Pop Culture in Review for the Year 1970

Pop culture is a constantly evolving phenomenon. However, since the intervention of technology in our daily lives, this change has become more evident than ever. The year 1970 had several unique events that were the spotlight of public interest. These encompassed things like the TV and film industry, music albums, breakthroughs in technology, and diverse fashion.


Love Story

This iconic film is still considered one of the best examples of romantic drama in the American film industry. Starring Elizabeth McGraw and Ryan O’Neal, it remained the highest-grossing film of its time. The film was the subject of several awards, including Golden Globe and Academy Awards. Both stars proved their dedication to fit in their roles as Neal learned to ice skate and McGraw learned to play the harpsichord.

The production company Paramount Pictures persuaded the director Erich Segal to write a novel based on the screenplay before the release of the film and sold it to the public on Valentine’s Day. The novel, which became a bestseller on its own, greatly helped set the stage for the film, which was premiered in December of the same year.


The golden age of disaster movies began with the release of Airport, which is the first in the Airport Series. With its attention to minute detail of day-to-day activities, the film earned nine Academy Awards among several others. The set representing the interior of the plane was left standing for five years until it was joined with that of the sequel film Airport 1975.

The film was also the last one scored by the famous composer Alfred Newman who passed away three months before the film’s release. He received his 45th and final Academy Award after his death. The film is based on actual events; the first terrorism incident involving a passenger plane which occurred in 1962.


M*A*S*Hwas one of the biggest hits of 20th Century Fox for the 1970s. The black comedy war film served as the debut for the professional football player Fred Williamson. As the Vietnam War was still active at the time, the film brilliantly captured the cacophony of American culture and was deemed perfect for its time.

It was considered such a fine comedy that it inspired the M*A*S*H TV show, which itself became one of the highest-rated shows in TV history. It is often credited to be the first major studio film to introduce the F-word in its dialogues. The 1990s re-release had to greatly tone down the strong language used in the film, though the original version is the most preferred one by most fans.


 The American biographical war film Patton set another example for the most iconic scenes in film. The film won seven Academy Awards and earned George Scott Best Actor for his role as General Patton. However, Scott famously refused to accept the Award, expressing a dislike of the voting process and the trend of competitive acting.

The critically acclaimed score of the film is as synonymous with the film as Scott’s perfect portrayal of General Patton. The prolific composer Jerry Goldsmith used multiple innovative techniques to create the main theme, which beautifully represented the protagonist’s militaristic yet deeply religious nature.


The Beatles’ Final Album

One month before the release of the Beatles’ Final Album, Let It Be, Paul McCartney announced his plans to depart from the band because of personal differences, and most importantly, because he needed to spend more time with his family. The rest of the band soon followed, and what was arguably the most famous music group in American history was no more.

Like most of the bands’ releases, the final album topped record charts in several countries. However, the general critical reception wasn’t as remarkable as that of their previous songs. Even though each of the band members enjoyed success as solo artists, fans of the Fab Four remained convinced that pop and rock music could never be the same anymore.

The Jackson 5

The year 1970 also saw the rise of the teenage pop band The Jackson 5. The band consisted of the five Jackson siblings, including the then 12-year old Michael Jackson, whose solo career was the most successful among the brothers from a young age. Both ABC and The Love You Save were the most critically acclaimed songs at the time.

The one-hit wonders knocked The Beatles’ Let It Be hit-song off the top of the Billboard Top 100 and remained the number one titles on the soul singles chart for a month. In fact, the group released a succession of four albums in one year and replaced the Supremes as Motown’s best-selling group.

Simon & Garfunkel’s Bridge over Troubled Water

The legendary folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel also released their fifth and final album, Bridge over Troubled Water, in 1970. The album includes The Boxer and its follow-up,Bridge over Troubled Water, both of which were the duo’s most successful songs and ranked high on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

The album itself received a Grammy Award for Album of the Year and quickly sold over 25 million copies. Despite this, the duo decided to split up after their last performance in the Forest Hills Stadium, with Simon continuing to work independently with his music and Garfunkel resuming his film career in another Mike Nichols film.


First Jumbo Jet Take-Off

The first jumbo-jet, Boeing 747, took its first commercial flight on 22nd It traveled from New York to London while carrying 332 passengers along with 18 crew members. The plane revolutionized the airline industry, featuring a seating capacity far larger than that of any other plane offered at the time.

The plane was able to accommodate 550 passengers in a single-class setup. Airline business and travel were much more efficient now, given that jumbo jets significantly reduced the number of flights needed to transfer the same amount of people, and thus helped to control the ever-increasing air traffic.

First Computer Chess Championship

Before computers were programmed smart enough to be the victor in every matchup against human chess opponents, they were an intriguing treat for programmers and chess enthusiasts alike. With the ongoing advancements in computer generations, the first documented computer chess tournament in the US was held in August.

The tournament was a three-round event and involved six chess programs as the competitors. Each player was given a total of two hours and 40 moves. The winner was Chess 3.0, a program developed by two undergraduate students and a pioneer in the early chess tournaments

IBM Announces System/370

The International Business Machines (IBM) Corporation announced its new computer system – IMB System/370. The new model range was the successor of the System/360 family. Its backward compatibility with previous models, advanced engineering, and greater storage capacity made it stand out as a promising landmark for the upcoming decade.


The Midi Look

 The fashion headlines of 1970 were stolen by hemlines. Across the US, designers had started to drop the skirt lengths far below the knees and had started calling it the midi look. Many miniskirt lovers did not take lightly to this new trend as it rendered their short-skirted wardrobes obsolete, while others said the look aged them.

The midi style was not unlike that of the long skirts that emerged in the ’50s. However, it was slit and slashed, wrapped to one side, and often buttoned down the front. The shape mostly appealed to the young and slender women as it emphasized smaller midriffs and hips.


All kinds of accessories flooded the market in the ’70s. The new look was deigned incomplete without this most vital part of the fashion. Standard jewelry was being replaced by handcrafted neck ornaments. Many natural elements like wood, stones, shells, and feathers were incorporated into jewelry and given the hot status for the first time.

Purses were either strapped under the arm or worn across the chest in the mailman fashion, resembling the trend of the early 2010s. From the Fringe Top Boots – the 15-inch leather uppers – to the Mock Jeweled T-Strap Sandals, boots were being sold in every shape, size, and material imaginable.


The Medical Drama Marcus Welby, M.D.

Marcus Welby, M.D. started airing in late 1969. It featured a kindly family practitioner whose unorthodox treatment of his patients frequently led to professional conflicts between him and conventional physicians. The drama was acclaimed for its medical accuracy as each of its scripts was reviewed by the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Like other medical dramas of its time, the popularity of the show started to decline by the mid-1970s. This was partly due to the fact that the show had opposed homosexuality and once even portrayed child abuse. In fact, it was the first show that several network affiliates refused to air in response to public protests

The Flip Wilson Show

The Flip Wilson Show was credited by many viewers of the time to be the first TV show to star a black person that achieved fame with a white audience. According to the Nielsen TV ratings, it remained the most-watched show in the US from 1970 – 72. The show was the first to use the “theatre-in-the-round” stage format, where the audience surrounds each side of the performance area.

The variety show is also responsible for popularizing the phrase “The Devil made me do it!” which was frequently used by Wilson’s character Geraldine. The phrase was listed #16 in TV Guide’s list of Top 20 Catchphrases. The show was also loved for featuring pop singers, including Louis Armstrong, the Jackson 5, and Roberta Flack.


Apollo 13 Mishap

The Apollo 13 was meant to be NASA’s third landing on the Moon. Two days into the flight, an oxygen tank exploded, and the normal supply of electricity and light was disrupted. The crew contacted mission control with the famous line, “Houston, we’ve had a problem here.” The damaged craft continued on its trajectory towards the Moon, circled it, and began its journey back to Earth.

Without a heat source, the trip back was near freezing, with most of the food becoming inedible and water being scarce as it was needed to cool down the lunar module. After countless dramatic and untested maneuvers, the craft made a successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean as tens of millions of anxious citizens greeted the crew back to Earth.

27 Club Phenomenon 

The 27 Club was a cultural phenomenon due to which many popular artists and musicians died at the age of 27. The idea was first ignited during 1970-71, when the renowned singers and songwriters Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison all passed away at 27, with more names to be added in the list in the following decades.

Although several studies were conducted regarding the significance of dying at 27, no positive results ever came out. Despite this, the deaths still continue to be connected to each other and are claimed to frequently involve freak accidents such as accidental drug overdoses or suicides. The American rapper Fredo Santana’s death, which was caused by an intense seizure, is the latest entry in the list.


With the end of the legendary band The Beatles, the year 1970 also saw the rise of another musical prodigy, Michael Jackson. Technology had put on an accelerating pace, and the seemingly eccentric trends in fashion were still in the process of emerging. The start of the new decade eventually saw the growth of a new generation of pop culture.