I graduated from college in 1971 so I am slightly older than the people for whom this was written. I lived all this. Great summary! I've often tried to do this for my own high school class. Thank you.
Saline High School Class of 1971 50th High School Reunion This Weekend
1971: THE YEAR THAT CHANGED MUSIC FOREVER
The Class of 1971 spent the years 1967 - 1971 in high school. Each year was defined by its events. Each event played a role in defining each of the graduates.
Four years. 1,460 days. 35,000 hours. 3,02,400 minutes. 126,144,000 seconds.
Those 126,144,000 seconds influenced each of the 149 graduates of the Saline High School Class of 1971.
1968-The Year That Changed the World—assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy. The Mai Lai Massacre in Vietnam and protests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
1969-One Small Step For Man, One Giant Step For Mankind – the US landed a man on the moon and brought them all safely back to earth. The Charles Manson murders in LA, protests in the streets over the Vietnam war. And who could forget the 350,000 people who attended the mud bowl, affectionately referred to as Woodstock 1969.
1970-Four Killed and Nine Wounded In Kent, Ohio As National Guard Troops Open Fire On Peaceful Protesters at Kent State University – the country watched in horror as television news showed students at Kent State University peacefully protesting the Vietnam War were gunned down by National Guard troops. The US Congress passed and President Johnson signed into law the Clean Air and Water Acts. Apollo 13 experienced an accident while orbiting the moon which produced the iconic line, “Houston, we’ve got a problem”. The Chicago 7 was found guilty of their role in the riots at the democratic national convention in 1968 and the Beatles disbanded.
1971-The Year That Changed Music Forever – music was important but there were other things that made headlines in 1971. The May Day protests in Washington DC included the largest mass arrest in US history. Over 12,000 people were arrested over the three-day protest. The May Day protesters chanted, “If the government won’t stop the war, we’ll stop the government”. Walt Disney World opened in Florida and John Lennon performed at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor at the Free John Sinclair concert. Two Apollo missions landed on the moon and the last Ed Sullivan television show aired. D.B. Cooper disappeared in the Pacific Northwest with over $200,000 in ransom money and Lt. William Calley was found guilty of 22 murders in the 1968 My Lai Massacre and was sentenced to life in prison.
In 1971, the average cost of a new house was $25,250. Average income for a household of four was $10,600. Monthly rent costs equaled $150/month, gasoline was $0.40/gallon and a first-class postage stamp cost $0.08. You could purchase a new car for $1,066. The 26th Amendment to the US Constitution lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.
Nixon declared a war on drugs, China took its seat on the National Security Council, NASDAQ was founded and the US invaded Laos.
Local bookstores featured a variety of new titles in ’71, including “The Day of the Jackal”, “The Winds of War”, Dr. Suess’s “The Lorax” and “Father Fox’s Penny Rhymes”. A different kind of self-help book in 1971 was Erma Bomback’s “If Life Is A Bowl Of Cherries, What Am I Doing In The Pits?”
In sports, The University of Michigan football team went 11-1 and lost the Rose Bowl 13-12 to Stanford. Canonero II won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness, while Pass Catcher won the Belmont Stakes. The Pittsburgh Pirates defeated the Baltimore Orioles in seven games to win the ’71 world series. The Baltimore Colts beat the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 to win the Super Bowl. The Milwaukee Bucks downed the Baltimore Bullets 4-0 to win the NBA title. And in hockey, the Montreal Canadians topped the Chicago Black Hawks 4-3 to win the Stanley Cup. In the fight of the century, Joe Frazier defeated Mohammad Ali at Madison Square Garden and Satchel Paige was the first African American elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In New York City, Broadway featured hit shows such as “Follies”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “No, No Nanette” and “You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown”.
Some say that television was in the heyday of sitcoms in ’71. Turning on your television, you saw such shows as “All In The Family”, “The Flip Wilson Show”, “Laugh-In”, “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”. Change the channel and you could see “Marcus Welby, MD”, “Sanford and Son”, “Hawaii 5-0”, “The Partridge Family” and “Room 222”. “The Wonderful World of Disney” and “Monday Night Football”.
In 1971, the silver screen featured such movies as “Fiddler On The Roof”, “The Legend of Billy Jack”, Gene Hackman in “The French Connection” and the coming-of-age flick “Summer of ’42”. James Bond showed why “Diamonds Are Forever” and Clint Eastwood introduced the world to “Dirty Harry”. And who could forget all the rats in “Willard” and Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda in “Klute”.
But a huge part of the story of 1971 could be heard on every car radio in the parking lot at SHS. FM radio was emerging as a force that would change the listening habits of young people everywhere but AM radio was still king of spinning the hit tunes of the day. And on top of that mountain, sat the radio giant just across the border, CKLW, The Big 8.
Below is listed the #1 songs on CKLW for each month we were in school as a senior.
September 1, 1970 – War – Edwin Starr
October 1, 1970 – Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Diana Ross & The Supremes
November 1, 1970 – I’ll Be There – Jackson 5
December 1, 1970 – I Think I Love You – The Partridge Family
January 1, 1971 – My Sweet Lord – George Harrison
February 1, 1971 – Knock Three Times – Tony Orlando & Dawn
March 1, 1971 – One Bad Apple – Osmonds
April 1, 1971 – Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) – Temptations
May 1, 1971 – “Joy To The World” -- 3 Dog Night
June 1, 1971 – Brown Sugar – Rolling Stones
Other tunes that could be heard from the car speakers of the day included, (one of my personal favorites) – “If You Could Read My Mind” by Gordon Lightfoot, “Rose Garden”, and the beautiful voice of Karen Carpenter singing “Rainy Days and Mondays”.
Teens could be seen dancing to “Temptation Eyes” and James Taylor’s “You’ve Got A Friend”. The Five Man Electrical Band sang a pop protest song called “Signs” and Janis Joplin belted out the iconic “Me and Bobby McGee”. And two solo acts on their way to super-stardom broke through in 1971 with their huge hits: “Take Me Home Country Roads” – John Denver and Rod Stewart’s “Maggie Mae/Reason to Believe”.
Music, the one thing that can connect a group together, through the ages. Songs that will transport men and women back through time, to a specific time and place. Whether that place be in the gym at the high school dance or in a car making out, music is one of the threads that ties us together. Everyone has that special song that will send you back to your first dance, that first kiss, that first time you said I love you to someone special.
And in 1971, music was on the cusp of a major change. The 1960’s brought about the loss of innocence, the passions of a very unpopular war and the music understood the pulse of the country, and its lyrics and chords reflected those changing moods.
Nothing can take you back to the highs and lows of your high school years like a song. And there is nothing like listening to a song from those years through the lens of 50 years of living, loving and learning. We have lived life; we have had our share of the thrill of victory and the agonies of defeat. As we come together again to celebrate fifty years, let us remember the past, honor the present and look forward to the future. And most of all, let’s do it together.