The year of 1969 saw the moon landing of the Apollo 11’s Eagle module, Richard Nixon sworn in as the 37th president of the United States, the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village ushering in the gay rights movement, the Tate-La Bianca murders by the Manson Family, the landmark Woodstock Music and Arts Fair which attracts 400,000, the tragic and violent Rolling Stones concert at the Altamont Speedway and even Tiny Tim marrying Miss Vicki on NBC’s “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.”
But one major event was basically ignored by the mainstream media: the Harlem Cultural Arts Festival which took place June 29-August 24 at the Mount Morris Park. Founded by Tony Lawrence, the festival celebrating Black pride, music and culture features such landmark performers as Sly and the Family Stone, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Stevie Wonder, The Fifth Dimension and Mahalia Jackson. And when the NYPD refused to supply security, the Black Panther Party stepped in.
The festival was filmed in hopes of making a concert film. But no one was interested. Enter Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson, the co-founder of the hip-hop collective The Roots, which are currently the house band of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.” He has turned this footage, which had been sitting in a basement for 50 years and transformed it into one of the most exhilarating and even emotional concerts films in recent memory: “Summer of Soul ( … Or When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised).”
“Summer of Soul” won the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award in the U.S. Documentary Competition at Sundance this year and was quickly acquired by Searchlight and Hulu. After opening in Los Angeles and New York on June 24, “Summer” hit more theaters and became available on Hulu on July 2.
In celebration of “Summer of Soul,” here’s a look back at some of the major cultural events of the year.
Top 10 Films
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The Love Bug
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
Paint Your Wagon
Top 10 TV series
Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In
The Red Skelton Hour
Marcus Welby, M.D.
The Wonderful World of Color
The Doris Day Show
Top 10 Singles
Sugar, Sugar-The Archies
Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In-The Fifth Dimension
I Can’t Get Next to You-The Temptations
Honky Tonk Woman-The Rolling Stones
Everyday People-Sly and the Family Stone
Hot Fun in the Summertime-Sly and the Family Stone
I’ll Never Fall in Love Again-Tom Jones
Build Me Up Buttercup-The Foundations
Crimson & Clover-Tommy James and the Shondells
Top 10 Fiction Books
Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
The Godfather by Mario Puzo
The Love Machine by Jacqueline Susann
The Inheritors by Harold Robbins
The Andromeda Strain by Michael Crichton
The Seven Minutes by Irving Wallace
Naked Came the Stranger by Penelope Ash
The Promise by Chaim Potok
The Pretenders by Gwen Davis
The House on the Strand by Daphne DuMaurier
Best Picture: Oliver!
Best Director: Carol Reed, Oliver!
Best Actress: Katharine Hepburn, The Lion in Winter; Barbra Streisand, Funny Girl
Best Actor: Cliff Robertson, Charly
Best Supporting Actress: Ruth Gordon, Rosemary’s Baby
Best Supporting Actor: Jack Albertson, The Subject Was Roses
Best Drama Series: NET Playhouse
Best Drama Actor: Carl Betz, Judd, for the Defense
Best Drama Actress: Barbara Bain, Mission: Impossible
Best Comedy Series: Get Smart
Best Comedy Actor: Don Adams, Get Smart
Best Comedy Actress: Hope Lange, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Best Variety Series: Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In
Best TV Movie: Hallmark Hall of Fame: Teacher, Teacher
Best Musical: 1776
Best Actor (Musical): Jerry Orbach, Promises, Promises
Best Actress (Musical):: Angela Lansbury, Dear World
Best Featured Actor (Musical): Ron Holgate, 1776
Best Featured Actress (Musical): Marian Mercer, Promises, Promises
Best Director (Musical): Peter Hunt, 1776Best Play: The Great White Hope by Howard Sackler
Best Actor (Play): James Earl Jones, The Great White Hope
Best Actress (Play): Julie Harris, Forty Carats
Best Featured Actor (Play): Al Pacino, Does a Tiger Wear a Necktie?
Best Featured Actress (Play): Jane Alexander, The Great White Hope
Best Director (Play): Peter Dew, Hadrian the Seventh
George “Gabby” Hayes
Josef von Sternberg
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