1971 was a big mix of influences. It was the year the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie came out. The French Connection was the big movie that year, winning the Oscar. In September, the first of the presidential crimes that became known as Watergate happened when burglars broke into Daniel Ellsberg’s psychiatrists office to look for dirt to discredit him. The Vietnam War continued to expand although 60% of Americans opposed it. Inflation was 4% and rising in the US and nearly 9% in Britain. Gas was 40 cents a gallon and that movie ticket to see Willy Wonka cost $1.50. The average monthly rent was $150. Walt Disney opened a new theme park in Florida. Jim Morrison died. NPR made its first broadcast and the Pentagon Papers were published, proving to all of America that the Pentagon and the government lies. We might not be able to find you 1971 gas or movie prices, but if you come to the Velvet tonight you can enjoy the tunes of 1971 – including, quite probably, the iconic cover of Kris Kristofferson’s Me and Bobbie McGee by Janis Joplin and Rolling Stones Brown Sugar.
In December, 1970, the Environmental Protection Agency opened its doors and in 1971 President Nixon gave an important environmental speech proposing the Clean Water Act and other substantive measures to improve the environment. In the late 60s, the Cuyahoga River had caught on fire. There was movement afoot and in 1971, Greenpeace was founded to wage a nonstop, global campaign for stronger environmental protections. In 1971, my sister (who was married and had children before I was even born) was living with her young family in a little suburb of Niagara Falls called Love Canal. They only lived there 3 or 4 years, but when my niece’s son was born with birth defects a few years ago, I wondered whether living the first years of her life on a toxic dump played a role. It’s something we will never know. However it is discouraging that 41 years after the first Earth Day in 1970 and 40 years after the national commitment to clean up our planet, we have people conflating local weather with global climate in order to allow industry to continue to degrade the planet and to avoid the changes in our energy use that are urgent and necessary.