On May 1, American pilot Gary Powers was shot down while flying a Lockheed U-2 over the USSR on a covert surveillance mission, photographing military and other targets. Four days later, the American government released disinformation stating that Powers had gone missing and was presumed dead while flying over Northern Turkey. On May 7, Khrushchev released information demonstrating that the Americans had lied, causing a massive loss of face to the Eisenhower administration, and heightening Cold War tensions. Not only was Powers still alive, but his plain had been captured mostly intact. Indeed, the Soviets were even able to develop some of the photos Powers had taken.
This was unfortunate timing, to say the least, as the Four Powers summit in Paris was due to begin on May 14. Krushchev demanded an apology from the United States, and when Eisenhower proved recalcitrant, he walked out of the summit. Soviet-American relations deteriorated notably as a result of these incidents.
Powers was tried for espionage, pleaded guilty and was convicted on August 19, Although his sentence called for 3 year’s imprisonment and 7 years of hard labor, he served only one and three-quarter years of the sentence before returning to the West in a hostage swap deal.
Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, after years of non-violent struggle for civil rights. By 1967, he was moving on from that. While it remained an important part of his goals, he had also become a vocal opponent of the Vietnam War and in 1967 established the Poor People’s Campaign – both of which reflected an approach to social justice that was increasingly based on class rather than race.
King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee as he stood on the balcony of his hotel. A single shot fired by James Earl Ray caused a remarkable amount of damage, and although King was raced to a nearby hospital by his friends, the doctors were unable to save him. His death led to riots in many American cities (other than Indianapolis, where Bobby Kennedy made one of the greatest speeches of his career, and found his plea for cooler heads heeded), and a national day of mourning was declared by the President.
“Instant Karma” (also known as “We All Shine On”) was Lennon’s third solo single (that is, single as a non-Beatle – although George Harrison contributed electric guitar, piano and backing vocals), and the first to be a great success. It sold over a million copies in the US alone, and was a top ten hit in eleven different countries. It was also one of the quickest produced songs of all time, taking literally only ten days from recording to release (February 6 was its debut in the UK).
Like much of Lennon’s work, it is a vague hippie anthem, raising philosophical questions and radiating optimism – although not without its sly touches, such as the lines “Get yourself together / Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead”. Two months later, Paul McCartney would announce the official end of the Beatles, but until them, “Instant Karma” would compete with “Let It Be” (the second last Beatles single) on the charts.
One of the most controversial celebrity biographies of its era, Albert Goldman’s “The Lives of John Lennon” was almost universally denounced as a hatchet job. Goldman alleged, among other things, that Lennon was manipulative, anti-Semitic, dyslexic and schizophrenic. Lennon was also, apparently, involved – in a highly negaitve way – in several suspicious deaths, including those of Stuart Suttcliffe and an unborn child of Yoko Ono (who he apparently caused the miscarry by kicking her in the stomach during an argument).
Lennon’s associates, friends and family were near unanimous in their condemnation of the book. Cynthia Lennon (his ex-wife) and Yoko Ono both denounced it – Ono even threatened a libel suit at one point. Paul McCartney advised people not to buy it when asked about it in interviews (and he was one of the few people treated well in its pages). Other Lennon biographers have largely dismissed the book, and many of those Goldman interviewed in researching it later claimed that their words were misquoted or otherwise misrepresented.
This date is approximate – I have been able to narrow it down no more precisely than “late August”, and have thus chosen the latest possible date in August.