I’ve always been a little strangely fascinated with my birthyear. I know that sounds narcissistic, but you’ll have to take my word on this. I don’t collect historical tidbits of the year 1973 for any egotistical reason. It’s just plain old vanilla obsessive compulsive disorder. The following are facts I’ve collected about this year, organized in the following sections:


The following statistics 1 cover a range of categories.

  • U.S. Population: 211,908,788
  • U.S. Life expectancy: 71.4 years
  • U.S. Violent Crime Rate (per 1,000): 41.5
  • U.S. Property Crime Rate (per 1,000): 37.4
  • World Population: 3.937 billion


  • Miss America: Terry Anne Meeuwsen (WI)
  • Nobel Prize, Peace: Henry A. Kissinger (US); Le Duc Tho (North Vietnam)


The following movie statistics 2 are offered.
Academy Awards: Oscar nominated films: “American Graffiti”, “The Exorcist”

Oscar winning film: “The Sting”

At the 1973 Academy Awards, a man named Robert Opal notoriously streaks across the stage, in full view of hundreds of millions of TV viewers, just as co-host David Niven is about to introduce the Best Picture category. To which Niven responded, “Isn’t it fascinating to think that probably the only laugh that man will ever get in his life is by stripping off and showing his shortcomings.”

At the 1972 Academy Awards (on March 27th, 1973), Sacheen Littlefeather stands in for Marlon Brando and refuses his Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Godfather, to protest the U.S. government’s treatment of Native Americans. Other great films:

  • “The Long Goodbye” (Robert Altman)
  • “American Graffiti” (George Lucas)
  • “The Sting” (George Roy Hill)
  • “Last Tango in Paris” (Bernardo Bertolucci)

John Woo finally got his chance to direct in 1973 when a friend formed a small production company. “At that time, I was pretty poor. So I would sleep in my friend’s office. We got a script and we hired a cast. And the movie was called Farewell Buddy.” (Credited as “action choreographer” was a young Jackie Chan.)

The Jamaican film The Harder They Come, starring Jimmy Cliff, launches the popularity of reggae music in the United States.

After the film version of Jesus Christ Superstar debuted in 1973 — featuring a slo-mo whipping of Christ — Samuel L. Gaber, the Philadelphia regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of the B’nai B’rith, wrote, “Director Norman Jewison helped perpetuate the lie that slandered the people in [Jewison’s previous film] ‘Fiddler on the Roof’: the charge that the Jews, collectively, killed Christ. From an anti-Semitic stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar, an even more anti-Semitic film was created.”

“La Planè¨te Sauvage” (The Fantastic Planet) was released. A surrealist story based on the Soviet occupation of the Chezc Republic, Fantastic Planet is set in a distant world inhabited by humanoids called “Oms” domesticated by the gigantic “Draags.” Wild Oms however are exterminated by the dozen. One domesticated Om escapes oppression to lead a revolt. The film functions as a metaphor for class struggle.

On Thursday, January 11, 1973, the first broadcast of An American Family changed television history forever. A 12-hour documentary series on PBS, An American Family chronicled seven months in the day-to-day lives of the William C. Loud family of Santa Barbara, California.


First Full Female Nudity on Network TV (May 4, 1973): A broadcast on PBS of the play Steambath featured actress Valerie Perrine completely naked. PBS airs the series An American Family, about the dysfunctional Loud family.


  • Pulitzer Prize, Fiction: Eudora Welty, “The Optimist’s Daughter”
  • Pulitzer Prize, Drama: Jason Miller, “That Championship Season”
  • Nobel Prize, Literature: Patrick White, Australia

Other great works:

  • Duke Ellington, Music is My Mistress, autobiography
  • Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow
  • Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

Michael Lesy’s Wisconsin Death Trip is published, an intimate, shocking and sometimes hilarious account of the disasters that befell one small town in Wisconsin during the final decade of the 19th century. Lesy discovered a striking archive of black and white photographs in the town of Black River Falls dating from the 1890s and married a selection of these images to extracts from the town’s newspaper from the same decade. The effect was surprising and disturbing. The town of Black River Falls seemed gripped by some peculiar malaise and the weekly news was dominated by bizarre tales of madness, eccentricity and violence amongst the local population. Suicide and murder were commonplace. People in the town were haunted by ghosts, possessed by devils and terrorized by teenage outlaws and arsonists. The book was constructed entirely from authentic news reports from the Black River Falls’ newspaper with occasional excerpts from the records of the nearby Mendota Asylum for the Insane.

Marabel Morgan publishes an anti-feminist book, “The Total Woman,” in which she praised a wife who greeted her husband at the end of the day wearing an apron, stockings, heels, and nothing else.


Pulitzer prize winning Music: String Quartet No. 3, Elliott Carter Grammy awards: Record of the Year: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” Roberta Flack Album of the Year: “The Concert for Bangla Desh,” George Harrison, Ravi Shanker, Bob Dylan, Leon Russell, Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Eric Clapton and Klaus Voormann (Apple) Song of the Year: “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” Ewan MacColl, songwriter Number 1 songs on August 12, 1973:

  • U.S., “The Morning After” (from the “Poseidon Adventure”) by Maureen McGovern.
  • U.K., “I’m The Leader Of The Gang (I Am)” by Gary Glitter

Iggy Pop and The Stooges were playing at Max’s Kansas City in New York. Iggy starts table hopping on the front row, falls, and cuts himself on a broken cocktail glass. Thinking nothing of the injury, he gets back on stage and continues, despite the copious amounts of blood spurting from his rather deep laceration. The show is finally cancelled as the front row of audience members are spattered in blood. Irving Berlin gives his original manuscript of “God Bless America” to Richard Nixon. DJ Kool Herc, the first hip-hop DJ, uses two records to create “break beats” out of snippets of percussion and instrumental tracks. Paul McCartney is fined 100 Pounds for growing marijuana at his farm on the Mull of Kintyre.


Norman Rockwell bequeathes 367 pieces from his personal collection to the Norman Rockwell Art Collection Trust. This included such large-scale oil paintings as Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas, Triple Self-Portrait, The Four Freedoms, Girl at Mirror and The Marriage License, and preliminary sketches and studies in pencil, charcoal, watercolor, and oil.

“Godspell” opens. The musical is a modern-day song-and-dance recreation of the Gospel of St. Matthew

“Hot L Baltimore” opens off-Broadway in February. In the play, the actors mill about in the lobby of a dilapidated old hotel, from which the “e” in the hotel sign is missing?hence the name, Hot L Baltimore. The play is comprised of a series of conversations between the residents of the hotel, who are contemplating an uncertain future after the hotel is condemned and scheduled for demolition.

Politics & Government

  • President: Richard M. Nixon
  • Vice President: Spiro T. Agnew

Great Britain, Ireland, and Denmark enter European Economic Community (Jan. 1). President Richard Nixon, on national TV, accepts responsibility, but not blame, for the Watergate scandal; accepts resignations of advisers H. R. Haldeman and John D. Ehrlichman, fires John W. Dean III as counsel (April 30). Spiro T. Agnew resigns as vice president and then, in federal court in Baltimore, pleads no contest to charges of evasion of income taxes on $29,500 he received in 1967, while governor of Maryland. He is fined $10,000 and put on three years’ probation (Oct. 10). In the “Saturday Night Massacre,” Nixon fires special Watergate prosecutor Archibald Cox and Deputy Attorney General William D. Ruckelshaus; Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson resigns (Oct. 20). Greek military junta abolishes monarchy and proclaims republic (June 1).

Chile’s Marxist president, Salvadore Allende, is overthrown (Sept. 11) and Gen. Augusto Pinochet takes power. Ephraim Katzir becomes Israel’s fourth president. Elections for the Eighth Knesset were held. Sheik Ahmed Yassin founds the Islamic Center in Gaza and becomes a key figure in the occupied territory.


Remembering the observation of eminent jurist Mr. Justice Cardoza that all laws in western civilization are guided by a robust common sense, Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger, after quoting Cardoza, went on to write:

The sum of experience including that of the past two decades affords an ample basis for legislators to conclude that a sensitive, key relationship of human existence (central to family life, community welfare and the development of human personality) can be debased and distorted by crass commercialization of sex. Nothing in the Constitution prohibits a State from reaching such a conclusion and acting on it legislatively simply because there is no conclusive evidence or empirical data…

– Enough.org 3 In 1972, George Carlin recorded “Class Clown”; on it was a bit called “Seven Dirty Words You Can Never Say on Television”. An underlying premise of Carlin’s (which is often overtly stated) is that words are simply symbols, and inherently not harmful. There are no naughty words, Carlin asserts, only naughty ideas. On October 30, 1973, Paul Gorman, a DJ at Pacifica Radio Station WBAI, aired Carlin’s “Seven Dirty Words” during a daytime slot of his show, issuing a disclaimer that those who might be offended by strong language should tune away. John H. Douglas, a planning board member of Morality in Media, was driving with his young son at the time, heard the disclaimer, but decided to listen anyway. In a letter of complaint to the FCC enforcement bureau dated November 28, 1973, Douglas expressed concern that his 12-year-old son heard parts of the Carlin routine. While Douglas acknowledged that Carlin’s monologue had some social value and that he understood selling the record for private use, the complaint alleged the WBAI broadcast was inappropriate for children to hear during the middle of the day. The great irony, that the Carlin’s routine is itself about censorship, was apparently lost on the Supreme Court, who decided this case on July 3, 1978. Pacifica lost. – BC Voice 4 US Supreme Court rules on Roe v. Wade.(Jan. 22) In the landmark 1973 case “Miller v. California,” US Supreme Court rules that communities around the country had the right to apply local standards in deciding what is considered obscene. That was back in the day when most pornography was bought at sex stores or viewed in adult theaters, and when community was defined largely by geography. According to CNN’s 5 Jeordan Legon, modern technology like VCRs and the Internet have revolutionized the concepts of locality and threaten modern definitions of obscenity.


In the 1973 Belmont Stakes, Secretariat (the remarkable horse) capped a Triple Crown sweep, the first in 25 years, coming off a mind-boggling 31-length win.

  • Super Bowl: Miami d. Washington (14-7)
  • World Series: Oakland A’s d. NY Mets (4-3)
  • NBA Championship: New York d. LA Lakers (4-1)
  • Stanley Cup: Montreal d. Chicago (4-2)
  • Wimbledon Champions: (Women) Billie Jean King d. C. Evert (6-0 7-5), (Men) Jan Kodes d. A. Metreveli (6-1 9-8 6-3)
  • Kentucky Derby Champion: Secretariat
  • NCAA Basketball Championship: UCLA d. Memphis St. (87-66)
  • NCAA Football Champions: Notre Dame (AP, FW, NFF) (11-0-0) & Alabama (UPI) (11-1-0)
  • The start of a 4-year consecutive Big Ten championship by Bob Knight’s Hoosiers, led by Scott May and Quinn Buckner.


Bill Gothard’s Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts was founded. J. I. Packer, in his classic 1973 lecture, “The Logic of Penal Substitution: What Did the Cross Achieve?” outlined three sets of theories, or visions. Each vision sees humanity’s main problem differently, and each theory explains how Christ’s death solves that problem.

Military & War

Israel defeats Arabs in Yom Kippur War (or Ramadan War) 6. US and North Vietnam sign peace agreement (Paris Peace Treaty) A ceasefire is signed, ending involvement of American ground troops in the Vietnam War. (Jan. 28). US bombing of Cambodia ends, marking official halt to 12 years of combat activity in Southeast Asia (Aug. 15). Yom Kippur War: Fourth and largest Arab-Israeli conflict begins when Egypt and Syria launch a coordinated surprise attack on Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the holiest day in the Jewish calendar (Oct. 6). The attack is repulsed by Israel after fierce fighting and heavy losses. Egypt and Israel sign US-sponsored cease-fire accord (Nov. 11). Israel’s military attache in Washington killed by terrorists. A Libyan civilian plane is erroneously downed by the IDF in Sinai.


W.H. Auden 7, poet and author. His poem “Funeral Blues” was read in the funeral scene of the film “Four Weddings and a Funeral.” His famous poem “September 1, 1939” was a response to Germany’s invasion of Poland.

Pearl S. Buck (March 6th), author. She won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1938, and wrote The Good Earth. Quote:

The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.

Betty Grable (July 2nd), actress

Pablo Picasso (April 8th), artist

Edware G. Robinson (January 26th), actor. He starred in “Double Indemnity” and was cleared of allegations of communist affiliation after testifying for the HUAAC (House Un-American Activities Committee).

Lyndon Baines Johnson (January 22nd), 36th US President

J.R.R. Tolkien (2 September), writer of The Lord of the Rings trilogy

Bruce Lee (July 20th), martial arts actor

David Ben-Gurion, first Israeli prime minister, regarded as the father of the State of Israel

Henry Darger (April 13), reclusive American writer and illustrator, famous for his posthumously-discovered 15,143-page fantasy manuscript called The Story of the Vivian Girls, in What is known as the Realms of the Unreal, of the Glandeco-Angelinnian War Storm, Caused by the Child Slave Rebellion 8


Saffron Burrows (January 1st), actress

Kate Beckinsale (26 July), actress

Omar Epps (23 July), actor

Stephen Dorff (29 July), actor


Construction on the World Trade Center twin towers is completed (April 4th).


Marty Cooper 9 invented the mobile phone and placed the first mobile phone call in 1973.

The “anthropic principle” was proposed by theoretical physicist Brandon Carter during the symposium “Confrontation of Cosmological Theories with Observational Data” in Kraków celebrating Copernicus’ 500th birthday, as if to proclaim that humanity does hold a special place in the universe after all. In his contribution “Large Number Coincidences and the Anthropic Principle in Cosmology” Carter remarks: “Although our situation is not necessarily central, it is inevitably privileged to some extent” 10.

Cohen and Boyer pioneer recombinant DNA techniques.

In December, homosexuality was deleted from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders and hence the sexual orientation was forever depathologized.

Nobel Prize, Chemistry: Ernst Otto Fischer (W. Germany) and Geoffrey Wilkinson (UK), for work that could solve problem of automobile exhaust pollution.

Nobel Prize, Physics: Ivar Giaever (US), Leo Esaki (Japan), and Brian D. Josephson (UK), for theories that have advanced and expanded the field of miniature electronics.

Nobel Prize, Physiology or Medicine: Karl von Frisch, Konrad Lorenz (both Austria), and Nikolaas Tinbergen (Netherlands), for their studies of individual and social behavior patterns Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) is designed and in 1983 it becomes the standard for communicating between computers over the Internet.

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR), the technology behind MRI scanning, is developed. Skylab, the first American space station, is launched (May 14).

Bic invents the disposable lighter.

Members of the Marin County Canyon in California invents the mountain bike.

Don Knuth promises to deliver a dozen volumes on the “Art of Programming”; the first three turn out to be the “bibles” of software development for many years, containing many of the basic algorithms of the field that became known as “data structures” and many of the techniques of programming that would become the basis of “software engineering”.

While the concept of a wide area network had been effectively developed as a part of the ARPANet project, the basis for a “local area net” was Ethernet, created at Xerox PARC by Robert Metcalfe. In some ways Metcalfe invented Ethernet three times, the first time as part of his dissertation at MIT (as part of Project MAC), at Xerox PARC, and then again later at 3COM, a company he founded to exploit his invention.

Twenty-seven years after the unveiling of the ENIAC, and many years after the US Patent Office had issued the patent for the computer to Eckert and Mauchly, the Judge Earl Larson of the US District Court in Minneapolis invalidated it.

In a suit between Honeywell Information Systems and Sperry-Rand Corp. regarding the payment of royalties for the use of the concept of the computer, Larson found that Mauchly had derived his ideas for the computer from “one, John Vincent Atanasoff”. Neither Eckert nor Mauchly ever gave up their opposition to this finding, believing that their invention was true. For many this was the first time they had heard of the work of Atanasoff, or of the ABC.

Roger Sperry discovers the bicameral physiology of the human brain (localized thought processing in right and left hemispheres).

Economics & Business

US GDP (1998 dollars): $1,382.60 billion

Federal spending: $245.71 billion

Federal debt: $466.3 billion

Median Household Income (current dollars): $10,512

Consumer Price Index: 44.4

Unemployment: 5.6%

Cost of a first-class stamp: $0.08

Great Britain, Ireland, and Denmark enter European Economic Community (Jan. 1).

Federal Express begins operations in April.

Oil prices hiked tremendously by Persian Gulf states in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in retaliation for Western countries’ involvement in the Yom Kippur War. The shock waves permanently altered the political landscape, reshaping geopolitical strategies, chief of which was the collapse of the USSR. It ushered in a new era of mass unemployment and of so-called ‘stagflation’, and hammered living standards for more than a generation. Above all, the first Oil Shock put an end forever to hopes of true development in the recently-decolonialised Third World. It was realized that oil was the only essential commodity, basic to the world energy system. Because oil is denominated in dollars, one of the immediate effects of an oil shock is therefore to strengthen the USA. After 1973, manipulating the value of the dollar became a key way that the US used to restore its strategic hegemony in the world and to overcome some of its own problems, principally a serious balance of payments deficit.


Two men robbed a bank in Stockholm. They held four people hostage for six days. Swedish psychiatrist and criminologist Nils Bejerot coined the term “Stockholm Syndrome” to describe the response of the hostages. One of the bank robbers, Clark Olofsson, told us, “It was fun.”


FactMonster’s 1973 data was vital for this work, as was Information Please’s Internet Encyclopedia


  1. all population data taken from the online U.S. Census Bureau
  2. relied heavily on The Internet Movie Database (IMDb) and Scifilm
  3. Enough is Enough
  4. BC Voice
  5. CNN.com
  6. Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  7. The W.H. Auden Society
  8. see Wikipedia for more
  9. Gizmodo review of the OpenMoko
  10. Wikipedia‘s entry on the anthropic principle

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