New York City’s Chinatown shuts down to protest police brutality

New York City’s Chinatown is almost entirely shut down on May 19, 1975, with shuttered stores displaying signs reading “Closed to Protest Police Brutality.” The demonstration is a reaction to the New York Police Department’s treatment of Peter Yew, a Chinese-American architectural engineer who was arrested, viciously beaten and charged with felonious assault after he witnessed the police beating a Chinese teenager and attempted to intervene.

In late April of 1975, Yew witnessed the NYPD stop a 15-year-old for an alleged traffic violation and tried to intervene when they began assaulting him. In doing so, he angered the officers, who Yew alleged beat him and arrested him, took him to the local precinct, stripped him, and beat him more while charging him with a felony. The shocking incident was the final straw for Chinatown residents who had long endured racist and dehumanizing treatment at the hands of the NYPD, and it led to weeks of unrest in the area. In the aftermath of the beatings, locals demonstrated outside the precinct, receiving further violent backlash from the police, and 2,500 people marched on nearby City Hall in a protest that, according to the New York Times, “had young students protesting side‐by‐side with their parents and grandparents, chanting together in Chinese.”

On May 19, local businesses joined the protest and activists again marched in the streets, coming to blows with police as they demanded better social services for their community. The charges against Yew were eventually dropped, the captain of the local precinct was reassigned—though not fired—and the unrest galvanized support for organizations like the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and Asian Americans for Equal Employment, both of which organized in protest of Yew’s beating.

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Willie Nelson releases “Red Headed Stranger”

The following content is sponsored by Legacy Recordings.

On May 1, 1975, Willie Nelson releases “Red Headed Stranger,” a concept album that would become the country music maverick’s first smash hit.

Born and raised in Texas, Nelson made his way to the country mecca of Nashville, Tennessee by 1960. He quickly earned a reputation writing songs for other artists—including “Crazy,” which became a huge hit for Patsy Cline in 1961—and went on to record more than a dozen albums of his own.

In the early ‘70s, frustrated by the smooth, heavily orchestrated Nashville sound, Nelson moved to Austin, Texas. Amid the city’s growing hippie music scene, Nelson felt free to be his offbeat, bandanna-wearing self. He released “Shotgun Willie,” considered one of his best albums, in 1973, followed by “Phases and Stages.”

But like his previous albums, neither of them sold that well, and when his record company, Atlantic, closed its country branch, Nelson was left without a label. Fortunately, his agent managed to negotiate a contract with Columbia that gave Nelson complete artistic control (a rare thing in the music business).

In January 1975, while driving home from a ski trip in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, Nelson’s then-wife, Connie, reminded him of “Red Headed Stranger,” a ‘50s ballad written by Edith Lindeman and Carl Stutz about a grief-stricken cowboy that Nelson had played on the radio during his years working as a DJ. By the time they got back to Texas, he had spun the story of the song into the concept for his next album.

Combining Nelson’s songs with other songwriters’ work, “Red Headed Stranger” tells the story of the Stranger, a man with long red hair and blue eyes (like Nelson himself). After catching his wife cheating on him with another man, he kills them both, then goes on the run.

Nelson recorded the album in a small studio in Garland, Texas with a trusted group of musicians, including his sister and longtime collaborator, Bobbie. It took about a week and cost just $4,000 in studio costs. The sound was so spare—mostly just piano, guitar and drums—that executives at CBS Records (Columbia’s parent company) didn’t want to put the album out, saying it sounded like a rough demo and people wouldn’t want to buy it.

In fact, “Red Headed Stranger” hit number 1 on the country charts, and eventually went multi-platinum. The first single, “Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain” (written by Fred Rose) gave Nelson his first number 1 country hit, and his first Grammy Award, for Best Country Vocal Performance. In 2003, Rolling Stone put “Red Headed Stranger” at No. 183 on its list of the top 500 greatest albums, while Country Music Television (CMT) went even further, calling it the greatest country album of all time. 

Check out “Red Headed Stranger” from our sponsor, Legacy Recordings.

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“Wheel of Fortune” premieres


Publish date:
Year
1975
Month Day
January 06

Wheel of Fortune, the longest-running syndicated game show in American television, premieres on NBC on January 6, 1975. Created by television legend Merv Griffin and hosted since the early 1980s by Pat Sajak and Vanna White, Wheel is one of the most popular television shows in the world.

Griffin, who had already created another iconic game show, Jeopardy!, conceived of Wheel as a combination between Hangman and roulette. Contestants guess letters as they attempt to solve a Hangman-like puzzle, spinning the wheel to determine how much money they will earn for a correct guess, with the ultimate goal being to solve the puzzle and accumulate as much money as possible. Since the show’s inception, the price of a vowel has stood at $250 and has not been adjusted for inflation. The phrases “I’d like to buy a vowel” and “I’d like to solve the puzzle” have entered the American cultural lexicon. 

Sajak and White, who joined in 1981 and 82, respectively, have become some of the most famous hosts in game show history. White, who operates the board and reveals letters as they are guessed, often contributes her own puzzles to the show. In over 6,5000 episodes, she has never worn the same gown twice. The show’s producers claim that over 1 million people have auditioned to be contestants and the show has paid out a total of more than $200 million. Painfully awkward or incorrect guesses by contestants have also been comedic fodder for generations of Americans.

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Microsoft founded

Year
1975
Month Day
April 04

On April 4, 1975, at a time when most Americans used typewriters, childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft, a company that makes computer software. Originally based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Microsoft relocated to Washington State in 1979 and eventually grew into a major multinational technology corporation. In 1987, the year after Microsoft went public, 31-year-old Gates became the world’s youngest billionaire.

Gates and Allen started Microsoft—originally called Micro-Soft, for microprocessors and software—in order to produce software for the Altair 8800, an early personal computer. Allen quit his job as a programmer in Boston and Gates left Harvard University, where he was a student, to focus on their new company, which was based in Albuquerque because the city was home to electronics firm MITS, maker of the Altair 8800. By the end of 1978, Microsoft’s sales topped more than $1 million and in 1979 the business moved its headquarters to Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, where Gates and Allen grew up. The company went on to license its MS-DOS operating system to IBM for its first personal computer, which debuted in 1981. Afterward, other computer companies started licensing MS-DOS, which had no graphical interface and required users to type in commands in order to open a program. In 1983, Allen departed Microsoft after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma; he was successfully treated for the disease and went on to pursue a variety of other business ventures.

In 1985, Microsoft released a new operating system, Windows, with a graphical user interface that included drop-down menus, scroll bars and other features. The following year, the company moved its headquarters to Redmond, Washington, and went public at $21 a share, raising $61 million. By the late 1980s, Microsoft had become the world’s biggest personal-computer software company, based on sales. In 1995, amidst skyrocketing purchases of personal computers for home and office use, Windows 95 made its debut. It included such innovations as the Start menu (TV commercials for Windows 95 featured the Rolling Stones singing “Start Me Up”) and 7 million copies of the new product were sold in the first five weeks. During the second half of the 1990s, Internet usage took off, and Microsoft introduced its web browser, Internet Explorer, in 1995.

In 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice and 20 state attorneys general charged Microsoft with violating antitrust laws by using its dominance to drive competitors out of business; in 2001, the company reached a settlement with the government that imposed restrictions on its corporate practices. Also in 2001, Microsoft joined the video-game market with the launch of its Xbox console. 

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Boeing 707 crashes into a mountain near Agadir, Morocco

Year
1975
Month Day
August 03

On August 3, 1975, a chartered Boeing 707 jetliner crashes in the Atlas Mountains near Agadir, a coastal city in Morocco. All 188 people aboard the plane were killed, in the fourth worst air disaster to that date.

Owned by the Jordanian airline Alia and chartered to Royal Air Maroc, the 707 left LeBourget Airport in Paris at 2:20 a.m. on the morning of August 3, 1975. Apart from four Europeans, all of the passengers on board were Moroccan citizens who worked in France and were traveling home for their summer holidays. The flight disappeared from Agadir airport-control radar at 4:28 a.m.; an airport official had spoken via radio with the pilot moments earlier, with no hint of trouble. The plane was scheduled to land in Agadir just two minutes later, at 4:30 a.m., and was descending for approach in heavy fog when the right wing tip and one of the engines struck a peak at an altitude of 2,400 feet. The pilot lost control of the plane, which crashed into a ravine, exploded and burned near the small, remote village of Imzizen. All 181 passengers were killed, along with seven crew members.

The incident outside Agadir marked the fourth worst air disaster in history, after a Turkish DC10 that crashed March 3, 1974 north of Paris, killing all 345 passengers and crew; a U.S. military plane that went down outside Saigon on April 4, 1974, killing more than 200; and a chartered Dutch DC8 jetliner that crashed in Sri Lanka on December 4, 1971, killing 191.

The Boeing 707 first went into service in 1958, having been developed to meet the need of airlines (particularly Pan-American) for a trans-Atlantic jetliner with a large seating capacity. With its four engines, the 707 was capable of traveling some 6,000 miles (enough to cross the Atlantic Ocean) nonstop, and boasted a seating capacity of up to 190 people. Thanks to the popularity of the 707 among international airlines, Boeing became world’s biggest aircraft manufacturer, pushing aside rival Douglas Aircraft Company (later the McDonnell Douglas Corporation).

The Morocco crash of August 1975 was the second crash of a Boeing 707 to occur over the course of the 1970s; a Jordanian 707 had crashed at Nigeria’s Kano Airport in January 1973, killing 176 people. In 1978, Boeing ended production of the 707. U.S. airlines sold most of their remaining 707s to Third World carriers, some of them priced as low as $1 million.

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Superpowers meet in space

Year
1975
Month Day
July 17

As part of a mission aimed at developing space rescue capability, the U.S. spacecraft Apollo 18 and the Soviet spacecraft Soyuz 19 rendezvous and dock in space. As the hatch was opened between the two vessels, commanders Thomas P. Safford and Aleksei Leonov shook hands and exchanged gifts in celebration of the first such meeting between the two Cold War adversaries in space. Back on Earth, United Nations Secretary General Kurt Waldheim congratulated the two superpowers for the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project and praised their unprecedented spirit of cooperation and peace in planning and executing the mission.

During the 44-hour Apollo-Soyuz embrace, the astronauts and cosmonauts conducted experiments, shared meals, and held a joint news conference. Apollo-Soyuz, which came almost three years after the sixth and last U.S. lunar landing, was the final Apollo program mission conducted by NASA. It was fitting that the Apollo program, which first visited the moon under the banner of “We came in peace for all mankind,” should end on a note of peace and international cooperation.

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“Mandy” is Barry Manilow’s first #1 pop hit


Year
1975
Month Day
January 18

Barry Manilow’s scores his first #1 single with “Mandy” on January 18, 1975. He would go on to sell more than 75 millions records over the course of his career.

At the height of Barry Manilow’s popularity, none other than Frank Sinatra himself said of Manilow, “He’s next.” Yet even in his heyday, the more youthful arbiters of “cool” were not kind to him. They called Manilow’s music bombastic and schmaltzy, even as Americans devoured his every release. But critics may have missed the point. Barry Manilow never fancied himself hip or cool—far from it. “I have purposely tried not to stay in sync with the times,” he has said. “I just do what feels good.” Even as a teenager in the 1950s, Barry preferred pop standards and Broadway show tunes to Elvis Presley records, and it was his love of this style of music that led to his big break.

While working as a commercial jingle writer/performer and pursuing a recording career with limited success, Manilow met a kindred spirit named Bette Midler. He first became her piano player then graduated to musical director, lending his arranging and orchestration talents to her Divine Miss M album and tour (think “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”) on the condition that he be allowed to perform a short set of his own songs during her intermission. It was this experience that landed Manilow a gig as Dionne Warwick’s opening act, which in turn led Clive Davis to take him under his wing at the newly formed Arista Records. Then came “Mandy,” “It’s a Miracle,” “I Write the Songs,” “Looks Like We Made It” and a string of 21 more top-40 hits between 1975 and 1983—hits that helped earn Barry Manilow recognition by Billboard and Radio & Records as the top Adult Contemporary chart artist of all time. His days as a chart artist may now be behind him, but Barry Manilow continues to fill concert venues around the world with fans whose enjoyment of his music seems undiminished by the jokey barbs of the pop-critical establishment.

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Singer Charlie Rich protests John Denver’s big win at the CMA Awards

Year
1975
Month Day
October 13

In a 35-year career that ran from the rockabilly genius of “Lonely Weekends” (1960) to the Countrypolitan splendor of “Behind Closed Doors” (1973), the versatile and soulful Charlie Rich earned eleven #1 hits on the Country charts and one crossover smash with the #1 pop hit “The Most Beautiful Girl” (1973). The man they called the Silver Fox displayed a natural talent for pleasing many different audiences, but his non-singing performance before one particular audience in 1975 did significant damage to the remainder of his career. 

On October 13, 1975, the man voted Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association of America one year earlier stood onstage at the CMA awards show to announce that year’s winner of the Association’s biggest award. But a funny thing happened when he opened the envelope and saw what was written inside. Instead of merely reading the name “John Denver” and stepping back from the podium, Charlie Rich reached into his pocket for a cigarette lighter and set the envelope on fire, right there onstage. Though the display shocked the live audience in attendance, John Denver himself was present only via satellite linkup, and he offered a gracious acceptance speech with no idea what had occurred.

In the aftermath of the incident, Charlie Rich was blacklisted from the CMA awards show for the rest of his career. But what point was he trying to make, exactly? It was widely assumed at the time that Rich was taking a stand on the side of country traditionalists upset at a notable incursion of pop dabblers into country music at the time (Olivia Newton-John, for instance, had won the Most Promising Female Vocalist award in 1973). But Rich himself was often accused of being “not country enough,” so that may not have been his intent. While it made better newspaper copy to suggest that he specifically resented John Denver’s win, Rich was also, by his own admission, on a combination of prescription pain medication and gin-and-tonics that night.

As his son, Charlie Rich, Jr., has written of the incident, “He used bad judgment. He was human after all. I know the last thing my father would have wanted to do was set himself up as judge of another musician.”

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Van McCoy’s “The Hustle” is the #1 song in America

Year
1975
Month Day
July 26

For as popular as it was during much of the first half of the 20th century, couples dancing seemed poised to go by the wayside of American popular culture by the early 1970s. That is, until the arrival of a dance called the Hustle along with a #1 song by the same name. On July 26, 1975, Van McCoy’s “The Hustle” topped the Billboard Hot 100 and Hot Soul Singles charts simultaneously, signaling the beginning of the disco era.

“The Hustle” would earn Van McCoy a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and give him the biggest hit by far of his tragically shortened career (he died of a heart attack in 1979). The impact of the record went well beyond its commercial success, however. As “The Hustle” climbed the pop charts, it took an already substantial dance craze and turned it into a cultural phenomenon, with variations like the Latin, the Line and the New York Hustles popping up on dance floors nationwide.

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Bruce Springsteen scores his first pop hit with “Born to Run”

Year
1975
Month Day
October 11

By 1975, 26-year-old Bruce Springsteen had two heavily promoted major-label albums behind him, but nothing approaching a popular hit. Tapped by Columbia Records as the Next Big Thing back in 1973, he’d been marketed first as the “New Dylan” and then as America’s new “Street Poet,” but unless you were a rock-journalism junkie or had been witness to one of his raucous three-hour live shows in an East Coast rock club, you’d probably never bought one of his records or even heard his name. That would all change soon, however, for the poet laureate of the Jersey Shore. On October 11, 1975, the epic single “Born to Run” became Bruce Springsteen’s first-ever Top 40 hit, marking the start of his eventual transition from little-known cult figure to international superstar.

Born in 1949, in Long Branch, New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen grew up during the golden age of American rock and roll, and it was his devotion to the music of that era that marked him as a breath of fresh air during his rise to fame in the early 1970s. Writing for Rolling Stone magazine in 1973, the legendary rock critic Lester Bangs said of Springsteen, “He sort of catarrh-mumbles his ditties in a disgruntled mushmouth sorta like Robbie Robertson on Quaaludes with Dylan barfing down the back of his neck.” That was in a positive review of Springsteen’s debut album, Greetings From Asbury Park—the first of many positive reviews to come during the legend-building phase of his career. In 1974, a Rolling Stone editor named Jon Landau, writing in Boston’s Real Paper bestowed this now-famous praise upon the Boss: “I saw rock and roll’s future and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” One year later, Landau would co-produce Springsteen’s third album and eventually take over management of his career.

That third album was to be Springsteen’s breakthrough and an American classic, Born to Run, which another giant of rock criticism, Greil Marcus, likened to “a ’57 Chevy running on melted down Crystals records.” While “Thunder Road” and “Backstreets” from the same album may be as beloved among devoted fans as the title track, it was the Phil Spector-inspired “Born to Run” that was the first exposure most Americans got to Bruce Springsteen. Its ascent into the Top 40 on this day in 1975 was followed less than two weeks later by simultaneous cover articles for Springsteen in Time and Newsweek magazines.

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