Charlie Sloth

On Air Now 16:00 – 17:45

What happened in 1961

  • Mr Lumumba, Congo's first democratically elected leader (June 1960) is deposed after four months and shot dead in February '61. This inspires a demonstration outside the Belgian Embassy in central London, which ends with clashes with mounted police after fighting erupts.
  • South Africa leave the Commonwealth after refusing to make preparations for majority rule.
  • A Commonwealth Immigrants Bill is introduced in the House of Commons in order to begin to restrict the flow of settlers into the UK. The ensuing 'panic' meant that figures of immigrants rocketed to over 105, 000 for '60-'61. There were further bills passed during this decade, one which was marred by Powellism - anti-immigration feeling led by the Conservative MP Enoch Powell.
  • V S Naipaul was born in Trinidad in 1932 of Indian heritage. He moved to England in 1950, published his first novel in '57 and in '61 wins the Somerset Maugham Award for Miguel Street - " a beguiling book about growing up in the West Indies. The sketches are written lightly, so that tragedy is understated and comedy is overstated, yet the ring of truth always prevails." He wins the Nobel prize for Literature in 2001.
  • 1961 wasn't an easy year for Anne Cole Lowe an African-American fashion designer from Alabama, but she does manage to open a shop on Saks Fifth Avenue and is awarded the Couturier of the Year Plaque by New York Fashion Society. (In '68 she was included in the Who's Who of American Women.) These accolades came as a result of making dresses for families in high society including the wedding dress for Jacqueline Bouvier when she married the future President, John F. Kennedy in '53.
  • Sport: Albert Johanneson makes his first appearance for Leeds United. The South Africa born left winger scores 68 goals for them in the 1960s. At a time when black players were a novelty in England, he endured racist taunting from opposing players and the crowd. He went on to be the first black player in an FA Cup Final.
  • Although other black players had appeared in the English league prior to this, such as the legendary Nigerian international Steve Mokone (Coventry) and his fellow countryman, Elkaneh Onyeali (Tranmere), Johanneson was arguably the most influential black player in England during the 1960s
  • Radio: Mrs. Dale's Diary (Light Programme, now Radio 4) was the first radio soap to include a regular role for a black actor with Jamaican Charles Hyatt as Dr Lionel Smithson.

In the music

  • The Miracles' Shop Around is Motown's first no.1 in the US RnB chart (no.2 in the US pop chart).
  • Shirley Bassey has a number one in the UK with Climb Ev'ry Mountain taken from the hugely popular film, the Sound of Music. Shirley Bassey was a major star during the last half of the 20th century. and is still popular for her Bond theme tunes such as the tremendous Diamonds Are Forever (used by Kanye West) and Goldfinger. Born in 1937 in Tiger Bay, Wales, she was the youngest of seven children with a Nigerian sailor father and an English mother. This wasn't an easy start to life, but by the time she was 16 she was breaking away from her factory job to perform in working man's clubs and revues. This led to a recording contract and chart success.
  • Before they became the Ronettes, sisters Veronica (Ronnie), Estelle, and their cousin Nedra, had won a singing contest at the Apollo as the Darling Sisters. One night they went to the Peppermint Lounge dressed in tight skirts with their hair fashionably back-combed into beehives. They were mistaken by the club manager for the singing group he was expecting, so he led them onstage and they sang Ray Charles' What I Say - bringing down the house! It was the start of something major (see 1963).
  • The Shirelles: One of the most successful bands in the format of the girl group was the Shirelles. Formed in New Jersey, they were four school friends who with the help of the female label boss Florence Greenberg had a big hit with Will You Love Me Tomorrow. Other tunes of theirs included Soldier Blue and Baby It's You.

Key Releases


Grammy awards


Sign in

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.