July 20, 1969: I Want to Take You Higher

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July 20, 1969, was a Sunday. Police in Massachusetts continue investigating an incident on Friday night in which Senator Edward Kennedy drove his car off a bridge on Chappaquiddick Island near Edgartown. A campaign worker riding with him, 28-year-old Mary Jo Kopechne, drowned. Although Kennedy claims he tried to rescue Kopechne immediately after the crash and again a few hours afterward, he did not report the incident to police until yesterday morning, after Kopechne’s body had been found. Sixteen American servicemen die in Vietnam today: 12 members of the Army, two Navy men, and two Marines. This afternoon, Korean War veterans Neil Armstrong, a Navy lieutenant no longer in the service, and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, Jr., an Air Force colonel, land on the moon aboard Apollo 11. Tonight, they will become the first humans to walk on its surface. In Seattle, a baby born at the precise moment Apollo 11 is landing is named Neil Armstrong Dial. Gospel and R&B singer Roy Hamilton, best known for his recordings of “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and “Unchained Melody,” dies after suffering a stroke earlier this month. Tonight, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, a series of fights break out between black and white Marines. Fifteen Marines, all white, are injured.

News of the Apollo 11 landing is announced at major league ballparks during a busy afternoon of games.  There are five doubleheaders—six if you count the completion of a suspended game before today’s regularly scheduled game in Seattle. The Twins and Pilots were in the 16th inning when last night’s game was called due to a 1AM curfew. Today, Twins pitcher Jim Perry throws two shutout innings to get the win in the suspended game. Perry then takes the mound for the scheduled game and pitches a complete-game shutout. Pilots pitcher John Gelnar loses both games. Elsewhere in the American League, in the first game of the A’s/Angels doubleheader, pitcher Vida Blue starts the game for the A’s and gets the loss in his major-league debut. Among the National League games, the Los Angeles Dodgers play at San Francisco. Giants pitcher Gaylord Perry hits his first-ever major-league home run; in 1964 his manager had said, “A man will land on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a home run.” Perry’s home run comes about 30 minutes after the Apollo landing is announced. David Pearson wins the NASCAR Grand National Volunteer 500 in Bristol, Tennessee. Belgian cycling star Eddy Merckx wins the Tour de France, a race he will dominate for the next several years. Dave Hill wins the PGA IVB-Philadelphia Golf Classic on the first hole of a playoff.

The Newport Folk Festival concludes today with performances by James Taylor, Van Morrison, and Pete Seeger. Taylor’s set is cut short so festival promoters can play radio coverage of the moon landing over the PA system. Pink Floyd performs live on a BBC moon landing special titled So What If It’s Just Green Cheese? King Crimson performs in London and interrupts its show to announce that astronauts have landed on the moon. Elsewhere in England, the Who plays Hastings and Deep Purple plays Birmingham. Yes plays Cork, Ireland. In San Francisco, Joe Cocker plays the Fillmore West with Country Joe and the Fish, Blind Faith plays Baltimore, and Led Zeppelin plays suburban Cleveland with the James Gang opening. Upstate New York landowner Max Yasgur meets with a group planning a rock festival for next month. He agrees to rent them a 600-acre parcel for $75,000. Festival organizers have already spent $25,000 to rent land from adjacent landowners.

At WLTH in Gary, Indiana, “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans is #1, knocking “One” by Three Dog Night to #2. “Quentin’s Theme” by the Charles Randolph Greane Sound, heard on the TV show Dark Shadows, makes a big jump from #12 to #5. At country station WKTC in Charlotte, North Carolina, “Statue of a Fool” by Jack Greene is #1. Also in the Top 10: Sonny James’ cover of the Indian love story “Running Bear,” Buck Owens’ cover of “Johnny B. Goode,” and Roy Clark’s “Yesterday When I Was Young.” At R&B station WGOV in Valdosta, Georgia, “The Feeling Is Right” by Clarence Carter is #1. Also in the Top 10: “Mother Popcorn” by James Brown, “Color Him Father” by the Winstons, and “I Wanna Take You Higher” by Sly and the Family Stone.

Perspective From the Present: Even on July 20, 1969—one of the most historic dates in human history—regular daily life went on like it always does. That’s what makes One Day in Your Life so interesting to me, and I hope to you, too.

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