Elvis Presley appeared on The Ed Sullivan variety show, propelling him to superstar status. His third appearance on the show was filmed from the waist up.
1959 A plane crash in Iowa takes the lives of early rock stars Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the "Big Bopper." The event was commemorated as "The Day the Music Died" in Don McLean's famous 1971 song, "American Pie."
1964 Beatles on Ed Sullivan. LIke Elvis before them, the Beatles' appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show was a milestone, ushering in the "British Invasion" of popular music.
1967 Monterey Pop Festival was considered the beginning of the "Summer of Love" in California, with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, The Who, Otis Redding, and Indian sitar player Ravi Shankar. It was the first big rock festival.
Woodstock Festival attracted 400,000 to a New York farm for a weekend of iconic musical acts. For many the muddy three-day festival epitomized the counter culture of the Baby Boomer generation. Artists included Arlo Guthrie, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly & The Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, The Who, and Jimi Hendrix who famously performed a psychedelic version of The Star Spangled Banner. The film, Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music documented the festival and the "Woodstock Generation" that attended.
Altamont Speedway in California was the site of a free concert in December, 1969. 300,000 people attended the poorly planned event that was supposed to be the West Coast's answer to Woodstock. Four people died, and there were four births at the event. The Rolling Stones' documentary, Gimme Shelter, includes footage of a Hell's Angels member (they were hired for security duty and paid in beer) stabbing a fan to death as he attempted to approach the stage brandishing a gun. Instead of becoming another Woodstock, "Altamont" came to represent the antithesis of the Peace & Love event. Rocker Patti Smith called it "the end of the idealism of the sixties."
Alice Cooper achieved notoriety after the "chicken incident" in which he tossed a live chicken off the stage at a concert, unaware chickens could not fly. The crowd tore it to pieces and rumors spread that he had bitten off its head. This incident marks the beginning of "shock rock."
1979 Who Concert tragedy. At Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati eleven fans were killed and 23 injured in a rush for the doors. Meanwhile, Disco starts to dominate the airwaves. It looked like stadium rock was coming to an end.
1980 John Lennon was assassinated by Mark David Chapman, putting an end to any hopes of the Beatles getting back together.
1983 U2's concert at Colorado's Red Rocks outdoor Amphitheatre was filmed under challenging conditions, giving the resulting film ("U2 Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky") a unique look and helping to ignite their career. Later bands would also record live concerts at Red Rocks.
1984 Madonna's performance of "Like a Virgin" at the first MTV Video Music Awards was shocking for its time. Dressed in a wedding gown, she fell to the floor, revealing her underpants.
victims of a famine in Ethiopia simultaneously held in England at Wembley Stadium, seating 72,000, and in Philadelphia's John F. Kennedy Stadium, seating 100,000 people. Both were broadcast to an estimated audience of 1.9 billion. One of the most memorable acts was Queen (Live at Wembley Stadium) due to Freddie Mercury's command of the crowd. The U.K. concert ended with the song, "Do they know it's Christmas" and the U.S. concert ended with Michael Jackson's song, "We Are the World."