Remembering 1969, Part 1: Altamont, Rosemary's Baby, Santana at Woodstock and More

1968 might have been - at least politically - one of the most turbulent years of the '60s. Students rioted left - specifically, the Left Bank in Paris - and right against the war in Vietnam, while back home racial tensions escalated, especially after the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The political landscape shifted that year as Robert Kennedy was assassinated, opening the door for the Republican Party, via Richard Nixon, to rise to power.

But 1969 proved to be an equally important one for music. After all, that was the year of Woodstock (re-released in a 40th anniversary package this week) and the tragic Rolling Stones concert at Altamont in December, when a fan was stabbed by the Hell's Angels. On a better note, that summer the Stones also played a historic free show at London's Hyde Park without any memorable incidents, although it was a memorial for their recently deceased bandmate Brian Jones. Meanwhile, the Beatles' January rooftop gig at Apple Records, an attempt (mostly by Paul McCartney) to bring the band back together onstage, ended as a four-song failure.

But much more that happened in the music world that year that few people remember or talk about...

We open with a tragedy that foreshadows something even worse. In December 1968, Polish jazz pioneer Krzysztof Komeda suffered an accident that allegedly took place at the home of director Roman Polanski (there are conflicting versions of the story), with whom he had worked during the production of Rosemary's Baby.

Komeda died from the resulting injuries four months later in Warsaw. In the summer of '69, Charles Manson's "family" would break into that same house, where they murdered actress Sharon Tate - then eight months pregnant - and four others.

1969 also marked the debut of the Stooges, who put out their self-titled debut. The band was way ahead of their time then, and was barely noticed while laying the foundation for punk rock almost a decade later. Also, Bob Marley and The Wailers released Soul Shakedown, their first "proper" album after recording several singles. And last but not least, we also remember Santana's self-titled first disc, which came out on the heels of the band's memorable performance at Woodstock (above).

There is much more to discuss about 1969 in music... just let Rocks Off catch his breath as he dusts off his old rock encyclopedia. Stay tuned.

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Ernest Barteldes