Monday, March 28, 2016

The 10 Most Influential Men of the 1960s

Here's a list of the 10 most influential men who shaped our political, pop culture and sports world throughout the 1960s.

1. Martin Luther King Jr.


King is revered in too many ways to list: second only to Mother Teresa in Gallup's list of admired people, a Nobel Peace Prize, a federal holiday, and 700 streets named after him. He is the single most prominent civil rights figure in U.S. history, and he maintained his commitment to nonviolence and his steadfast dedication through never-ending harassment and death threats, even in his prescient speech the day before his assassination: "I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm so happy tonight."


2. Neil Armstrong


When Kennedy made that declaration, he also acknowledged its challenges, calling the space program "the most hazardous and dangerous and greatest adventure on which man has ever embarked." Armstrong was accustomed to danger -- he'd flown in Korea, and as an experimental test pilot -- but the 1969 moon landing was a new kind of milestone, a defining event for humanity, and the significance of its imagery is inexpressible. The medium on which it was broadcast made it a shared human experience, as significant as Kennedy's assassination, but redemptive, the improbable realization of his promise to land on the moon within the decade.


3. John F. Kennedy


Kennedy may have more writing dedicated to the tragedy of his death than the legacy of his presidency, and that's not terribly surprising -- he was president from 1961 until 1963, and his death was a gripping, immense experience, one of the first such shared cultural moments. However, his effect on the trajectory of civil rights and the space program, and the eloquence with which he expressed those goals, would survive him. Less than a year before his death, Kennedy resolved that America must go to the moon, to challenge "the vast stretches of the unknown and the unanswered and the unfinished."


4. The Beatles


It's really not possible to overstate the Beatles' significance. They're the best-selling group in the history of American music, Rolling Stone's greatest artist of all time. Their immense, unprecedented popularity neatly coincides with the decade (they adopted their name in 1960 and disbanded in 1970), leaving their body of work as an immensely successful, groundbreaking, iconic statement on the atmosphere and social climate of the time period.


5. Bob Dylan


As a musician, Bob Dylan invites as many reverent adjectives as critics can muster: he's lauded as the "intrepid guiding spirit" of his generation (Time) with "extraordinary poetic power" (the Pulitzer jury), and is No. 2 on Rolling Stone's list of the greatest artists of all time. One biographer places him alongside Mozart and Shakespeare. All this praise is due not just to his musical talent, but to his enormous impact on his genre and American culture. During the '60s he marched for civil rights and penned protest songs, all the while guiding the future of popular music.


6. Lyndon B. Johnson


LBJ was both an agent of significant reform and one of the most colorful men to sit in the Oval Office (he once promised a photo op to reporters on his ranch if they chased around a bunch of piglets, which they did, and were promptly assaulted by the nearby sow while Johnson sat laughing in the car). The Civil Rights Act of 1964, the War on Poverty and the Great Society ultimately weren't enough to overcome the war's unpopularity. He'd later lament: "I left the woman I really loved -- the Great Society -- in order to fight that bitch of a war."


7. Muhammad Ali


A three-time World Heavyweight Champion known as much for his boxing dominance as his self-aggrandizing persona (which was, in fact, a public image constructed on the advice of pro wrestler "Gorgeous George" Wagner), Ali won a gold medal in the 1960 Olympics, then beat 7-to-1 favorite Sonny Liston for his championship in '64. Boxing was soon overshadowed by the social issues of the decade -- Ali declared himself a conscientious objector to the Vietnam War, and was arrested, convicted of draft evasion and stripped of his title in 1967.


8. Alfred Hitchcock


Easily one of the greatest directors of all time, Hitchcock managed to combine cleverness, technical innovation, artistry, and popularity in a way few other filmmakers have ever achieved. He was also an absolute master of self-promotion, and he became a household name by the '60s (with Psycho in 1960 and The Birds in '62, the same year Alfred Hitchcock Presents switched to an hour-long format). Always toying with audience expectations and breaking new ground, Hitchcock pioneered several film and narrative techniques, and virtually every post-Hitchcock thriller owes something to his legacy.


9. Malcolm X


Malcolm X was one of the most important (and divisive) African American voices in history, by turns a human rights activist, black supremacist and Nation of Islam spokesman -- then, in his final years, a man with gradually shifting perceptions. In 1965, he said of his more radical past: "I was a zombie then. The sickness and madness of those days -- I'm glad to be free of them." The contradictory figure, who both shrugged off the Kennedy assassination and eventually disavowed all racism, would never get the chance to expound on those changing sensibilities; he was assassinated at the age of 39.


10. Vince Lombardi


Frequently cited as the greatest coach in NFL history, Vince Lombardi coached the Green Bay Packers to five league championships throughout the '60s, including three NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls (the team had just finished an abysmal one-win season when Lombardi took over). He was featured on the cover of Time as the face of football when the sport was really rising to prominence, and he remains one of the most recognizable figures in the sport (and of course, the Super Bowl trophy still bears his name).

(via AskMen)

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