Charlie Sloth

On Air Now 16:00 – 17:45

What happened in 1968

  • On April 4th Dr Martin Luther King was shot dead in the southern city of Memphis, Tennessee. He was shot in the neck as he stood on a hotel balcony with the Reverend Jesse Jackson. It brought about mass-disillusionment - especially in the non-violent protest King believed in. Riots kicked off in more than 100 US cities with arson, looting and gun battles. Although James Earl Ray was convicted of his murder and sentenced to 99 years in prison, there have been doubts cast as to whether he was acting alone or in fact if he was the right man.
  • In October the Olympic games took place in Mexico City. To protest against the racism which still permeated most areas of life in the United States, a group of American athletes formed the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR), and planned to boycott the games. Although the boycott failed to materialise, Tommy Smith and John Carlos, who finished 1st and 3rd respectively in the 200 metres sprint, planned and executed one of the most spectacular political gestures of all time when during the medal ceremony they closed their eyes and raised their fists in a Black Power salute to symbolise the racial struggle in America. Read more
  • During the same games, other African American athletes performed some extraordinary feats and winning gold. Bob Beamon broke the world long jump record by over two feet. Jim Hines set a legendary time of 9.95 seconds, a record that stood for 25 years. Lee Evans also took gold setting a world record in the 400m which took 20 years to break. 1968 was a year of black athletic power.
  • In the UK the new Race Relations Act comes into force - making it illegal to refuse housing, employment or public services to people because of their ethnic background. It also sets up the Race Relations Board and the Community Relations Commission to promote "harmonious community relations".
  • Eldorado West One is aired on Radio 4 - it's a series of plays about a group of expatriate West Indians in London with Horace James and Rudolph Walker. Written by the highly regarded Trinidadian novelist Samuel Selvon, it's an adaptation of his famously funny novel, the Lonely Londoners ('56).

In the music

  • Soul Brother Number One aka the Godfather of Soul aka James Brown.Performing from the 50s, Brown came into his own in the 60s with Night Train ('61) revealing the developing 'J.B. sound', Papa's Got A Brand New Bag and I Got You (I Feel Good)' bringing the R&B hits in '65 and in '69 the Funky Drummer being recorded - not only one of the most sampled breaks in music but an influence on rap with Brown's rhythmic spoken delivery.
  • Despite plenty of personal problems, Brown became a major positive force in music. Lyrics praising motivation and ambition filled his tracks; Say It Loud - I'm Black and I'm Proud (1968) reaching the status of an anthem. After Martin Luther King was murdered, he was key to appeasing the resulting riots. He made appeals on the radio and even visited the rioting cities to successfully appeal for calm.
  • Sly & The Family Stone perfectly epitomise the era. Made up of black, white, male and female musicians playing Stax-style soul, James Brown's proto-funk as well as psychedelic guitars and hippie-influenced lyrics they appealed to all. Dance to the Music and Everyday People are both hits in the USA with the latter reaching no.1.
  • Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World is 3rd biggest selling single of the year in the UK, staying at no. 1 for a month.
  • Another UK no.1 is Baby Come Back by the Equals. In 1965, Eddy Grant formed his first band, the Equals - unique in being one of the UK's first multiracial bands to receive any recognition. The track actually was a hit in the German charts, and then across Europe before being re-issued here as an A side and going to no.1. It even made it into the US Top 40.
  • Nina Simone was a strong black female presence in the 60s combining her jazz-soul with gospel and protest songs. She had two big hits in the UK with Ain't Got No - I Got Life and Do What You Gotta Do (and in 1969 To Love Somebody. Studied at the New York's prestigious Juilliard School of Music - a rare position for an African-American woman in the 1950s. She was deeply affected by the Civil Rights Movement and wrote Mississippi Goddam and Four Women. Wrote To Be Young Gifted & Black and Revolution with Weldon Irvine in the late 60s.

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