33 CE — Jesus dies upon the Cross

It is the central event of Christianity: Jesus Christ surrendered to the Romans, was briefly tried by Pontius Pilate, and sent to be crucified. Once up on the cross, he died in an unusually short time (crucifixion is a slow and painful death). In his last words, he called on his heavenly father, saying “Eli Eli lama sabachthani?” (in English “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”). (At least, he did according to the Gospels of Mark and Matthew – John and Luke each tell different stories.)

When the Romans came by to break the legs of the crucified (a measure that hastens death), they discovered that Jesus was already dead. He was taken down and buried, rising from the dead on the third day (somewhat undermining the “last words” thing, but he’s the Son of God. Different rules apply.)

Today, these events are commemorated by the eating of chocolate (not introduced to Europe, Asia and Africa until 14 centuries later) delivered by a rabbit (because… I have no idea why).

Referenced in:

Ah Yeah — Krs-One
Imperial Rome — Aska
For Love — Andy Prieboy
Done Too Soon — Neil Diamond
Tomorrow, Wendy — Andy Prieboy
The Post-War Dream — Pink Floyd
Tomorrow, Wendy — Concrete Blonde
The Mercy Seat — Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Jesus Walking On The Water — Violent Femmes

1961 — Kennedy pledges to put a man on the Moon by the decade’s end

It was a bold announcement at the time – at any time, really. When JFK addressed a joint session of Congress, and announced that the USA would put a man on the moon by the end of the decade, he can’t have been sure it could be done. Sure, it was still only 1961 – technological utopianism was the order of the day – but the United States was lagging behind the Soviet Union at that point.

As we now all know, it turns out that it could be done – although with only six months to spare – and Armstrong and Aldrin’s walk on the moon in July 1969 is the most inspiring legacy that John F. Kennedy left behind him.

Referenced in:

Tomorrow, Wendy — Andy Prieboy
Tomorrow, Wendy — Concrete Blonde

1978 – The Jonestown Massacre occurs

Jim Jones was a weird kid, into death and religion, who would later become a Communist. Later still, he would found the People’s Temple, and move it – and most of the adherents of the religion – to a site in Guyana he named the People’s Temple Agricultural Project, but which is better known to history as Jonestown. Messianic fuckwits like Jones are a cowardly and superstitious lot, and Jones himself was about as well balanced as an up-turned egg.

In 1978, after the visit of Congressman Leo Ryan, Jones’ personal demons got the better of him. He ordered a mass suicide of his followers – although accounts vary as to just how voluntary this suicide was – and the shooting of the Congressman and his party. A total of 918 people died, including Jones and 908 of his followers. Almost all of them were Americans, and until the 9/11 attacks, it was the single greatest loss of American lives that ever took place in a single day.

Referenced in:

Guyana Punch — The Judys
Jimmie Jones — The Vapors
Reverend — Church of Misery
The Riverflow — The Levellers
Jonestown — Concrete Blonde
Guyana (Cult of the Damned) — Manowar
Carnage in the Temple of the Damned -– Deicide
Ballad of Jim Jones — Brian Jonestown Massacre

1963 — U.S. President John F Kennedy is assassinated

One of the defining events of its era, the assassination of President Kennedy remains a remarkably controversial one, even today. Conspiracy theories abound as to who shot Kennedy and why.

While the official story, that Lee Harvey Oswald did it, with the rifle, in the book depository, is plausible, it is also notably incomplete – there are any number of holes and anomalies in it. The murder of Oswald only two days later, before he could stand trial, has done nothing to quell these uncertainties.

On a symbolic level, the death of Kennedy was the end of an era in many ways. Quite aside from the idealism that he brought to the nation, his death marked a change in the way America saw itself – no longer the lily-white paladin, but more the grim avenger willing do the dirty work no one else would – although in fairness, this change of self-image would take the rest of the decade to be complete.

Referenced in:

Civil War — Guns n’ Roses
Tabloid Junkie — Michael Jackson
Tomorrow, Wendy — Andy Prieboy
We Didn’t Start The Fire — Billy Joel
He Was A Friend of Mine — The Byrds
Tomorrow, Wendy — Concrete Blonde
Song for a Friend — The Kingston Trio
Purple Toupee — They Might Be Giants
She Is Always Seventeen — Harry Chapin