, after a massive FBI manhunt (that only happened because Lyndon Johnson forced Bureau director J. Edgar Hoover, who hated civil rights activists, to do it), the bodies of the three were discovered, all shot dead – although while Schwerner and Goodman (who were white) were each killed by a single shot to the heart, Chaney (who was black) had been shot three times, and beaten severely before that.

The disappearance of the three led to a national outcry, and public sentiment swung dramatically towards favouring civil rights, allowing President Lyndon Johnson to push through landmark bills like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (signed into law less than a month later on July 2), and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Referenced in:
He Was My Brother – Simon & Garfunkel
Those Three are On My Mind – Pete Seeger

1964 – Courtney Love born

Born Courtney Michelle Harrison in San Francisco, Love is one of the most divisive musical figures of the 1990s. Both in her own right as the lead singer and songwriter of Hole, and also as the wife (and later widow) of Kurt Cobain, Love’s outspoken nature and brash behaviour has made her controversial.

In reality, of course, her attitudes, words and actions are no worse than any of her male contemporaries. They’ve all said and done stupid things. But they’re men.

Also, she never went to school in Olympia.

Referenced in:
The Chanukah Song (Part II) — Adam Sandler

1964 – The British Musical Invasion of America begins

While the word was out – the Beatles had been shown on television several times and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” had reached number one on the charts two weeks earlier – it was the arrival of the Beatles in America for their first tour that really set the British Invasion in motion.

Over the next few years other British acts, including, Peter and Gordon, The Animals, Manfred Mann, Petula Clark, Freddie and the Dreamers, Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders, Herman’s Hermits, The Rolling Stones, The Dave Clark Five, The Troggs and Donovan, would have one or more number one singles in the USA. The British Invasion kept going for most of the Sixties, until the Californian sound of the late Sixties and early Seventies displaced it.

Referenced in:
Sick Man of Europe – Cheap Trick

1964 – Jim Reeves dies

Gentleman Jim Reeves was a popular American recording artist, starting in the 1950s and continuing to regularly chart until the 1980s, two decades after his death. Reeves was one of the foremost musicians playing and writing music in what became known as “the Nashville Sound”, a fusion of country and pop elements of its era, although he also wrote and played straighter country works and even gospel songs.

Reeves died in 1964 at the age of 40, in a plane crash caused by a violent thunderstorm hitting the small plane he was in. His death cast a long shadow over the Nashville Sound, and the subsequent direction of the evolution of country music was changed by his absence – had he remained alive, the Nashville sound and the Bakersfield sounds might well have divergard less, and country as a whole would have become more mainstream years sooner.

Referenced in:

We’ll Remember You — Houston Wells
Jimmy Reeves — Jerry Jerry and the Sons of Rhythm Orchestra
A Tribute to Jim Reeves — Larry Cunningham and the Mighty Avons

1964 – Cassius Clay changes his name to Muhammad Ali

Cassius Clay was already the Heavyweight Champion of the World – having defeated Sonny Liston a little less than 2 weeks earlier – when he announced his conversion to the Nation of Islam (more widely known as the Black Muslims). With that, of course, came the change of name: Muhammad meaning ‘one who is worthy of praise’ Ali ‘fourth rightly guided caliph’.

Clay’s conversion was, to say the least, controversial. Many journalists refused to use his new name at first, and given Clay’s history of courting publicity, the name change was widely seen as a stunt. However, Ali’s conversion was quite sincere – although in 1975 he changed faiths to Sunni Islam – and he retains the name even today.

Referenced in:

Black Superman — Johnny Wakelin

1964 – The World’s Fair opens in New York

The 1964 World’s Fair was the second such fair not to be approved of by the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE), the organisation in charge of such fairs. (The first was the previous New York World’s Fair, held in 1939.) There were a number of reasons for this, but the most prominent was the decision of the fair’s organising committee to charge rent to exhibitors.

Nonetheless, the Fair went ahead. Robert Moses, the city planner of New York City, was the main force behind it, and he recruited the architect Victor Gruen to design the site and the buildings (thus ensuring that the Gruen transfer would effect Fair-goers as well as mall-shoppers). Many of the world’s more prominent nations – members of the BIE – did not attend the Fair, but other nations from the developing world more than made up for them. By the time the World’s Fair closed its doors eighteen months later, 51 million visitors had visited.

Referenced in:

Ana Ng — They Might Be Giants

1964 – Kitty Genovese is murdered

It is one of the most controversial murders in recent history – less that it took place, but the more for how it is remembered.

Kitty Genovese was a 28 year old woman who worked as the night manager of Ev’s Eleventh Hour Sports Bar in Hollis and lived in nearby Kew Gardens (both located in the Queens area of New York City). A little after 3AM on the morning of March 13, 1964, she was attacked by Winston Moseley outside the building where she lived.

Mosely stabbed her repeatedly, and although she managed to escape him at first, he caught her again and stabbed her once more, this time puncturing her lung. Finally, he pursued her into the atrium of her building, where he raped her and stabbed her to death.

Infamously, it was claimed that there were 38 witnesses to the crime, all of whom did nothing, and the murder became one of the best known “proofs” of the apathy and callousness of big city life. In fact, the number was much smaller, several of them did call the police (although their accounts were incomplete) and the police did arrive soon after they were called. No one just watched (although it has been claimed that they did). Many of those who were witnesses heard only the screams of Genovese, and some of these were misinterpreted – only two witnesses actually saw any of the stabbings, one the first and one the last, and of these, the latter did call the police.

Genovese died of her wounds in the ambulance later that night, but her legacy – other than the urban myth version of her attack – is widespread. Reforms to police phone reporting procedures and neighbourhood watch programs were instituted, and a great deal of research into the “bystander effect” (sometimes even called the “Genovese syndrome”) has also taken place. Mosely remains in prison at the time of this writing (for this murder and two others).

Referenced in:
Outside of a Small Circle of Friends — Phil Ochs

1964 — Nelson Mandela is sentenced to life imprisonment

Nelson Mandela became one of the leaders of the African National Congress in 1961, and spent the next few months constantly on the move, hiding out from the South African police as he led a bombing campaign as part of the anti-apartheid movement.

In 1962, he and nine other leaders of the ANC were captured and brought to trial for their actions against the state. Convicted and sentenced to five years imprisonment on charges of treason, he was later tried again on separate charges two years later in what is now called the Rivonia Trial. Here, on June 12, 1964, he was sentenced to life imprisonment at Robben Island, where he would spend the next 18 years (of a total of 27 years he served).

Here, he became something of a martyr to his cause, and a cause celebre in other nations. His dignity and oratorical talent – along with his longevity and unimpeachable political credentials – made him the default leader of the ANC and his freedom became inextricable from the larger issues of political and racial freedom in South Africa. He was eventually pardoned and released in 1990, and later became President of South Africa in the post-apartheid era.

Referenced in:

Prophets of Rage — Public Enemy
Free Nelson Mandela — The Special AKA

1964 — An earthquake strikes Alaska

It seemed like an ordinary Good Friday in Alaska, until just after 5:30pm, March 27, 1964.

But then the most powerful earthquake ever recorded in North America (and at that time, the third most powerful in the world) struck. The quake’s epicenter was 78 miles east of Anchorage, in the ocean. The quake cause massive movements of land – some parts of Alaska were permanently raised 38 feet, others dropped 8 feet. Worse than the damage caused by the quake proper was the destruction and death of the tsunamis that it caused. In the end, a total of 131 people were killed by the quake, although all but 9 of those were killed by the tsunamis (and 16 of those were in Oregon or California), and the bill for the property damage ran to millions.

Hardest hit were Anchorage and Valdez, but many other Alaskan communities, especially coastal ones, suffered damage from the quake or tsunamis. Damage was also reported along the west coast of Canada and the United States, and effects of the quake were noticed as far away as Hawaii and Africa.

Referenced in:
Alaskan Earthquake — Al Olson

1964 – The Boston Strangler strikes for the last time

The Boston Strangler – assuming it was only one man – was a serial rapist and murderer who terrorised Boston from June 1962 and January 1964. He killed thirteen people, all of them single women (ranging in age from 19 to 85), and all but three of them he also sexually assaulted. Despite his nom du crime, not all of his victims were strangled.

Although a man named Albert De Salvo later confessed to and was convicted of the Strangler’s crimes, there remains some doubt that he was actually responsible for all of the crimes – although he knew many details police had not released to the public, there were some inconsistencies in his testimony. To date, however, no one else has been charged with any of the crimes attributed to the Boston Strangler.

Referenced in:
The Boston Strangler – Macabre
Midnight Rambler – The Rolling Stones
Dedicated to Albert De Salvo – Whitehouse
Boston Strangler (Albert DeSalvo) – Church of Misery

1964 – Eric Dolphy dies

Born in 1928, Eric Allan Dolphy first came to prominence as a member of Miles Davis’ jazz quintet. He played bass clarinet, alto saxophone and flute. In the early Sixties, he became a recognized jazz leader himself. An exponent of free jazz, Dolphy’s improvisational style was so original and avant garde that he frequently transcended the boundaries of that form.

On June 28, he collapsed into a diabetic coma while in Berlin. Despite being rushed to hospital, he died the next day. A journalist once wrote of his music that it was “too out to be in and too in to be out” – a fitting epitath for a man who recognized few limits in his art.

Referenced in:
Woke Up This Morning – Alabama 3