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December 1979








Stevie Wonder performs at New York City's Metropolitan Opera House, performing material from his recent Journey through the Secret Life of Plants LP, accompanied by the National Afro-American Philharmonic Orchestra. The remainder of the three-hour concert features Wonder's more conventional recent hits.
What a year 1979 was for The Who. Their Quadrophenia movie had a big box-office success, and in back-to-back months they played sold-out shows at London's Wembley Stadium and NYC's Madison Square Garden. In November, the soundtrack LP from their The Kids Are Alright documentary went platinum. But today is their worst nightmare, as eleven fans are trampled to death in the rush to gain admittance for general or festival (unreserved) seating to their concert this evening at Cincinnati's Riverfront Coliseum. As is typical in festival-seating concerts, thousands of fans had arrived early for the show and were standing in near-freezing temperatures, all hoping to get into the Coliseum as quickly as possible to get the best seats they could. Since they could be admitted through only two doors, a crushing human bottleneck formed; the eleven people died when the doors were finally opened and the mob stampeded for the doors. Coroner's reports ruled that the eleven died from "suffocation by asphyxiation due to compression" and "suffocation due to accidental mob stampede." The mayor of Providence, Rhode Island will cancel the Who's concert scheduled there in two days. Multiple suits will be filed by the families of the deceased against the city of Cincinnati, Riverfront Coliseum, the Who and the Cincinnati concert's promoters, Electric Factory (run by Larry Magid, who in the late Sixties ran one of the first East Coast rock ballrooms, Philadelphia's Electric Factory). Festival seating itself will be almost universally blamed for the tragedy (except by Walter Cronkite, who on tonight's CBS Evening News blames it on "a drug-crazed mob of kids"), but festival seating will continue to be used in concerts around the country.
President Carter announces his intention to run for reelection, facing Democrats Edward Kennedy and Jerry Brown and Republicans Ronald Reagan, Bob Dole and George H.W. Bush.
"Pop Muzik" by M (Robin Scott) turns gold. The Number One disc epitomizes the Euro-pop sond with its dance rhythm and high-tech gloss.
Australian metal rockers AC/DC's big breakthrough comes with its fifth U.S. album, Highway to Hell, which turns gold on this date. It is the last LP recorded with original vocalist Bon Scott, who dies over two months later from choking on his own vomit after an all-night drinking binge.

Paramount Pictures launches Star Trek - The Motion Picture and reignites Trek-mania everywhere. Between syndicated reruns and an animated series, the serieses' fanatical fan base has been thirsting for a fresh take. Off the box-office success of films like Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, creator/producer Gene Roddenberry has finally gotten a big ($20 million) go-ahead. He re-attracts all the major players including William Shatner (Captain Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), DeForest Kelly (Bones), James Doohan (Scotty), and more all of whom know a Klingon -- and a career-making franchise -- when they see it. Four more big-budget sequels will follow in the 1980s, with more after that, as well as an unprecedented deluge of Trek-related products, spinoffs, and conventions. All from what Roddenberry first termed Wagon Train in the sky."

The Eagles continue to dominate the Billboard album chart with their aptly titled The Long Run.

In the theaters, Bette Midler apes Janis Joplin and attracts Frederick Forrest in the rock & roll romance, The Rose.

The Henry Kissinger foreign policy memoir The White House Years is a Publishers Weekly best-seller.

During a Texas visit to treat his progressing cancer, the Shah of Iran considers which nation will best provide him a safe haven. Less than a year later, he will die while living in Egypt.

The Top Five
1. "Babe" - Styx
2. "No More Tears (Enough is Enough)" - Barbra Streisand & Donna Summer
3. "Still" - Commodores
4. "Please Don't Go" - K.C. & the Sunshine Band
5. "Escape (Pina Colada Song)" - Rupert Holmes

Michael Jackson's Off the Wall -- containing four Top Ten singles -- goes platinum.

Kool and the Gang receive a gold record for "Ladies Night," the third Top Ten hit of their career.

The Knack's Doug Fieger spends his royalty check from the band's mega-selling #1 hit "My Sharona" to buy 1963 Bentley Continental limo owned by Baseball Hall of Famer Willie Mays.

A Gallup Poll shows President Carter's approval rating at 61%, up from 39% a month ago -- the largest leap in popularity ever recorded -- in response to his initial handling of the Iranian crisis.

Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall," from their new double-LP The Wall, hits #1 on the U.K. pop chart before subsequently finding similar success in the U.S., where the album first charts today. The LP also goes to number one in America for 15 weeks, and remains on the Billbaord Hot 200 album chart for 115 weeks.

Memphis sax player Jackie Brenston, who inadvertently became part of music history when he was a member of Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm in 1951, dies of a heart attack at age 52. Turner's band recorded "Rocket 88" at Sam Phillips's Sun Studios but when the record came out, the label read "Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats." It wouldn't have been that big a deal except "Rocket 88" went to #1 and is considered by many to be the first rock 'n' roll record. Turner and his band felt they didn't get the recognition they were due, and soon parted ways with Brenston.

The Eagles, Chicago and Linda Ronstadt perform at a benefit show for the presidential campaign of California governor Jerry Brown, who also happens to be Ronstadt's boyfriend. The show, at the San Diego Sports Arena, is followed by a similar benefit at the Aladdin Theater in Vegas. The two shows raise over $450,000.

Arthur McDuffie, an African-American resident of Miami, dies from injuries sustained at the hands of four white officers trying to arrest him after a high-speed chase. The officers will be tried and acquitted for manslaughter and evidence tampering, among other charges. Subsequently, one of the worst race riots in United States history will break out in 1980 in the black neighborhoods of Overtown and Liberty City in Miami. The following year Dade County pays McDuffie's family a settlement of $1.1 million after it files a civil lawsuit against the officials.

The first of four benefit concerts for the people of Kampuchea are held at London's Hammersmith Odeon. Paul McCartney, the Clash, Queen, Ian Dury, Elvis Costello, Rockpile, the Who, the Pretenders, the Specials and Robert Plant lend their talents to the cause.

The Top Five
1. "Escape (Pina Colada Song)" - Rupert Holmes
2. "Please Don't Go" - K.C. & the Sunshine Band
3. "Babe" - Styx
4. "Send One Your Love" - Stevie Wonder
5. "Still" - Commodores

Tens of thousands of Soviet troops begin pouring over the border into Afghanistan. The Russian army quickly deposes and executes the current leader, president Hafizullah Amin, three days later and installs a puppet, Communist dictatorship. The occupying force eventually expands to more than 100,000 as entrenched guerilla fighters, the mujahideen, battle with clandestine help from the United States and other Western nations. Other nations ranging from China to neighboring Pakistan and Iran are also outraged. Calling the invasion "the most serious threat to peace since the Civil War," President Carter places a trade embargo against the USSR and boycotts the Olympic Games next year (which will be paid back with a Soviet-led boycott of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics). The quagmire continues for almost a decade. "The Russians can't stay in Afghanistan," says one guerilla. "Even the animals hate them." After nine years of mounting losses and no end in sight, the USSR withdraws in 1989, paralelling America's ingominious experience in Vietnam over a decade earlier.
Kurtis Blow releases rap's first holiday hit, "Christmas Rappin'."
Ian Dury and the Clash headline the second of four concerts for the people of Kampuchea, in London.
The Who, the Pretenders , the Specials and others perform at the third of four concerts for the people of Kampuchea.
At the last of four benefit concerts for the people of Kampuchea performers include Paul McCartney and Wings, Elvis Costello, Rockpile with special guest Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, and an all-star "Rockestra."
Emerson, Lake and Palmer, the art-rock supergroup beloved by millions of fans and hated by most rock critics, announce their breakup. Keith Emerson and Greg Lake would put ELP back together again in 1985, with drummer Cozy Powell, and in 1992, with original drummer Carl Palmer returning.
The Jefferson Starship's New Year's Eve concert at X's night club in San Francisco is broadcast over radio to much of the Western world.

Most popular music, books and film - 1979: the Knack's "My Sharona" (pop single); the Eagles' The Long Run (pop album); Chic's "Good Times" (R&B single); Eddie Rabbitt's "Every Which Way But Loose" (C&W single); Richard Bach's Illusions (fiction); James F. Fixx's The Complete Book of Running (nonfiction); Kramer vs. Kramer (film).


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