Archive for the ‘1971’ Category

“Shaft” (1971) was Hollywood’s first blaxpoitation film to become a hit. It starred the then unknown Richard Roundtree. It is most famous for the Isaac Hayes song that opens the film:

Who’s the black private dick
That’s a sex machine to all the chicks?
You’re damn right

You see this cat Shaft is a bad mother-
(Shut your mouth)
But I’m talkin’ about Shaft
(Then we can dig it)

The parts in parentheses were sung by Stax singers Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson, who later became the Dawn of Tony Orlando & Dawn.

The opening scene shows John Shaft, a black New York City detective in a long brown leather coat, walking through Times Square as the song plays. A wonderful opening but then it  becomes like a late-night movie. Shaft tries to save the daughter of a Harlem crime lord to prevent all-out war with the Mafia. It only gets good again towards the end.

Blaxpoitation films were made by Hollywood in the 1970s for black audiences. They were mostly crime dramas with black leads. Pam Grier made her name starring in them. They pushed stereotypes of blacks as oversexed, badass and violent. Shaft himself is a good example of all three.

Civil rights leaders condemned it but black audiences loved it: back then almost no film had a hero who was unashamedly black.

“Shaft” had a black director, Gordon Parks, and two white screenwriters. One of them, Ernest Tidyman, created the character as a sort of black James Bond, writing seven books about him. Tidyman is one of the few whites to win an NAACP Image Award.

Sex machine to all the chicks: He has a main chick, Dina, who wears a wedding ring, another one on the side, Ellie, and, to put the “all” in “all the chicks”, he picks up a white chick at a bar for a one-night stand and has a shower scene with her.

Ellie: I love you
Shaft: Yeah, I know. Take it easy.

Shaft lives in a huge, well-furnished apartment and always takes the taxi – like he is made of money. He reads Essence magazine and uses what seems like too much slang. He likes to say “Right on!” and holds up his fist, like some bad stereotype of the 1970s.  Everyone is cat, dude or baby. That slang, I later found out, was put in over the protests of Tidyman.  But in the end it did not matter: the language was picked up by black teenagers. So was Shaft’s habit of crossing the street without looking.

In the opening scene, at the newsstand, you can see Naomi Sims on the cover of Essence.

It is amazing how much New York looks the same nearly 40 years later.

The film cost $500,000 (370,000 crowns) to make but brought in $13 million! Two sequels and a short-lived television series dutifully followed. In 2000 John Singleton brought it to the next generation with Samuel L. Jackson playing John Shaft’s nephew.

– Abagond, 2010, 2016.

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I would embed “Billie Jean” or “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” but those are not embeddable. But this one is. It is a great song in its own right. Michael Jackson is 13 or 14 here. It makes you understand how amazingly talented he was. Although he is backed up by his brothers here, it was his first single ever.

The second song they do in the video is “Brand New Thing”. I am unfamiliar with it.


Got to be there, got to be there
Be there in the morning
When she says hello to the world
Got to be there, got to be there
Be there, bring her good times
And show her that she’s my girl
Oh, what a feeling there’ll be
The moment I know she loves me
’cause when I look in her eyes I realize
I need her sharing the world beside me

So I’ve got to be there
Got to be there
Be there where love begins
And that’s everywhere she goes
I’ve got to be there so she knows
That when she’s with me, she’s home

Yeah, she’s home

Got to be there to be there
Got to be there oh yeah

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Angela Davis

Angela Davis (1944- ) is a famous black American revolutionary, a University of California professor, a “soldier of freedom”, a fighter for equality and the country’s best-known communist. She became world famous in 1971 when she was in prison and people in both America and the Soviet Union protested to “Free Angela”.

Her big Afro and putting her fist in the air are one of those images that sticks in your mind. You see memories of it in Erykah Badu and in the New Yorker cover with Michelle Obama shown as a black revolutionary.

In 1969 Ronald Reagan, then the governor of California, had her fired from UCLA for being a communist. A year later her gun was used to kill a judge. That put her on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list. She went into hiding and was on the run across the country. She made the cover of Life magazine. After a two-month manhunt she was caught in New York City and thrown into prison. She was widely seen as a political prisoner.

angeladavis08After 16 months in prison and protests round the world, all charges against her were dropped and she walked free. She went to the Soviet Union where she received a hero’s welcome. Then she wrote her life story, edited by Toni Morrison.

Since then she has been teaching, speaking and writing, particularly against American prisons, but more generally about race and women’s rights.

For her Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo are no surprise.

A fourth of all prisoners in the world are in American prisons. Prisons have become America’s way of dealing with its freed slaves, otherwise known as black people. Selling crack will put you in prison, but selling Prozac will not. America now has five times more people in prison than it did 30 years ago. It has nothing to do with the crime rate.

Just like Condoleezza Rice, she grew up in the black middle-class of Birmingham, Alabama in the days of Jim Crow. She lived in an all-black neighbourhood, near a street where everyone on the other side was white. Later she came to New York and went to high school there.

She went on to study philosophy, studying under Marcuse. She even studied in Paris and Germany for a while. Overseas she met students from Africa, which made her see that what blacks in America face is worldwide. Then in 1963, when the four black girls were killed in the church bombing in Birmingham, she knew she had to come back.

She joined SNCC, then the Black Panthers and then, after Martin Luther King was killed,  the Communist Party. Like Paul Robeson, she saw communism as the best answer to racism.

Being black in America meant she could not accept society the way it is. To do so would mean saying she is not fully human. So working to change society seems natural to her.

Unlike Will Smith and John McWhorter, she believes racism is still alive and well. She says it hides behind a show of colour-blindness.

– Abagond, 2009.


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In the Stanford Prison Experiment (1971) Professor Philip Zimbardo made the basement of Jordan Hall at Stanford into a make-believe prison. The students who signed up to take part were divided by chance into guards and prisoners. The experiment was to last 14 days, but was stopped after only six days when it became a bit too Abu Ghraib.

Even though everyone knew the whole thing was make believe, the “guards” and “prisoners” started to take the thing too seriously and acted like they were, in fact, guards and prisoners. Even Zimbardo himself, who acted as the head of the prison, lost all sense of proportion. It was not until his girlfriend came to visit and was sickened by what she saw that the thing was called off.

In fact, of the 50 people in the outside world who knew about it, Zimbardo’s girlfriend was the only one who raised any moral concerns: that young men who had done nothing wrong were suffering in the name of science.

Stanley Milgram, a friend of Zimbardo’s, had done the Milgram Experiment ten years before. He found out that most people will hurt a complete stranger if someone in authority tells them to do it in the name of science. When they are told, “The experiment requires that you continue,”  most throw their conscience out the window.

The students who took part in the prison were paid – for them it was a quick way to make some money over the summer. And, like with the Milgram Experiment, they thought they were helping a professor in the name of science.

The first day was quiet. But then on the second day the prisoners rose up against the guards. The guards then turned on them. Not allowed to use violence, the guards tried to break their spirits. For days it went on like that, back and forth, each trying to gain the upper hand. But then the spirits of the prisoners began to break one by one.

Once the guards gained the upper hand, all power fell into their hands. The prisoners were powerless. Both sides began to believe that it was just, as cruel as the guards were.

Not all the guards were cruel, only about a third of them. But the “good” guards would not stand up to the evil ones. And so evil took over. It became the new moral order. Even to Zimbardo.

But, as interesting as it is, it is more a “Lord of the Flies” tale, not true science: it cannot be repeated over and over again with the same outcome.

In 2003 Haslam and Reicher in Britain repeated the experiment, as much of it as they morally could. Part of it was seen on the BBC as “The Experiment”. This prison did not lose its sense of make believe so quickly. That made it hard for the guards to exercise power, so the prisoners broke free. It seems that what made the Zimbardo prison so evil was Zimbardo himself and how he led it.

– Abagond, 2008.

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This song went to #5 on the American R&B charts in 1971. It was written and produced by Van McCoy who, four years later, would give us the disco song “The Hustle”.


It was right on the tip of my tongue
And I forgot to say “I love you”
It was right on the tip of my tongue
And I forgot to say “I love you”

I played the game of love and lost
And now my heart must pay the cost
I had the chance to make you mine, but I wasted too much time
And let your love slip away

It was right on the tip of my tongue
And I forgot to say “I love you”
It was right on the tip of my tongue
And I forgot to say “I love you”

While I was wondering where to start
She came along and won your heart
With all the tender words of love that I was thinking of
But never bothered to say

Mmm, wait a minute, wait a minute
I’ve got something to tell you
Don’t walk away, baby

It was right on the tip of my tongue
And I forgot to say “I love you”
It was right on the tip of my tongue
(And I forgot to say) to say, to say…

(Ah, ah, ahh, tip of my tongue) my tongue
(Tip of my tongue)

Didn’t you know? Couldn’t you see?
I tried to tell you – please…?
Don’t you understand? I love you…
Don’t walk away…oh, please…?

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Disney World

Disney World (1971- ) is the most visited place in America. It is a huge park in the middle of Florida, twice the size of Manhattan, making it the largest man-made playground in the world. It gets four times more visitors than Florence, Italy.

It is run by Disney, the American film company that gave the world Mickey Mouse. It is like their Disneyland in California, but it is newer and far larger. The lessons learned in building Disneyland were applied to Disney World.

Disney World has four parks:

  • 1971: Magic Kingdom: This is like the Disneyland in California: it has Cinderella’s castle in the middle, Tomorrowland and all that. Since it was built after the first Disneyland it is newer and somewhat better.
  • 1982: Epcot: like a world’s fair. It has a huge white ball in the middle: inside it is a ride that tells the history of invention from fire to the Internet (first written by Ray Bradbury). Learn a bit about 11 other countries. The best part: “Mission: Space!”: see what it is like to journey to Mars in a rocket!
  • 1989: Disney MGM Studio: Yes, Disney makes some of their films here. You can see them at work! There are also rides based on the Disney and MGM films. It is like Universal’s park which opened nearby the same year. Disney owns the old MGM films. It bought them in the 1980s.
  • 1998: Animal Kingdom: a wildlife park. In the middle is the Tree of Life (44 metres tall). You can see animals from different parts of the world living in the wild. Animal Kingdom is made up of six lands:
    • Africa – This is the best of the six. It is even better than Africa itself since you get to see more different kinds of animals than you would there.
    • Asia – tigers!
    • Dinoland USA
    • Camp Minnie Mouse
    • Discovery Island
    • Rafiki’s Planet Watch

In addition to the big parks, you also have:

  • Downtown Disney – for shopping, eating and bad nightlife
  • Wide World of Sports – for playing sports.
  • Typhoon Lagoon – water rides and swimming
  • Blizzard Beach – another water park

It is not cheap, but children love it. For many there is nowhere else in the country they would rather go. There are parades and fireworks there every day! There are plenty of roller coasters too.

If you have the time, you should allow one day for each park. If you can, try to go when children are in school: the lines will be much shorter. Summer and Christmas are the worst times to go. Late afternoons are the worst; mornings are best.

The wait in line for some rides can be more than an hour. To avoid that you can get a FASTPASS, a ticket with a time printed on it that tells you when to come back.

Under Florida law Disney World has all the rights and powers of a city.

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