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COLUMN: Music in 1968 changed everything



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Guitarist and singer, Jimi Hendrix with Mitch Mitchell, left, and Noel Redding, right. Photo courtesy of Tribune News Service Buy Photos

1968 was a pivotal year. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were both assassinated, Boeing introduced the first 747 jumbo jet and the “The Beatles” (White Album), among other music, was released. 

Music in 1968 changed everything, specifically music from The Beatles. “Hey Jude,” written by Paul McCartney, was released in September 1968. The song was written to cheer up John Lennon’s five-year-old son, Julian or Jules, as his parents were getting divorced, according to The Atlantic. McCartney heard Hey Jude and thought it sounded better than Hey Jules, and thus, the song was born. The message was timed perfectly to benefit anyone listening to it, not just Jules.

The summer of '68 was a summer of “hate and despair” according to Kenneth Womack, a professor of English and Integrative Arts at Penn State University in Altoona, Pennsylvania. 

“Hey Jude” was just over 7 minutes long and got a plenty of radio play, even though it sounded like two songs smashed into one. It was imbalanced, it was different and it changed everything. 

It was the longest song to ever enter the charts in the Top 10, and after entering it remained at number one for nine weeks. The Beatles released 34 tracks in 1968, and 30 of them were on “The Beatles” (White Album). 

Many of the songs released on the album – “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Blackbird” – remained prevalent as some of The Beatles greatest hits. However, the Beatles weren’t the only artist releasing its greatest work in 1968.

Jimi Hendrix released his album “Electric Ladyland” in October 1968, and on it was his most famous song to date, a cover of “All Along the Watchtower.” The song currently sits at more than 184 million plays on Spotify, which is over 90 million more listens than anything else by Hendrix. 

He took the slow, folk version of “All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan and sped it up, adding his signature electric guitar along with two extra minutes of music. Hendrix is one of the most influential guitar players to date, and he stunned audiences with his electric guitar playing, sometimes doing so with his teeth or behind his back, according to his Spotify page.

The Doors released its album, “Waiting For The Sun,” in July 1968, and the first song on it was the popular “Hello, I Love You.” The band was one of the most influential and controversial bands of the 1960s, and Jim Morrison became a household name as his deep vocals and poetic lyrics were backed by psychedelic-style music.

In December 1968, just making the cut, The Rolling Stones released “Beggars Banquet” with “Sympathy For The Devil” as the opening song. “Sympathy For The Devil,” written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, left the public fearing the Stones were devil-worshippers out to corrupt the youth. 

The song tied in with the death of Robert Kennedy, but not on purpose. The original lyric for the song was “who killed Kennedy,” but after receiving word Kennedy was shot and killed it was changed to “who killed the Kennedys,” according to NME.

The music that peppered the year of 1968 changed everything. When hearing a song over three minutes on the radio, it may be a good idea to think back to "Hey Jude" and thank The Beatles.

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