A Blast from the Past

Do you remember when…? This question can be followed by many answers. For example, one could say do you remember when a loaf of bread cost a dime? Or do you remember when Duran Duran was the most popular band of the decade? Let’s take a look back at the last thirty years of the 20th century.


Historians have often referred to the 1970s as being a “pivot of change.” Social movements from the 1960s carried into the next decade. For the first five years, the United States was still fighting in Vietnam until the fall of Saigon and the unconditional surrender of South Vietnam on April 30th, 1975. In 1974, President Nixon resigned as president. His resignation came while he was facing impeachment for the Watergate scandal.

Clothing was influenced by the popular styles of celebrities, musicians, and hippies. Flower prints, bell-bottomed pants, leisure suits, and turtle necked shirts took over. Also, platform shoes were the chosen shoes by people of all ages and could be worn with any type of outfit.

The Beatles disbanded in 1970 and Elvis Presley passed away in 1977. However, funk, experimental classical (think Pink Floyd) and hip-hop music become popular. Research shows that Led Zeppelin was the most successful musical group of the decade. Star Wars, Jaws, Saturday Night Fever, and The Godfather captivated movie-goers in theatres nationwide. On television, more urban and edgy sitcoms replaced the rural wholesome stories of the 1960s and more females become main characters as seen in The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Wonder Woman. Also, minorities took on a bigger role in shows including Soul Train, Sanford and Son, and Good Times.


Advances in technology, laissez-faire capitalism, the Reagan Boom, and the final years of the Cold War are just a few ways to describe the 1980s. This decade created more jobs and economic expansion than any other decade before it. In the last half of the ‘80s, the Internet and the concept of the World Wide Web was born. Nintendos, Walkmans, and VHS tapes were commonplace in almost every American home. The Berlin Wall fell and the Reagan Administration lead a war on drugs.

Like the decades before, the fashion of the 1980s varied. At the beginning, styles of the 1970s were still seen, but by the end, heavy metal outfits were popular. Clothing and looks included teased hair, ripped jeans, neon clothing, headbands, jumpsuits, leg warmers, and shoulder pads. Thanks to the film, Top Gun, Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses and aviator jackets were widely worn.

In 1981, the novel idea of a non-stop music channel was launched on television. Named MTV, this station has made a huge impact on pop culture and the music industry. Historians refer to television of the ‘80s as being transformational with the beginning of prime-time soap operas, children’s cartoons, and an expansion of T.V. talk shows. People were glued to their televisions each week to find out what was happening to the Ewings on Dallas or the Carringtons on Dynasty. Popular movies included the famous Brat Pack films, such as The Breakfast Club and Pretty in Pink. Other box-office successes were the Back to the Future films, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and Footloose. One thing people will always remember about the 1980s is its music. This was the decade when Michael Jackson, Madonna, Prince, and Duran Duran hit the airwaves. Songs were created out of the genres of hard rock, rap, heavy metal, and hip-hop.


The last decade of the 20th century is known for the rise of multiculturalism, the creation of the euro, and the grunge scene. There was Operation Desert Storm, the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, and the dissolving of the Soviet Union. In 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was enacted, the Columbine massacre occurred in 1999, and the well-known words “you’ve got mail” were heard among thousands of AOL email users.

In the ‘90s, people wore stylish and comfortable clothing. The unkempt grunge look was mainstream by 1992 and casual chic was also common. T-shirts, jeans, hoodies, and recycled styles from past decades were popular. Every woman wanted the famous “The Rachel” hairstyle from Friends, while guys wanted the curtained haircut.

As for the decade’s music, it was a wide range of R&B, teen pop, grunge, punk rock, and electronic dance music. People loved Nirvana, Green Day, and boy bands, such as NSYNC. On the small screen, The Cosby Show, and Beverly Hills, 90210 memorized the nation. And let’s not forget the white bronco chase that led to the trial of the century, the O.J. Simpson murder case. On the big screen, Titanic, Forrest Gump, and Disney films become cultural phenomena.

The 1990s ended the 20th century on a high note and set the path for the beginning of the 21st century and beyond. Every now and then, it is always nice to take a walk down memory lane. After all, sometimes, remembering the past can be a blast.