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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September 16, 1972

It's time for another edition of the TUESDAY TIMELINE for this week.  It's the sixteenth of September, and I decided to give this edition of the timeline a musical theme for today.  Consider it a bonus Sunday Jukebox post.

Only on Tuesday.  But hey, at least it's a #1 hit that we'll be taking a look at.

But before we get into that discussion, I thought we'd have a look at some of the other events that took place on this date throughout history.  What happened on September 16?  Well, quite a lot actually.

1776 - The Battle of Harlem Heights takes place during the American Revolutionary War

1812 - The Fire of Moscow starts, and over the next seventy-two hours, three-quarters of the city would be destroyed

1880 - The Cornell Daily Sun - America's oldest, continuously independent college daily paper - begins publication

1908 - The General Motors company is founded

1920 - Thirty-eight people are killed and four hundred injured after a bomb is detonated in front of the J.P. Morgan building on New York City's Wall Street

1924 - Actress Lauren Bacall (d. 2014) is born in The Bronx, New York

1927 - Actor Peter Falk (d. 2011) is born in New York City

1928 - Approximately 2,500 people are killed when the Okeechobee hurricane makes landfall over Southeastern Florida

1945 - The surrender of Japanese troops in Hong Kong is accepted by Royal Navy Admiral Sir Cecil Harcourt

1947 - Almost two thousand people lose their lives when Typhoon Kathleen strikes Japan

1955 - The military coup to unseat the President of Argentina, Juan Peron, is launched at midnight

1959 - In New York City, broadcast from live television, the first demonstration of the first successful photocopier - the Xerox 914 - takes place

1966 - The grand opening of the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City takes place

1970 - King Hussein of Jordan declares military rule following the hijacking of four civilian airliners by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine

1975 - Papua New Guinea becomes an independent nation

1987 - The Montreal Protocol is signed to protect the ozone layer from depletion

1992 - Manuel Noriega is sentenced to 40 years in prison for drug trafficking and money laundering

2003 - Sheb Wooley, singer of "The Purple People Eater" dies in Nashville, Tennessee at the age of 82

2009 - Mary Travers of Peter, Paul, & Mary dies at the age of 72

2013 - A gunman kills twelve people at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.

We also have some celebrity birthdays to share as well.  So, I want to wish all of the following famous faces a happy birthday today.  Happy birthday to Janis Paige, B.B. King, Takao Tanabe, George Chakiris, Jules Bass, Susan Ruttan, Ed Begley Jr., Mickey Rourke, Kurt Fuller, Eric Vail, David Copperfield, Jennifer Tilly, Jayne Brook, Richard Marx, Molly Shannon, Katy Kurtzman, Marc Anthony, Amy Poehler, Shalane McCall, Tina Barrett, Musiq Soulchild, Flo Rida, Alexis Bledel, Sabrina Bryan, Madeline Zima, Kyla Pratt, Teddy Geiger, Sarah Steele, Nick Jonas, and Jake Roche.

All right.  So, what date will we take a trip to this time around?

Well, how about we go back 42 years ago today to September 16, 1972?  I don't remember ever featuring a Tuesday Timeline from 1972 before.  If I did, it was when I was first starting off the Tuesday Timeline entry.  Regardless, we're going back in time to 1972.

Now, one thing that I will say about 1972 - even though I missed it by nine years - is that the music from that particular year was awesome.  You see, 1972 was one of those years in which there was a lot of social activism.  People were still protesting the Vietnam War, feminists were out in full force demanding equal rights, and the African-American population were also making their voices heard demanding equality.  So, as a result, the musical charts were filled with lots of music that symbolized this new era from John Lennon's "Imagine" to Helen Reddy's "I Am Woman".

In fact, come to think of it, today's topic has to do with racial harmony.  For it was 42 years ago today that a song by Three Dog Night hit the top of the charts.  A song that was inspired by a real-life event of the past that wasn't quite such a pleasant experience - particularly for those involved in it first hand.

ARTIST:  Three Dog Night
SONG:  Black and White
ALBUM:  Seven Separate Fools
DATE RELEASED:  July 3, 1972

Yes, long before the release of Michael Jackson's "Black or White", Public Enemy's "Fight the Power", and even War's "Why Can't We Be Friends", Three Dog Night tackled the subject of racial harmony with their chart-topper "Black and White".  And, believe it or not, this song is NOT an original Three Dog Night composition.  In fact, the lyrics of this song were written nearly twenty years before Three Dog Night even recorded their own version!

The song itself was written in 1954 by David I. Arkin and Earl Robinson, and was inspired by a real life event which took place on the seventeenth of May, 1954.

That was when the United States Supreme Court voted in favour of ceasing all racial segregation of public schools in the "Brown v. Board of Education" decision. 

It seems hard to believe now, but six decades ago, public schools in the United States were racially segregated.  There were schools for white students, and there were schools for black students.  This was the norm for several decades (dating all the way back to 1896), and back in the 1950s, racism was unfortunately a part of life - in particular in the Southeastern United States in which prior to 1954, no less than eighteen states had racial segregation in schools as a requirement.

When the decision was made to end racial segregation by unanimous vote by the United States Supreme Court in 1954, it did allow black and white students to attend the same school.  Unfortunately, there were still some people who actively fought against the ruling, with some people attempting to use their political power to physically keep black students from entering white public schools.

Perhaps the most famous example of this would be the Little Rock Nine case, in which nine African-American students were not only bullied and humiliated by many of the white students who attended Little Rock Central High School during the 1957-1958 school year, but were actually blocked from entering the school by then Governor of Arkansas Orval Faubus.  Of course, President Eisenhower made sure that the Little Rock Nine could attend school there, but judging by the picture up above, that road was not an easy one.

Now, here's where the song "Black and White" comes into play.  In 1956 and 1957 respectively, both Pete Seeger and Sammy Davis Jr. recorded the single, with the original first verse going a little something like this.

Their robes were black, Their heads were white
The schoolhouse doors were closed so tight
Nine judges all set down their names,
To end the years, and years of shame.

Yeah, I'd definitely call that a sign of the times.  Definitely a social commentary song for sure based on the decision to desegregate schools sixty years ago.

Now, flash ahead to September 1972, and Los Angeles, California based band Three Dog Night's own version topped the Billboard charts.  But with racial segregation being a thing of the past for eighteen years prior to this song's release, the band opted to come up with their own take on the opening verse of the song.

The ink is black, the page is white
Together we learn to read and write
The child is black, the child is white
The whole world looks upon a beautiful sight

I mean, think about it for a second.  The old verse was a social commentary on a recent event that had taken place that shaped the way that people not only viewed the educational system, but viewed themselves as well.  It was a song that forced people to take a look within themselves to point out their own prejudices and it made people really come to debate whether they wanted to continue with the way things were, or really take the step to create badly needed change that would make everyone feel more inclusive.

But with this new verse, it showed everyone what life was like since that decision was made.  Certainly in 1972, racial tensions were far from perfection.  Heck, in some places, racism is still a problem in 2014.  But it's nice to know that enough changed between 1954 and 1972 to make people realize that skin colour means virtually nothing when it comes to teaching people right from wrong, educating people so that they become capable of great things, and most importantly, loving people and accepting people for who they are in every possible way imaginable.

That was the message that Three Dog Blind released in 1972.  And forty-two years ago today, that message became the biggest hit on the Billboard charts.

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