Certain years in recent American history are generally considered to be a time of cataclysmic change and upheaval - 1968 for example comes to mind as emblematic of the 1960's as a whole. Other years are relegated to a much lower profile in history books and unless it happens to be the year that you were born, rarely celebrated at all. Fred Kaplan, a Slate columnist, has dusted off the year 1959 and written a fascinating account of this pivotal year that did much to shape our current world in 1959: The Year Everything Changed.
In 1959 the first microchip was introduced by Texas Instruments and the "pill" as in birth control pill was submitted to the FDA for approval by pharmaceutical manufacturer Searle. The so called "sick comic" Lenny Bruce appeared on the Steve Allen show in April of 1959 and Mort Sahl was getting rave reviews on stage in San Francisco for simply reading and commenting on articles in the daily newspaper. It is easy to trace the comedic breakthrough that gave way to George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock. The phrase "beatniks" (a play on Sputnik) coined by Jack Kerouac was an apt description of a movement that foreshadowed the hippie movement of the 1960's and equally important Howl by Allen Ginsberg and Naked Lunch by William Burroughs were also published in 1959. The jazz album Kind of Blue was released by Miles Davis that same year and is often described as a seminal jazz work and the cornerstone of any jazz collection. The author unfortunately gives short shrift to other music genres but his riff on jazz is well worth reading regardless of your musical tastes. Two major events of the 1960's - the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement are of course a part of the author's analysis of the year 1959. In 2061 will 2011 be considered a historic year or just be a minor footnote as the 10th anniversary of an earlier historic event - 9/11?
Submitted by Tom O. @ Central