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The Burr Magazine

The Student News Site of Kent State University

The Burr Magazine

The Student News Site of Kent State University

The Burr Magazine

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50 Years of Pop: Then & Now


Written by Maria Serra for Spring 2020 print issue of The Burr Magazine

Exploring stages of pop culture is essential when reflecting on our past and examining our present. Our art, worldviews and even taste buds evolved from 1970 to 2020, arguably for the better. The Burr thought it would be fun to do a side-by-side comparison of hip trends in 1970 versus those of now. Maybe in another 50 years, writers will think our pop culture is just as bizarre as some of the items that grace the 1970s list. 


U.S. Population: 203.2 Million 

  • The population of the whole world totaled 3.7 billion people in 1970. 

Fiction Novel: “Love Story” by Erich Segal 

  • This top-selling romance fiction novel stayed on The New York Times Best Sellers  list for 41 consecutive weeks and became a global sensation when it was translated into more than 20 languages. 

Highest Grossing Film: “Love Story” 

  • Unsurprisingly, the best-selling novel received a movie deal, and it was a box office smash. It grossed more than $106 million and starred Ali McGraw and Ryan O’Neal. Disney’s “The Aristocats” also came out this year and was the highest-grossing animated film. 

Song Of The Year: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel 

  • This iconic song stayed at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks and hit the top of the English, French and Canadian music charts as well. This single even ranks 48 on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” 

Album Of The Year: “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel

  • The folk-rock performers’ fifth and final studio album made a splash at the Grammy Awards by also taking home Album Of The Year. It was also the best-selling album of 1970 beating out The Beatles’ “Abbey Road.” For a duo that was once named Tom & Jerry, this is a great way to end. 

TV Show:Marcus Welby M.D.”

  • This ABC medical drama starred James Brolin and Robert Young who portrayed doctors, and the show ran seven seasons. While this TV show was the highest-rated program in 1970 according to Nielsen Media Research, it dipped in viewership in later years following a controversial episode that negatively depicted homosexuality.

Candy: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

  • This was the candy for Halloween in 1970. The famous peanut butter cup’s candy cousin, Reese’s Pieces, was introduced in 1978 and became a staple for sweet tooths in the ‘80s. 

Food Trends: Jell-O

  • The 1970s were all about fitting into the mold—the Jell-O mold, that is. Everyone could be a cool and creative cook by pouring the colorful gelatin mix into a bundt mold and adding in their own flavors with peach and strawberry chunks. People during this time period also opted for savory Jell-O entrees by adding in celery, sour cream, ham, eggs, SpaghettiOs—anything in your cupboard, honestly. Aren’t you dying for these recipes? 

Dance Crazes: “The Funky Chicken”

  • Singer Rufus Thomas released this jazzy dance hit in 1969, and it took off across the nation in the ‘70s. If you want to know how to do this dance, just listen to Rufus’s lyrics: “You flap your arms /And your feet start kicking /Then you know you doin’ the funky chicken.”

Toy: NERF Ball

  • The Parker Brothers introduced the “world’s first official indoor ball” in 1970 with the company’s signature non-expanding recreational foam. (Yes, that is what NERF stands for!) About 4 million toys were sold in 1970 alone. With those numbers, surely at least one kid broke a lamp with these toys. 

Chain Restaurant: McDonald’s 

  • McDonald’s was well on its way to taking over the food world, because this was the year the Golden Arches made their way to Costa Rica. The year 1970 was a big year for burgers with Burger Chef, Gino’s Hamburgers and Bob’s Big Boy also being chain restaurant favorites of the time. 

Superbowl Winner: The Kansas City Chiefs

  • The Minnesota Vikings and Kansas City Chiefs played Super Bowl IV on January 11, 1970 in rainy conditions in New Orleans’ Tulane Stadium. The Chiefs defeated the Vikings 23-7. 

1970 Firsts:

  • The first Earth Day was celebrated in the United States by an estimated 20 million Americans.
  • Casey Kasem hosted American Top 40 for the first time. 
  • New York City held its first New York Marathon. 
  • The Association for Computing Machinery held the first-ever computer chess tournament. 
  • Black Sabbath released their debut album, “Attention! – Black Sabbath Volume One,” which has been heralded as one of the first true heavy metal records. Rock on!
  • The New York Knicks won their first NBA championship against the Los Angeles Lakers. The team has only two championship titles today.
  • New York held its first gay pride parade on June 28, 1970, one year after the Stonewall Riots. Today, gay pride is celebrated around the world. 
  • Paul McCartney released his first solo album after the Beatles disbanded. 
  • The first observation of Black History Month took place at Kent State University. Kent State professors and Black United Students proposed the idea in 1969 and carried out the celebration from January 2 toFebruary28, 1970. 


U.S. Population: 330 Million

  • The U.S. population makes up 4.25% of the world’s population. According to the Census Bureau 2020 statistics, there is a birth every nine seconds and a death every 11 seconds in America. 

Podcast: “My Favorite Murder”

  • Podcasting has blown up into a multi-million dollar industry with no limitation on topics covered or guests interviewed. Podcast hosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark run one of the most successful podcasts to date and cover true crime stories through a comedic lens. Other popular and well-loved true crime podcasts include “Serial” and “Man in the Window.”

Best Picture: “Parasite” 

  • Released in October 2019, this South Korean thriller took America by storm and came out on top at the 2020 Academy Awards. Bong Joon-ho’s “Parasite” made history by becoming the first foreign-language film to take home the biggest award of the night: Best Picture. Critics believe this may motivate movie fanatics to seek out more films outside of mainstream American cinema. 

Song of the Year: “bad guy” by Billie Eilish 

  • Billie Eilish stunned audiences at the 2020 Grammy Awards with her somber and simplistic performance of “when the party’s over.” She also took home the Grammy for Song of the Year with her alt-pop smash hit, “bad guy.” Eilish’s “bad guy” was her first song to hit No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100. 

Album of the Year: “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” by Billie Eilish 

  • Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas took home the Grammy for Album of the Year with their March 2019 release “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” She made history by becoming the first woman and the youngest person to win all four major awards of the night: Best New Artist, Song of the Year, Album of the Year and Record of the Year. 

TV Show: “Star Trek: Picard” 

  • Based on media buzz, star power and current ratings, “Star Trek: Picard” is well positioned to become one of 2020’s most noteworthy shows. The show is produced by the original Jean-Luc Picard, Sir Patrick Stewart, for viewing on CBS All Access. The plot follows Picard after the events that took place in “Star Trek: Nemesis.” The show is already slated for a second season. In 2020, we also said goodbye to some of our favorite comedy shows like “BoJack Horseman” and “Schitt’s Creek.”

Food Trends: Plant-based proteins

  • 2020 is all about substitutions. Many Americans are reducing their meat consumption for personal health and environmental reasons, while some are just interested in new food options. Burger King introduced the Impossible Whopper in August 2019, and some customers claim they can not tell the difference between meat and plant-based alternatives. Dunkin’ Donuts also offers plant-based Beyond Sausage in their breakfast sandwiches. Americans are also gravitating away from dairy milk and to plant-based almond, soy and coconut milk products. 

Dance Crazes: The “Renegade” Dance

  • Rapper K Camp’s song “Lottery” went viral this year after two teens made a dance video to his now-famous song on TikTok. The famous “renegade, renegade” lyrics are iconic on the internet, and everyone has their own adaptation of the dance, including Lizzo. TikTok fans also love viral dance challenges using Doja Cat’s “Say So” and Lil Uzi Vert’s “Futsal Shuffle” this year.  

Candy: M&M’s

  • Americans still love this classic chocolate candy that “melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” We love M&M’s so much that there are entire stores dedicated to the candy alone, including the well-known M&M’s World, located in Times Square. Candy fans also have much to look forward to this year, as the chocolate makers at Mars are stocking shelves with Fudge Brownie M&M’s, starting in April.

Toy: Blume Doll 

  • The Blume Doll is already one of the most purchased toys on Amazon this year. The dolls come in plastic flower pots and, with the help of a few drops of water, grow right out. The dolls have squishy, colorful hair and come with their own accessories. Baby Yoda toys are also expected to take 2020 by storm and frankly, you can not blame any of us for wanting to collect every possible cute figurine on the market. 

Chain Restaurant: McDonald’s 

  • Their signs read “Billions and Billions Served” for a reason. McDonald’s sells around 80 hamburgers every second and sells nine million pounds of fries daily. It should come as no surprise to Kent State students that Starbucks is a close second in popularity when it comes to restaurant chains in the United States. 

Superbowl Winner: Kansas City Chiefs

  • The Kansas City Chiefs won Super Bowl LIV against the San Francisco 49ers on February 2, 2020. The final score was 31-20. Shakira and Jennifer Lopez entertained audiences everywhere with their Super Bowl performance. They were the first Latin American women to headline the halftime show.


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