The year of 1959 saw an unprecedented spate of jazz masterpieces. Among the albums released or recorded that year were Miles Davis’ groundbreaking Kind of Blue, Dave Brubeck’s blockbuster Time Out, John Coltrane’s leap forward Giant Steps, Ornette Coleman’s avant-garde salvo The Shape of Jazz to Come, Charles Mingus’ revolutionary-in-the-tradition Mingus Ah Um, and Bill Evans’ piano-trio template Portrait in Jazz. We’ll hear music from all of those albums–for more on the year 1959, see the timeline below.
January—Fidel Castro takes over Cuba. Alaska admitted as 49th state to U.S. Pope John XXIII proclaims Second Vatican Council.
February—Buddy Holly dies in plane crash.
March—Groucho, Chico, and Harpo Marx make their final TV appearance together. Uprising in Tibet against Chinese occupation; Dalai Lama flees to India. Mystery writer Raymond Chandler dies. Movie Some Like It Hot, starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis, and Jack Lemmon, premiers. Lester Young dies.
April—NASA announces selection of seven astronauts for first U.S. orbital flight.
May—Japanese-Americans regain citizenship. Sidney Bechet dies.
June—Johnny Horton’s “Battle of New Orleans” begins a six-week stay at #1 on the pop-rock charts. U.S. postmaster general bans D.H. Lawrence’s LADY CHATTERLY’S LOVER. America launches first ballistic-missile-carrying submarine.
July—The so-called Nixon-Khrushchev “kitchen debate.” Billie Holiday dies.
August—Hawaii becomes 50th and final (to date) U.S. state.
September—WCBS in NYC bans “Mack the Knife” in response to teenage stabbings. TV show “Bonanza” begins 14-year-run on NBC. Soviet space probe Luna 2 becomes first man-made object to reach the moon. Khrushchev tours America; becomes angry when he is refused admittance to Disneyland.
October—“Twilight Zone” debuts on TV. Pan American becomes first airline to offer regular flights around the world. Errol Flynn dies of heart attack at age 50. Dr. Werner von Braun begins to work for NASA.
November—Charles van Doren admits to House subcommittee that he knew answers in advance on quiz show “Twenty One.” Ford discontinues Edsel. Chubby Checker introduces the Twist on “The Dick Clark Saturday Night Show.”
December—Walter Williams, last surviving veteran of the Civil War, dies at the age of 117. First color photograph of Earth received from outer space.