The Headlines and Key Facts of 1968
The U.S. Spy ship Pueblo is seized by North Korea.
The North Vietnamese Tet Offensive shatters American conviction that there is a light at the end of the war’s tunnel. There are some 550,000 U.S. troops in Vietnam, and by the end of the year, over 22,000 Americans have died.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King is assassinated in Memphis, triggering racial riots in 168 cities and towns. Two months later Robert F. Kennedy is fatally shot in Los Angeles having to win the California Democratic presidential primary.
James Earl Ray was arrested for the assassination of Martin Luther King.
President Johnson decides not to seek re-election in the face of a deepening national turmoil over the Vietnam War and the antiwar candidacy of Senator Eugene McCarthy. Vice President Hubert Humphrey wins the democratic nomination at a convention in Chicago torn by violence in the streets. Richard Nixon wins the second-closest election of the century over Humphrey by only 500,000 votes out of 73 million casts. George Wallace carries six southern states.
The Apollo Eight completes a flight around the moon at year’s end.
The Mexico City Olympics are marked with protests by American black athletes.
Baseball is dominated by 31-game winner Denny McLain of the Detroit Tigers and Bob Gibson of the St. Louis Cardinals as Detroit edge the Cardinals in the World Series
Green Bay beats Oakland in the second Super Bowl.
Billie Jean King wins 3rd Wimbledon.
The cost to mail a 1-ounce, the first-class letter goes up to 6 cents.
First Philadelphia Bank installs the first automated teller machine in the U.S.
An enormous supply of oil is discovered in Alaska.
The price of a Hershey bar doubles… to 10 cents.
Pope Paul VI condemns all artificial birth control methods.
U.S. cigarette sales decline slightly; manufacturers respond by adding more tar and nicotine to their products.
The first of numerous U.S. commercial jet airplanes to be hijacked and forced to fly to Cuba.
The first emergency 911 telephone system is installed in New York.
National Turn in Your Draft Card Day features the burning of draft cards and war protest rallies at many U. S. campuses.
Movies and Television
60 Minutes debuts on CBS television.
After spending most of the decade wallowing in lackluster film projects Elvis Presley returns to prominence in a highly rated television show later dubbed “The ’68 Comeback Special” in which, dressed head to toe in leather, he performs his old hits in explosive fashion. The sit-down segment of the show is later used as the prototype for MTV’s “Unplugged” series.
The motion picture event of the year is Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: Space Odyssey. The biggest hit of the year is Funny Girl for which its star, Barbra Streisand will share the Best Actress Oscar with Katharine Hepburn (Lion In The Winter). Other top hits include The Odd Couple, Bullitt, and Romeo And Juliet.
Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-in is the new season’s most popular series, followed by Gomer Pyle, U.SMC., Bonanza, Mayberry, R.F.D., and Family Affair. The Carol Burnett Show emerges as a classic variety and comedy series.
After struggling to compete with rock music since its inception, the pop music industry gains a footing by churning out young artists in an image-conscious fashion attempting to lure younger teens, a style that came to be known as “bubblegum” which quickly began infiltrating the AM airwaves. The birth of bubblegum is generally dated from the success in 1968 of The Lemon Pipers’ “Green Tambourine”, 1910 Fruitgum Company’s “Simon Says” and The Ohio Express’ “Yummy Yummy Yummy”, but music critics have identified novelty songs including The Dixie Cups’ “Iko Iko” and Patti Page’s “(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?” as possible precursors.
Cutting-edge rock music responds by appearing on the newly created FM radio outlets, considered an “underground” means of dispersal favoring longer singles, more controversial material, and less restrictive styles.
Soul music has its biggest year ever with all 20 R&B #1 hits that year falling into the “soul” category as the music takes on greater overall prominence in society following the assassination of Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King Jr.
Motown responds to the growing influence of deeper soul and the psychedelic soul of Sly and The Family Stone by pushing its own artists towards a less pop-friendly style, resulting in major hits by Marvin Gaye and The Temptations.
Turbulence within the Beatles doesn’t hurt their appeal as they score their biggest single ever, “Hey Jude”, and use their creative differences to their advantage by releasing a double LP comprised of each member’s individual contributions that come to be known as “The White Album”.
After defining the harder blues-based rock “super-group”, Cream gives its final performance in November at the Royal Albert Hall in England and breaks up shortly thereafter.
The term “heavy metal” first appears in the Steppenwolf song “Born To Be Wild” in 1969.
Least we never forget………….