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December 1978








British new wave music-hall rocker Ian Dury releases his biggest hit single, "Hit Me with Your Rhythm Stick." It will reach Number One in the U.K. and sell 2 million copies worldwide without entering the U.S. chart.
The Top Five
1. "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" - Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond
2. "MacArthur Park" - Donna Summer
3. "How Much I Feel" - Ambrosia
4. "Le Freak" - Chic
5. "I Just Wanna Stop" - Gino Vannelli

Dianne Feinstein becomes mayor of San Francisco, after Mayor George Moscone is assassinated the previous month. Her AIDS program will become a model for both the U.S. and the world during the 1980s, and prompts Pope John Paul II to visit several AIDS sufferers in the city on Sept. 17, 1987. Her city also hosts the 1984 Democratic convention.
Sid Vicious, out on bail from Riker's Island Detention Center in New York City after being charged with the murder of his girlfriend Nancy Spungen, smashes glass in the face of Patti Smith's brother Todd during an altercation at Manhattan rock club Hurrah.

Retired General William Westmoreland states that medical progress made during the Vietnam War saved more lives than were lost, emphasizing advances in blood transfusions and treatment of malaria and trench foot.

Johnny Rotten's new band, Public Image Ltd., releases its debut album, First Issue; "Public Image" will become an underground hit.
Elton John's first album without writing partner Bernie Taupin's lyrics, A Simple Man, peaks at #15 in America.

In a medium where rhyme is king, two New York City musicians named Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards take it a step further by applying it to both song title and group name. Today their act Chic's sleek single "Le Freak" begins a five-week reign at the top of the charts after being certified platinum two days earlier. An infectious disco era-defining dance number, the hypnotic tune rockets the four-member group to international fame -- which was always the plan. "We didn't want to be a small band playing bar mitzvahs the rest of our lives," says cofounder Rodgers of his early days with partner Edwards. "So we got into disco." And disco proves to be very, very good to them, as Chic will chart another Top 10 hit, "I Want Your Love," in March 1979, and earn another No. 1, "Good Times," in July of that year.

The Top Five
1. "Le Freak" - Chic
2. "MacArthur Park" - Donna Summer
3. "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" - Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond
4. "I Just Wanna Stop" - Gino Vannelli
5. "How Much I Feel" - Ambrosia

Several associates of the Lucchese crime family carry out an armed robbery at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, taking an estimated $5 million in cash (flown in monthly from monetary exchanges for military servicemen and tourists in West Germany) and $875,000 in jewelry. Known as "The Lufthansa Heist," it is the largest cash robbery committed on American soil at the time and becomes the subject of two television films, The 10 Million Dollar Getaway and The Big Heist, as well as a key plot element in the 1990 Martin Scorcese-directed film Goodfellas. Jimmy (The Gent) Burke, the suspected mastermind of the crime, was never prosecuted due to lack of evidence, but is convicted of murdering his fellow mobster Richard Eaton for absconding with $250,000 of his money in an unrelated fake cocaine scam. He dies of lung cancer at age 64 in 1996 while serving a 20 years to life prison sentence for second-degree murder. On January 23, 2014, more than 30 years after the crime, Federal prosecutors issue a wide-ranging indictment against five defendants for their roles in the heist, alleging murder, robbery, extortion, arson and bookmaking. The round-up includes 78-year-old Vincent Asaro, the inspiration for Robert De Niro's character in Goodfellas.

NBC airs the first part of A Woman Called Moses, a two-night dramatization of the life of antebellum slave liberator Harriet Tubman.

CBS debuts the made for TV movie Lovey: A Circle of Children Part II, a sequel to its 1977 TV movie A Circle of Children which, like the original movie, is based on Mary MacCracken's biographies.
The Village People's Cruisin' album goes gold after their club and radio hit "Macho Man" swept the country this past summer. While clubbers pick up on the gay overtones, expecially with disco hits like "San Francisco" and "I Am What I Am," most fans think the hunky guys dancing in costume, who were envisioned by French producer-composer Jacques Morali, are just plain fun. The novelty act will soon fade, but its anthemic smash "Y.M.C.A." will endure as a sing-along, act-along song for all time. The US Navy even considers using "In the Navy" as a recruitment tool until it learns more of the group's background. Morali, who came up with the idea of celebrating male stereotypes -- a cop, cowboy, Indian, construction worker, biker, and GI -- will die of AIDS in 1991. He had auditioned and hired the performers, and produced and cowrote their material, dubbing them "Village People" after New York City's famously bohemian Greenwich Village scene.
Studio 54 co-owner Ian Schrager is busted for possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. IRS agents also found Hefty bags containing nearly a $1 million in cash.

Up on the screen, and "up in the sky, it's...Superman!" as director Richard Donner's big-budget action adventure Superman - The Movie takes flight in Los Angeles. During the long gestation of the film adaptation of DC Comics' famous superhero, a virtual who's who of major Hollywood names flitted in and out, with the final mega-star wattage -- Marlon Brando, Gene Hackman, Glenn Ford, Trevor Howard -- supporting the handsome, strapping Man of Steel, unknown Christopher Reeve. It will become not only the year's top moneymaker, pulling in more than $80 million, but also shoots a flashy sequel simultaneously, paving the way for the advent of the superhero film genre with the forthcoming series based on Batman, Spiderman, The X-Men, and on and on. Also premiering today is the Vietnam War saga The Deer Hunter, starring Christopher Walken, Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep.

Bob Dylan ends his three-month U.S. tour in Miami, Florida.

Parliament, part of George Clinton's subversive- message funk empire, enters the soul LP chart with Motor-Booty- Affair. The album, which yields the hit single "Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalpha- disco betabioaquad- oloop)," Number One for four weeks starting January 1979, will rise to #2 on the chart. It caps off a highly successful year for Clinton, who has already had two Number One singles with Parliament's "Flashlight" (Number One for three weeks starting March 4) and Funkadelic's "One Nation under a Groove" (Number One for six weeks starting September 30), and a Number One soul LP in Funkadelic's One Nation under a Groove (Number One for four weeks starting October 28).

Patrice Rushen, a jazz-fusion keyboardist, starts a successful pop-funk crossover, as her single "Hang It Up" enters the soul singles chart. It will rise to #16.

Originally a member of the early '70s group The Soul Satisfiers, Gloria Gaynor attacks the singles survey with her soon-to-be iconic #1 hit "I Will Survive," an anthem for women and the sixth of her seven hits from 1974 through 1979.

James Brown makes his third and last soul singles chart entry of the year with the title cut of his latest album, "For Goodness Sake, Take a Look at Those Cakes." The bawdy ode to one variety of girl-watching will peak at #52.
Stiff Records' "Be Stiff Route 78" tour opens its American run at New York City's Bottom Line club. The lineup includes Lene Lovich, Rachel Sweet, Jona Lewie, Wreckless Eric and Mickey Jupp.
The "Treasures of Tutankhamen" exhibit, featuring gold and other valuable relics form the burial chamber of the Egyptian prince, opens at New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art. Over 1.2 million people will see the exhibit, which also inspires Steve Martin's Top 20 musical tribute (debuted on Saturday Night Live), "King Tut."
Rod Stewart, planning to perform his hit "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy" at an upcoming benefit concert at the United Nations headquarters, announces he'll donate all royalties from the song to UNICEF. That will generate a tidy sum as the song rises to No. 1 two months later.
Public Image Ltd., the band featuring ex-Sex Pistol John Lydon and ex-Clash member Keith Levene, plays its first concert, at London's Rainbow Theater.
Chris Bell, a founding member of Memphis-based pop-rock band Big Star, is killed at age twenty-seven in an auto accident. Big Star, which formed in 1971, performed and recorded a rock & roll style that later became known as power pop. Ironically, the group disbanded in 1975, only a few years before later power pop groups like The Knack would be successful.

The most auspicious debut in years is made by a "skinny-tie band" called the
Cars, a Boston-based band formerly known as Cap'n Swing. Their first LP is the first new wave record to gain acceptance on FM-AOR radio, which is still enamored of arena bands like Boston and Kansas. The Cars turns platinum on this date.

CBS premieres yet another version of Les Miserables, a TV adaptation of the classic 19th century Victor Hugo novel starring Richard Jordan and Psycho's Anthony Perkins.

After months of testimony including a taped interview with Cuba's Fidel Castro, the House Assassinations Committee determines that John F. Kennedy's death was probably the result of a conspiracy, citing substantial evidence of more than one shooter.
Bill Graham closes Winterland Theater in San Francisco to rock concerts following a swan-song by the Grateful Dead and the Blues Brothers.

As a full-fledged Iranian revolution seems likely after weeks of politically destabilizing protests by religious fundamentalists, U.S. Ambassador William Sullivan urges all American families to leave Iran.

Most popular music, books and film - 1978; the Bee Gees' "Night Fever" (pop single); Saturday Night Fever (Original Soundtrack) (pop album); Funkadelic's "One Nation Under a Groove" (R&B single); Waylon Jennings & Willie Nelson's "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" (C&W single); Richard Bach's Illusions (fiction); James F. Fixx's The Complete Book of Running and Edith Holden's The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady (tie for nonfiction); Grease (film).

The Runaways play their last gig at Daly City, California's Cow Palace before breaking up in April 1979. Runaways guitarist Joan Jett will go on to form a band named the Blackhearts and achieve greater popularity in the 1980s in both Top 40 singles and LPs, and become inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015.


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