Cultural Landmarks Tied to Population Marks A quick pop-culture survey of what was going on when the U.S. population hit 100 million in 1915, and 200 million in 1967: What were people reading? What were they listening to? What were they naming their babies? And what constituted a musical hit in those years? It's far different from today's No. 1 single in the United States.
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Cultural Landmarks Tied to Population Marks

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Cultural Landmarks Tied to Population Marks

Cultural Landmarks Tied to Population Marks

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Here's some help to get your mind around those big population markers. In 1915, when there were 100 million of us, Woodrow Wilson was the president. People were flocking to silent movies such as Birth of a Nation, and while the Great War was raging in Europe, Americans were singing this popular British time.

(Soundbite of music)

(Soundbite of song, “Respect”)

SIEGEL: Well, flash forward to 1967, when we broke 200 million. Lyndon Johnson was the president, Aretha Franklin burned up the pop charts with Respect and Thurgood Marshall joined the Supreme Court. The Super Bowl was played for the first time, bringing roman numerals back into fashion and people were watching The Andy Griffith Show on television.

(Soundbite of song, “Sexy Back”)

SIEGEL: This year, people are digital recording their favorite programs, Gray's Anatomy or Dancing with the Stars, and watching when they want to, sometimes on high definition on TV. Justin Timberlake, whom you're listening to - you of course knew that already - is hot right now. I've never heard this song before, but it is the nation's number one pop single and it's called Sexy Back.

(Soundbite of song, “Sexy Back”)

Mr. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE (Singer): (Singing) I'm bringing sexy back. Them other boys don't know how to act. I think your special what's behind your back.

SIEGEL: As one of the 300 million, I can listen to it on my iPod and even download it as a ringtone if I want to. As someone who would be 96 when we're projected to hit 400 million, in 2043, I'd say we're more likely to play Aretha Franklin than Justin Timberlake on that day's ALL THINGS CONSIDERED.

(Soundbite of song, “Sexy Back”)

SIEGEL: And you can find out how demographers calculate population and hear a sampling of what your fellow citizens think the population is, currently, at our Web site, NPR.org.

(Soundbite of song, “Sexy Back”)

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