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Entertainment anniversaries in 2017: 'Star Wars' turns 40 and more

"Star Wars" turns 40 and more entertainment anniversaries in 2017. Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

As a culture, it felt like we spent so much of 2016 in mourning. While the Knowles sisters, “Stranger Things” and “Rogue One” did their best to distract, the constant stream of celebrity death put the country in a reflective mood.

In 2017, let’s make a resolution: Let’s celebrate the art and the artists that we love in ways other than obituaries. Whether it’s the release of a special work of art or a key event in the history of a medium, there are plenty of ways to commemorate important music, films, books or theater that don’t involve waiting for someone else to die.

Here are some of the most important, interesting or flat-out weird anniversaries of 2017.


50: The Velvet Underground and Nico, “The Velvet Underground and Nico” (March 12, 1967): Fifteen years after the album’s release, producer Brian Eno would say about the Underground’s low-selling debut, “Everyone who bought one of those 30,000 copies started a band.”

30: “The Joshua Tree” (March 9, 1987): U2 goes from big to the biggest band in the world with songs like “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “With or Without You.” The album has been reported to have sold more than 25 million copies.

20: The Death of Notorious B.I.G. (March 9, 1997): Biggie was shot on one of Los Angeles’ busiest streets. Twenty years later, there have still been no charges filed.

50: The Beatles, “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” (June 1, 1967): The best album of all time? Or “just” one of the top five?

10: Radiohead, “In Rainbows” (Oct. 10, 2007): Radiohead’s album is often cited as the first by a major act to be available as a pay-what-you-want download.


50: Super Bowl I (Jan. 15, 1967): The inaugural AFL-NFL World Championship Game would not be called the Super Bowl for another three years, but it was already a big enough deal to air simultaneously on two networks. The over-the-top commercial budgets would come much later.

30: ‘Amerika’ debuts (Feb. 15, 1987): After ABC aired “The Day After” in 1983, conservative commentator and game show host Ben Stein wrote that he’d like to see, as a challenge to the perceived anti-Cold War sentiment of the made-for-TV-movie classic, the story of an America under the rule of the Soviet Union. After 14½ hours of the dull series, maybe even Stein thought he had made a mistake.

30: ‘The Simpsons’ on “The Tracey Ullman Show” (April 19, 1987): While Ullman’s sketch show was well-regarded itself, winning Emmys in 1989 and 1990, it will likely always be remembered as the launching pad for a crudely- drawn cartoon featuring a very yellow family.

60: ‘American Bandstand’ goes national (Aug. 5, 1957): What would eventually become a staple of Baby Boomer music culture started as a local program in Philadelphia in 1952, but aired its first national episode five years later. Billy Williams (“I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter”) and The Chordettes (“Just Between You and Me”) performed.

20: ‘South Park’ debuts (Aug. 13, 1997): Sure, “The Simpsons” brought animation to adulthood, but did it ever have an episode called “Cartman Gets an Anal Probe”?

40: ‘Star Wars’ (May 25, 1977): The movie may be most important for what it would spawn; without the space epic, of course, there would be no “Star Wars Holiday Special.”

50: ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ (Aug. 13, 1967): One of the first films of the American “New Hollywood” movement, the counterculture classic broke many of the long-observed rules about how violence was portrayed on the screen. It was one of a handful of important films of the year, including “The Graduate” and “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?“

70: The Waldorf Statement is released (Dec. 3, 1947): The press release, issued after a meeting of almost 50 motion picture executives, declared that no studio would employ the so-called “Hollywood Ten,” a group of screenwriters and directors who refused to testify to Congress. Essentially, it was the beginning of the Hollywood blacklist.

20: ‘Spiceworld’ (Dec. 15, 1997): A 20th anniversary drinking game is in order, for sure. Or maybe a karaoke bar visit?


60: Jack Kerouac — ‘On the Road’ (Sept. 5, 1957): It is the book of American counterculture, no matter the era. If you’ve got the young and idealistic gathering to talk about the world and the big questions, you’ll hear Kerouac quoted.

50: Gabriel Garcia Marquez — ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ (1967): Translated into more than 35 languages and with 30 million copies sold, Marquez’s opus is still required reading on high school and college syllabi everywhere.

30: Toni Morrison — ‘Beloved’ (1987): The New York Times called it one of the best novels of the end of the 20th century, and it won the Pulitzer. Still active today, Morrison may be America’s most important living novelist.

10: ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ (July 21, 2007): The final of the “Harry Potter” novels inspired midnight release parties as if it was a Beyoncé album. An entire generation will have J.K. Rowling to thank for a lifelong reading habit.


40: ‘American Buffalo’ opens (Feb. 16, 1977): The first of David Mamet’s Broadway shows, it was awarded the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play. Mamet himself turns 70 late in 2017, as well.

20: ‘The Lion King’ opens (Nov. 13, 1997): Before a ticket to “Hamilton” was the impossible get for theater crowds, “The Lion King” caused parents to take out second mortgages in order to take their kids out for a show.

70: ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’ opens (Dec. 3, 1947): The Pulitzer winning drama by Tennessee Williams has had, according to the Internet Broadway Database, nine different productions on Broadway, to go with countless productions across the globe.

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