1949- The long Chinese civil war ends and Mao Zedong becomes the chairman of what he named the "Peoples Republic of China." Zedong was the leader of the Chinese Communist Party. This is important because it means that another major world power has become communist. Joel chose to include this because of the significance to the United States who believed that communism was an enemy to Democracy. Communism still exists in China to this day. Fun Fact: After a truce fell apart in 1946, a revolution occurred. The country was in a civil war for three years until Zedong gained control.
May 12, 1951- United States detonated a hydrogen bomb on an island in the Pacific. The bomb was perceived to be much stronger than the atomic bomb. Continued cold war tensions influenced the United States to work on the new H-Bomb. This is significant because it was the development of a new form of nuclear weapon. The H-Bomb significantly increased the nuclear power of the United States. Joel chose to include the H-Bomb because of the cold war tensions that were rising between the USA and USSR. The production of this H-Bomb allowed the creation of many more which we have at our disposal today. Fun Fact: The H-Bomb works by fusing atoms together rather than splicing them as the atomic bombs did.
March 26, 1953- Dr. Jonas Salk announces that he successfully tested a vaccine for Polio. Polio is a paralyzing disease that mainly affects children. The vaccine promised to eradicate the disease. The significance is that the vaccine will allow the thousands of children who would become paralyzed or would die from Polio to live. Joel included it in the song because it was a major breakthrough in medicine at the time. The vaccine has been modified and is still used to prevent disease to this day. Fun Fact: The vaccine that Salk created made 99% of all patients immune after only three doses.
April 18, 1955- Albert Einstein dies on April 18. Einstein is most famously known for developing the general theory of relativity. The theory of relativity is one of the two main pillars of modern physics. The significance was that Einstein was a true genius of his time. He worked on many different projects from the theory of relativity to the development of the atomic bomb. Joel included Einstein in the song because he was a very influential figure in the world of science. He also helped to end WWII with his help on the development of the atomic bombs. His theories and research is still used world wide to solve modern problems. Fun Fact: Einstein won the 1921 Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on theoretical physics.
July 17, 1955- Disneyland opens up in Southern California. Disneyland quickly became one of the most famous parks in the world. It also led to the development of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida in 1966. The significance is that Disneyland was the beginning of a large chain of parks. They create great revenue for their states and provide a source of entertainment for people. Joel most likely included Disneyland because it is an internationally famous amusement park. Disneyland and several other related parks are still in service today. Not only that but they are much larger than they were when they opened. Fun Fact: When the park opened in 1955 there were only 18 rides. Now there are 51 different attractions.
May 29, 1959- The first two monkeys return home safely after being launched into space. The two monkeys, a Rhesus monkey and a Squirrel Monkey, were launched from Cape Canaveral Florida. The significance is that the return of the monkeys unharmed means that man can survive in space. It was a big step forward in the space race for the United States against the USSR. Joel probably included it because of the battle between the USSR and the United States to see who could launch a man into space first and have him survive the trip. Monkeys are no longer being launched into space, but without them the space program would have had a much larger loss of human life. Fun Fact: The two monkeys flew to a height of 360 miles above the earth's surface inside of a Jupiter rocket.
1959- Wham-O sells its 100 millionth Hula-Hoop. Since their first production years earlier, Hula-Hoops became an international Fad. Hula-Hoops could be seen at every home and on every television show. Celebrities and parents even joined in on the fun. The significance of the Hula-Hoop was more about its sudden national popularity. The Hula-Hoop craze took off in a very short time. Soon it was in almost every home you could find. Joel probably chose to include the Hula-Hoop because it played a part of the culture of the time and symbolized the kind of entertainment used in the late 50's. Although not as popular, you can still find a Hula-Hoop in many homes across the United States. Fun Fact: The Hula-Hoop is actually named after the motion you do which looks quite like a Hawaiian Hula dance.
1961- Bob Dylan an American singer-songwriter, musician, author, poet and artist, is signed to Columbia Records. Dylan went on to become one of the most influential people in music during the time. The significance is similar to that of the Hula-Hoop. Bob Dylan became a staple artist of the 1960's meaning that he really helped to shape culture. Joel included Dylan in his song because of his influence on music and where he helped to point modern music. Bob Dylan is still revered as one of the great musicians of all time and some of his songs are still popular today. Fun Fact: Bob Dylan received Grammy, Academy and Golden Globe awards, as well as the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Nobel Prize for Literature.
1965- On March 2, operation Rolling Thunder begins in Vietnam. United States bombers begin bombing the Ho Chi Minh trail. On March 8, the first US combat troops land in South Vietnam. The significance was that it was the real start to what we call the Vietnam War. The war was a brutal and long war which resulted in tens of thousands of casualties for the United States. The American people did not support the war as it dragged on. I believe Joel included this in his song because of it large influence in America back home. The Vietnam war also lead to a widespread peace movement in the United States. The Vietnam war has left an impact on the families of veterans and those how did not make it home. The war also caused major ecological problems for Vietnam and destroyed a large part of their infrastructure. Fun Fact: U.S. forces had used around 20 million gallons of herbicides in an attempt to reduce the density of the jungles in Vietnam.
August 15-18th, 1969- The Woodstock Music Festival takes place in New York. The Festival is a gathering of all the cultural elements of the decade and many contributing artists made an appearance. More than 500,000 people were in attendance. The significance was that the festival drew together all of the greatest artists of the previous decade into one place. The festival was advertised as three days of peace and rock and roll. Joel most likely included the festival because it was a demonstration of culture int the late 60's where there was a lot of tension in the world. The festival was an attempt at alleviating some of that tension. The artists in the festival helped to influence modern music to the way it is today. Fun Fact: The festival was originally pay to enter, however, the day of the start of the festival there were so many people waiting to get in they the admission price was dropped all together.
1979- The USSR enters Afghanistan in order to protect communist interests in the country. After a long war with the rebels, the USSR was forced to withdraw troops from Afghanistan. The significance was that the USSR were once again trying to spread communism to different parts of the world. These actions were taken very seriously by the United States as we were fearful of the power of communism. Joel probably chose to include this because it was a major military engagement in the world. The USSR were trying to hold communism in the middle east while the United States were trying to help the rebels defeat the red army. As a result, Afghanistan was not converted to communism and is not communist today. Fun Fact: The United States provided the rebel fighters with Stinger missiles. The missiles were much needed in shooting down soviet helicopters which turned the tide of war.
1989- Students take Tiananmen Square in Beijing. As a response, the Chinese government decrees martial law meaning that any political adversary to the government would be treated as an enemy. Chinese soldiers then began to rush into the square and fire at the protesters. The significance was that the United States disapproved of the decision and attempted to help resolve the conflict peacefully. The Chinese government did not take kindly to the intrusion of the United States. Joel included this in his song because to was a sizable blow to the US and China relations. Martial law created lots of turmoil in China and it has since been lifted in China. Fun Fact: After the incident in Tiananmen Square, China refused to acknowledge or release a death toll.