A history lesson regarding major events in the motion picture and live music industries

pop-cultureAugust 15, 2014 — Where were you 75 years ago today?

Not born yet? Me neither. My parents were only seven and eight at the time, so it would be another 20 plus years before I made my debut. I wonder if they remember that 75 years ago today, “The Wizard of Oz” premiered at Grauman’s Chinese Theater in Los Angeles.

Oddly, the film was not a box office success, even though it had been MGM’s most costly movie to produce at that time, and was based on a popular book. When annual television broadcasts began in 1956, “The Wizard of Oz” found its following, and became one of the most famous films ever.

Now, here’s another question. Where were you 45 years ago today?

Perhaps you still weren’t born yet. Most likely, I was playing jacks on my front porch that summer day. Little did I know that several hours north, Woodstock had opened on August 15, 1969.

Woodstock, a rock concert that took place in upstate New York, was tagged “Three days of peace and music.” More than 30 popular acts of that time period performed before an audience of 400,000 young people, and even today, it is widely regarded as the pivotal moment in popular music history. On a side note, it’s difficult to believe that Woodstock doesn’t rank on top ten list as one of the highest attended concert in music history. The number one spot belongs to Rod Stewart, who on New Year’s Eve 1993, drew a crowd of 3.5 million at Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro.

Two major events in American pop culture occurred on this day 30 years apart, and although they couldn’t be more vastly different, they have affected us. One taught us about wishing for life over the rainbow, yet there is no place like home. It also opened our minds and helped us imagine. The other showed us that music is a great way to make a statement and bring people together, and that nearly a half a million young people could gather in one place peacefully, even during a time when America was dividing rapidly. It also opened the minds of many, although some might say in a drastically different way.

Both cultural events gave us the lasting music we know and love. The soundtrack to “The Wizard of Oz” features one of the best-loved songs of all time, “Over the Rainbow”, a song recorded by over 100 recording artists. For a 75-year-old song, it is still widely played and relevant today. Woodstock provided the soundtrack to the turmoil of the late 1960s, and many of those songs by The Who, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, The Band, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, etc., are still popular.

After all of these years, both performances are firmly implanted into our lives, memories, and traditions. Can you name any musical artists or motion pictures of today that will still be talked about and celebrated 50 years from now?

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