The end of the swinging 60s counterculture, was the end of what many claimed is the best decade in the history of the world. The death of Sharon Tate in 1969, was a tragic curtain call that was the end of the swinging 60s.
Those of us who lived through the swinging 60s can sit back and watch the younger generations come to terms with today. Yet, we know there are seasons to life and as women, we need to value each season for what it is and that we all have the right to dream of a better world.
Turbulent and Divisive
The 60s was one of the most tumultuous and divisive decades. It was marked by the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War and the antiwar protests, political assassinations and the emerging ‘generation gap’. Not to forget, Barbie’s and Ken’s dream house and the miniskirt.
Swinging London’ was the epicentre of the swinging 60s and saw London transformed from a gloomy, grimy post-war capital into a bright, shining epicentre of modernity. This was reflected in the American hippie movement.
The Voices of the Swinging 60s
The swinging sixties flourished in art, music, and fashion. A rash of iconic pop and cultural singers exploded with Elvis, the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Rolling Stones. There was also the slender Twiggy and the Jaguar E-Type car. The swinging 60s saw the arrival of the contraceptive pill, the meteoric rise of Beatlemania, and living in communes.
Widely accepted social taboos either fell, or were relaxed, with people engaging in free love and was a wider use of drugs. The swinging 60s rang with voices of feminism, and the ‘burning of the bra’ was a symbol of Women’s Rights.
Women were tired of being limited through a misogynist and condescending society that was determined to keep women in ‘their place’. A world where power came from powerful men who were predatorial towards all women.
New Found Freedom In the 60s Countercultures
The youth of the swinging 60s rose to newfound freedom in the swinging 60s counterculture, after their mothers had struggled with decades of corsets, girdles and pointed bras and the compulsory white gloves and hat. The 60s were an era of optimism and decadence, cultural revolution and rapid social change. A decade of ‘change for the better’.
There was John F Kennedy, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the first man on the moon. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his oft reported speech, ‘I Have a Dream”.
Despite that, it was a world where bad behaviour as the result of drinking was macho, rather than being an addiction. Cigarette smoking was sophisticated, and the use of drugs was prevalent.
Swinging 60s as Historic
The swinging 60s have been used as ‘historic setting’ for movies and TV shows. Mad Men originally aired in 1960, but the modern version started airing in 2007, is said to renowned for its incredible attention utmost accuracy to the detail of the period. Props, physical design, costumes, and hairstyles were all period-specific.
The pilot of the TV series had a budget of over $3 million and each subsequent episodes a budget of US$2-2.5 million. Mad Men won many awards, including 16 Emmys and five Golden Globes. The series was estimated to earn $100 million just for streaming on Netflix.
Was the 60s that iconic? Those who lived through it wouldn’t think that, though it was iconic in the way the voice of women were heard. Rather like a modern version of the suffragettes fighting for personal freedom.
Sharon Tate and the End of the Swinging 60s
The name Sharon Tate is closely linked with the end of the swinging 60s countercultures.
Sharon Tate was an up-and-coming American actress, married to the French-Polish film director, Roman Polanski. They lived a 60s lifestyle, with no main centre of existence, constantly commuting between London and Los Angeles. They ignored conventions and made the most of enjoying life. At their wedding in 1968, there were more photographers than guests.
Sharon was typecast as the sexy blonde with her exploding sexuality, acting alongside many of the top names of Hollywood. Their home was ‘open house’ to a bevy of friends. The couple were half jet-set and half hippie. Polanski was a womanizer, and some claim he was, “A nasty piece of work.”
When Sharon became pregnant, she wanted a home of her own, and they rented a house in the elite Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. At 26-years-old, Sharon was determined to give birth to her son at home.
Members of Charles Manson ‘Family’
On the night of August 1969, members of Charles Manson family entered the Benedict Canyon home of Sharon Tate. They had already committed murder in the month before.
They brutally murdered Sharon Tate and four other guests at the Beverly Hills home. Tate was eight-and-a-half months pregnant and was stabbed 16 times. Sharon pleaded for her unborn child’s life, but to no avail.
The police were at a loss to identify the perpetrators. The media went berserk with numerous unfounded stories of rumours and theories. They said the lifestyle of Tate and Polinski was to blame. Their lies caused Tate’s mother to lose her sanity. Tate’s sister said, “The light went out of her mother, and she didn’t come home for ten years.”
Charles Manson, a habitual American criminal and a musician, was the leader of the ‘Manson Family’. A cult based in California in the late 1960s. The commune gang of around 100 followers, lived an unconventional lifestyle, with habitual use of hallucinogenic drugs, such as LSD.
Before the murders of Tate, Manson had spent half his life in correctional facilities. At age nine he set his school on fire. When he found himself in situations where he couldn’t physically defend himself, he developed his ‘insane game’.
Manson started the cult with mainly female followers. The group was under the supervision of Manson’s parole officer. Manson grew the group through drugs and prostitution, without interference from the authorities. Manson was fixated on the idea of an imminent apocalyptic race between America’s black and white population. Charles Manson was a white supremacist.
Manson and Tate
The murder of Sharon Tate was at the instigation of Charles Manson and Tex Watson. There was no obvious connection between Manson and Tate, except Manson had tried to get a recording contract with Terry Melcher, a record producer. Melcher was a previous tenant of the house Tate rented.
The day after Tate’s murder, another couple were murdered. Manson said, “He would show them how to do it properly, as they had bungled the Tate murder.”
The cult members committed a series of nine murders at four locations before the perpetrators of Tate’s murder were caught. They were arrested on auto theft and one of the girls confessed to Tate’s murder.
There are still people today, who follow Charles Manson, although Manson was never released from prison. He died in 2017, aged 83. Manson’s notoriety was an emblem of insanity, violence, and the macabre influence of pop culture.
The End of the Swinging 60s Counterculture
Fear was rife in the general community following Sharon Tate’s murder. America was shocked and the curtain came down on the swinging 60s counterculture. The power of the ‘Flower Child’ was over.
The deaths of Sharon Tate and her friends laid the foundation for the birth of ‘Satanic Panic,’ comprising over 12,000 unsubstantiated cases of Satanic ritual abuse. The American movie industry embarked on an exploration of America’s ‘seedy underbelly’, with movies such as ‘A Clockwork Orange’ and ‘Dirty Harry’.
If the swinging 60s was the greatest decade of history, we do have to thank it for the anti-nuclear movement and sexual liberation. Though the equal rights for all, including anti-race sentiment and the feminist front, still has a long way to go.
Here is another light-hearted blast from the past, that will make you smile. Not as political as the swinging 60s but it was a time when the place of the woman was in the home. Sadly, that is an attitude that has long underpinned society in all nations.