1971 — Winona Ryder is born

Born Winona Laura Horowitz, the actress now known as Winona Ryder is best known for her appearances in such films as “Heathers”, “Alien Ressurrection”, “Reality Bites” and “Girl, Interrupted”, among many others.

She is also well known for dating Johnny Deep in the early Nineties (he had a tattoo reading “Winona Forever” on his arm; after they broke up, it was modified to read “Wino Forever”), and for getting arrested for shoplifting in 2001.

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

1971 – Alan Shepard plays golf on the Moon

The commander of the Apollo 14 mission, Alan Shepard holds several unique distinctions. He is the only member of the Mercury 7 astronauts to have walked on the Moon and also the oldest person to have walked there (in terms of age at the time he did it). His mission was the first to broadcast colour video from the surface of the Moon and made the most accurate landing of all the Apollo missions. And, of course, he is the first man to have hit golf balls (two of them) on the Moon.

Shepard came home to the hero’s welcome that astronauts traditionally received, and was promoted from Captain to Rear-Admiral after the successful completion of his mission. He retired from the US Navy and NASA, becoming a successful businessman, and eventually died from leukemia in 1998, 21 years to the day from Armstrong’s first moon walk.

His golf balls are presumably still somewhere on the lunar surface.

Referenced in:

Can’t Keep Johnny Down — They Might Be Giants

1971 — Marvin Gaye releases “What’s Going On?”

A number two US chart hit for Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On?” was a departure from his previous Motown sound into a more personal and introspective direction. Inspired by the rising tide of racial and social unrest in the United States in the late Sixties, and more personally by events like the death of Gaye’s cousin (a soldier in Vietnam), “What’s Going On?” was a plea to everyone to just stop and take a look around at the world, and to ask themselves why it was like that.

The song was nominated for two Grammy awards, and ranked by Rolling Stone Magazine as number 4 on the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” in 2004, and again when the list was revised in 2010. They may actually have been under-rating it.

Referenced in:
Black Tie White Noise — David Bowie

1971 – Led Zeppelin releases Stairway to Heaven

Despite being one of the best known songs of all time – and one of the most frequently requested on radio – Led Zeppelin’s eight minute opus was not released as a single until years after its legend was well established. It was the fourth track of Led Zeppelin’s fourth album, and its length precluded its release in single form in the 45rpm vinyl format.

It at once sums up everything that’s right and everything that’s wrong with seventies rock in one song: it is pretentious and wanky, with lyrics that make little or no sense; but on the other hand, it rocks damned hard, has one of the greatest guitar solos ever, and is completely made of awesome.

Referenced in:

No More Fun — Roger Taylor
That Says It All — Duncan Sheik

1971 – Paul McCartney releases “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey”

The first single off his second solo album, “Uncle Albert / Admiral Halsey” was intended to be a nostalgic piece by McCartney. The uncle Albert of the title was his actual uncle, while Admiral Halsey was American Navy Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, who served with great distinction in the Pacific during World War Two.

The song – only the second single to be released by McCartney since the dissolution of the Beatles – quickly reached number one on both the US and UK charts, and acheived gold status shortly thereafter. It is notably one of only three singles to be credited to Paul and Linda McCartney – the following year’s album would be the first from Wings.

Referenced in:

Edit — Regina Spektor

1971 – Zowie Bowie is born

The child of one of the most famous and creative rock stars of all time, Zowie Bowie was also saddled with one of the world’s most embarassing names. Later on in his childhood, he would known as Joey, but this wasn’t really much of an improvement, and he eventually settled on Duncan as a first name, and Jones (his father’s actual surname – Bowie is a stage name only) as his last name.

Since then, Jones has gone on to direct the films “Moon” and “Source Code” – and is apparently in talks to direct the next Wolverine film. He’s not yet wholly emerged from his father’s shadow, but to be fair, his father’s shadow is a very, very large one.

Referenced in:

Kooks — David Bowie

1971 — Idi Amin seizes power in Uganda

Idi Amin was already fairly notorious by 1971. As the commander in cheif of Uganda’s armed forces, he had recruited heavily amongst tribes not sympathetic to the Ugandan majority, and built himself a considerable power base. The Ugandan Prime Minister, Milton Obote – formerly an ally to Amin, but now worried about his subordinate’s increasingly obvious ambitions – reclaimed that post in October 1970, reducing Amin in rank to commander in cheif of the army.

In January 1971, Amin struck back. In a lightning military coup, he seized power on January 25. Publically, Amin announced that he was a soldier, not a politician. He promised that his military government would be only a caretaker regime until new elections could be held, and to release all political prisoners. On February 2, he proclaimed himself President of Uganda, a post which he held until he too was deposed, in 1979, after years of corruption, ethnic cleansing and economic mismanagement.

Referenced in:
Idi Amin — Down I Go

1971 – The story of the My Lai Massacre goes public

The facts of the matter are distressingly simple: United States Army troops, under the immediate command of 2nd Lieutenant William Calley, entered the village of Son My in Vietnam on March 16, 1968. They killed an unknown number of people in that village, generally estimated to be between 100 and 400. Some of them were assaulted or raped before their deaths; almost all of them were non-combatants.

The army covered it up. An investigative committe headed by one Colin Powell whitewashed the incident, and so it might have remained, had not some of the men in the unit (and others who knew them), made great efforts to bring it to the attention of the American government and media. Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh began investigating the story nearly a year after the events of the massacre, and eventually formed a fairly full picture of it, largely from conversations with Calley. The story was published in 33 newspapers on November 12, 1969. It was immediately controversial, and strongly increased opposition to the war in America. Hersh won a Pullitzer in 1970 for his efforts; Calley was convicted of murder in 1971 for his. He was the only person convicted of any crimes in relation to the massacre.

Referenced in:

The Battle Hymn Of Lt. Calley — Terry Nelson

1971 – Tupac Shakur is born

Born Tupac Amaru Shakur in New York City on June 16 of 1971, Tupac was a rap artists. In addition to his own name, he also used the stage names 2Pac, Pac and later Makaveli (although that last name never really caught on).

He grew up in Harlem and many of his songs reflect his background, dealing with topics such as growing up amid the violence and hardship of ghettos, racism and crime. In addition to his career as a rapper, Tupac was also an actor and a social activist known for his advocacy of racial egalitarianism.

In the course of his career, he sold over 75 million albums worldwide and was named the 86th Greatest Artist of All Time by Rolling Stone Magazine. He was shot in a drive by shooting in Las Vegas in 1996, and died from his wounds in hospital shortly thereafter. Tupac was mourned by rap fans the world over, and remains one of the best known rappers in history.

Referenced in:
Introbomb First (My Second Reply) — Makaveli

1971 – Montreux Casino burns to the ground

Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention liked to say that they brought the house down when they played. One time, they really did.

Montreux Casino’s entertainment complex caught fire during a concert Zappa and the band played on December 4, 1971, when some idiot fired a flare gun into the ceiling, which was covered with a flammable rattan surface. The entire complex burnt down, taking with it all the instruments and equipment belonging to the band. As the smoke billowed out across Lake Geneva, it was observed by the members of Deep Purple, who had arrived in Montreux that evening to begin recording their next album.

The events they witnessed that night led them to write a song about it. Bassist Roger Glover is credited with the song’s title – “Smoke on the Water” – and although all five members of the band are credited as the writers and composers, and Ritchie Blackmore composed what may well be the most recognizable guitar riff in rock and roll history…

Referenced in:

Smoke on the Water – Deep Purple

1971 – D.B. Cooper hijacks a plane, gets the money, and is never heard from again

It is one of few truly great unsolved crimes. The facts are as follows:

The man who gave his name as ‘Dan Cooper’ (the ‘DB’ monicker is based on later errors in the media, but has become more widely known) boarded Flight 305 in Portland, Oregon, bound for Seattle. Using the threat of a bomb in his suitcase, Cooper hijacked the plane shortly after take off.

It landed in Seattle, where Cooper released the passengers unharmed in exchange for his ransom demands being met: $200,000 in unmarked bills and 4 parachutes. After taking on these items, Cooper directed the crew to take off once more, and fly to Reno, Nevada.

During this second flight, he sent all the crew to the cockpit, and parachuted from the plane with the money. He was never apprehended, and although approximately $5000 was later found in the area that he parachuted into, nothing else ever was. Cooper has never been identified, and his true name may never be known. The FBI has stated that it believes him to have died upon landing, and decayed to nothing before he could be found. Of course, they also claimed that he was rude and abusive in conversations with them, which is at variance with the recollections of the crew members who heard these conversations, so it’s possible that the Bureau may be engaged in a certain amount of ass-covering.

Referenced in:

DB Cooper – Senses Fail
Dan Cooper – End of a Year
D. B. Cooper. – Todd Snider
D.B. Cooper – Everything is Fine
Bag Full of Money – Roger McGuinn
D. B. Cooper – Streetside Symphony
Vapor Trails and Light – Everything is Fine
The Ballad of D. B. Cooper – Chuck Brodsky
D.B. Cooper: Where Are You? – Judy Sword

1971 – The Attica Prison Riot ends

The Attica Correctional Facility is located in Attica, New York state. Rioting broke out there on September 9, 1971. The proximate cause of the riot was the death of prisoner George Jackson, a black radical prisoner who had been shot to death by corrections officers in California’s San Quentin Prison on August 21 while armed and attempting to escape. However, the conditions inside the prison also contributed to the riot’s outbreak – at that time, inmates were each allowed only one shower per week and one roll of toilet paper per month.

Nearly half of the prison’s approximately 2,200 inmates rioted, seizing control of the prison and taking thirty-three correction officers hostage. The State began negotiating with the prisoners for their release, and during the following four days of negotiations, the authorities agreed to 28 of the prisoners’ demands.

However, the demands for complete amnesty from criminal prosecution for the prison takeover and for the removal of Attica’s superintendent, remained sticking points. On September 13, at the order of then Governor Nelson Rockefeller, state police took back control of the prison. When the uprising was over at least 39 people were dead, including ten correction officers and civilian employees.

Referenced in:

Attica State – John Lennon
The Hostage – Judy Collins

1971 – Jim Morrison dies

Morrison died on July 3, 1971, at age 27. In the official account of his death, he was found in a Paris apartment bathtub by Courson. Pursuant to French law, no autopsy was performed because the medical examiner claimed to have found no evidence of foul play. The absence of an official autopsy has left many questions regarding Morrison’s cause of death.

Many believed that Morrison had in fact faked his death, as he had occasionally talked of doing over the preceding few years, but if so, he has yet to reappear. And it’s hard to believe that a man with Morrison’s ego and drug use could have stayed anonymous for nearly 40 years now…

Referenced in:
Morrison Hostel — This Is Serious Mum
Rock and Roll Heaven — The Righteous Brothers
Rock And Roll Hall Of Death — Mitch Benn And The Distractions