Home Decades 1990s 1991



08 – Def Leppard guitarist Steve Clark dies from a cocktail of drugs and alcohol at his home in Chelsea, London, UK.

15 – The UN-authorised, US-led “Operation Desert Storm” begins in Kuwait with an all-out air attack. Iraq responds by attacking Israel (which had taken no military action against Iraq).

18 – Three teenagers die in the crush during an AC/DC concert at Salt Palace Arena, Salt Lake City, Utah.

25 – The AIDS death toll hits 100,000 with over 161,000 cases reported since 1981.

27 – New York Giants defeat Buffalo Bills 20 – 9 at Super Bowl XXV in Tampa, Florida. A failed last-minute scoring attempt by Bills placekicker Scott Norwood ushers in a run of Super Bowl disappointments for the Bills.


01 – One aeroplane lands on top of another at Los Angeles International Airport and 35 people are killed. An investigation shows that a flight controller had forgotten about the small plane on the runway.

07 – The IRA launch a mortar bomb attack on 10 Downing Street during a cabinet meeting. The three bombs – fired from a van on a nearby street corner – land in the back garden, 40 feet from the building.

24 – Coalition forces launch a ground-based attack, code-named ‘Desert Storm’. They regain Kuwait City.

26 – Saddam Hussein orders the withdrawal of Iraqi troops from Kuwait.

27 – After three days of ground offensive, Desert Storm troops rout the Iraqi forces in Kuwait. 146 American troops are killed in the fighting, 467 are wounded. Withdrawing Iraqi troops torch Kuwait’s oil wells causing fires which take months to extinguish and cause great economic and environmental damage to the region.

27 – James Brown is paroled from prison after serving two years of his six-year sentence.

28 – President George Bush calls a cease-fire in Iraq, announcing the end of the Gulf War. Abandoned vehicles of all kinds litter the road between Kuwait City and Basra, dubbed the “Highway of Death” where Iraqi soldiers tried to flee Kuwait.

28 – Christian Brando, the 33-year old son of screen legend Marlon Brando, is convicted of the murder of Dag Drollet, the boyfriend of his half-sister, Cheyenne.


02 – French singer/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg dies in Paris of a heart attack, aged 62.

03 – After leading Los Angeles police on a car chase of several miles, black motorist Rodney King is arrested and severely beaten by four LAPD officers. The incident is captured on videotape by bystander George Holliday and shown repeatedly on news programs across the US (and the world).

11 – A curfew is imposed on black townships in South Africa after fighting between political gangs leaves 49 dead.

13 – Oil firm Exxon agrees to pay $1 billion in fines for the oil spill from its tanker the Exxon Valdez in Alaska in 1989.

14 – In the UK, the Birmingham Six are freed after 16 years of wrongful imprisonment for an IRA pub bombing. One of the six, Paddy Hill, tells a waiting crowd: “we have been used as political scapegoats. The police told us from the start they knew we hadn’t done it. They didn’t care who had done it”.

16 – Seven members of Country singer Reba McEntire’s backing band and her road manager are killed in a plane crash when their charter jet plane crashes near San Diego, California. The pilot and co-pilot are also killed.

20 – Eric Clapton‘s four-year-old son, Conor, falls from the 53rd-floor window of a New York apartment and dies.

21 – Leo Fender, inventor of the Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars, dies at the age of 82 at home in Fullerton, California.


01 – The US Supreme Court rules that jurors can no longer be barred from serving on the grounds of their race.

04 – The US Environmental Protection Agency announces that the ozone layer over America is being depleted at twice the rate previously thought.

14 – 20 paintings are stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Holland, but are recovered 35 minutes later when they are discovered in an abandoned car.

16 – Seventy tornadoes touch down in seven states of the US Midwest and Southwest killing 23 people.

17 – The Dow Jones Industrial Average closes above 3,000 for the first time ever, having recovered from a value of 1,738 following the 1987 stock market crash.

20 – Steve Marriot of The Small Faces dies in a fire at his cottage in Arkesden, Essex, at the age of 44.

23 – Johnny Thunders, formerly of the New York Dolls and The Heartbreakers, dies in St Peter’s House Hotel in New Orleans, Louisiana. He is 38. Although a drug overdose was assumed, an autopsy failed to confirm a cause of death.


15 – Edith Cresson becomes the first woman prime minister of France.

16 – Queen Elizabeth II makes a speech in the US Congress. She is the first British monarch to address the US Congress.

21 – Former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi is campaigning for re-election in Madras, India, when he is killed by a bomb hidden in a bouquet of flowers.


08 – A victory parade is held in Washington to honour returned veterans of the Gulf War.

12 – Boris Yeltsin becomes the first elected president of Russia (as opposed to the president of the Soviet Union), with a 57% share of the vote.

15 – The largest land volcano eruption in living history shakes the Philippine island of Luzon as Mount Pinatubo, a formerly unassuming lump of jungle-covered slopes, blows its top. Ash falls as far away as Singapore, and in the year to follow, volcanic particles in the atmosphere lower global temperatures by an average of 0.9 degrees Fahrenheit (0.5 degrees Celsius). 

17 – The parliament of South Africa repeals the Population Registration Act – the act that required all South Africans to be classified by race at birth.

21 – Outside a Los Angeles supermarket, rapper Vanilla Ice and his bodyguard are arrested for carrying concealed weapons.

27 – Thurgood Marshall, the first black US Supreme Court justice, resigns after 24 years on the bench.


05 – Regulators shut down the Pakistani-managed Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) in eight countries, for fraud, drug money laundering and illegal infiltration of the US banking system.

10 – President Bush lifts US economic sanctions against South Africa, as a result of its progress towards racial equality.

11 – The longest solar eclipse for 141 years takes place. Best viewed from the Baja Peninsula in Mexico, it lasts for 6 minutes and 52 seconds.

22 – Serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer is arrested in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, for killing, dismembering, and possibly eating at least 17 people. Dahmer confesses to the sex-related killings and received 15 consecutive life sentences. In 1994, Dahmer is beaten to death in prison by a fellow inmate.

22 – Miss Black America contestant Desiree Washington accuses boxer Mike Tyson of rape in an Indianapolis hotel room. Tyson is later convicted and sent to prison for three years.

27 – Pee Wee Herman (Paul Rubens) is arrested in Sarasota for indecent behaviour in an adult movie cinema.

31 – Bush and Gorbachev sign a nuclear arms reduction treaty in Moscow. The START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) agreement calls for the Soviet Union to reduce its number of nuclear warheads from 10,841 to 8,040 within the next decade, while the US will reduce its stockpile from 12,081 to 10,395.


02 – Funk star Rick James is arrested and charged with torturing a woman during a bizarre three-day orgy at his Hollywood home.

06 – Tim Berners-Lee releases files describing his idea for the World Wide Web.

08 – John McCarthy, a British television producer, is finally released by Lebanese kidnappers after being held captive for more than five years.

11 – American Edward Tracey is released by his Shiite Muslim kidnappers after almost five years in captivity.

25 – Michael Schumacher makes his Formula 1 debut in the Belgian Grand Prix. He retires on the first lap but goes on to become one of the greatest drivers of all time.


02 – America grants full diplomatic recognition to Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, signifying their independence from the USSR.

04 – Country singer Dottie West dies at the age of 58 from injuries received in a car accident five days ago.

12 – The space shuttle Discovery is launched on a mission to release an observatory to study the Earth’s ozone layer.

16 – A Federal judge in Washington dismisses the Iran-Contra charges against Oliver North.

17 – The United Nations General Assembly opens its 46th session. New members are Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, North and South Korea, Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.

1991_otzi19 – Two hikers in the Alps discover a 5,000-year-old frozen mummified corpse, christened Ötzi (pictured at right) after the Ötztal region in which he is discovered.

24 – Theodor Seuss Geisel dies at the age of 87. He is better known as children’s author Dr Seuss.

27 – President Bush announces a large unilateral cut in nuclear weapons. According to Bush, all shipboard tactical weapons in Europe and Asia would be eliminated, and long-range bombers and intercontinental missiles will no longer be on 24-hour alert. Gorbachev announces a similar reduction a week later.

28 – Legendary jazz trumpeter Miles Davis dies at the age of 65, in Santa Monica, California.


06 – Elizabeth Taylor marries for the eighth time. This time her husband is former builder Larry Fortensky. The wedding takes place at Michael Jackson’s ranch.

08 – A slave burial site, closed in 1790, is rediscovered by construction workers in lower Manhattan.

15 – After a series of bitter and ugly hearings, Clarence Thomas is narrowly confirmed as the new Supreme Court Justice by the US Senate. Thomas has been accused of sexual harassment by black law professor Anita Hill, who was in turn viciously interrogated by several conservative senators during the televised confirmation proceedings. Though she was unable to block Thomas’s appointment, Hill’s testimony goes a long way towards increasing awareness about sexual harassment in the workplace.

16 – A man drives a pickup truck through the window of Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, and begins firing at diners. He kills 22 people before turning his gun on himself when police arrive on the scene. The 35-year old man, George Jo Hennard, lived alone in the town of Belton, 20 miles away. Following the massacre, Texas changed its laws to allow citizens to carry concealed firearms on their person.

17 – Tennessee Ernie Ford dies, 36 years to the day after the release of his biggest hit, Sixteen Tons.

25 – US rock impresario (and founder of the Fillmore Theatre in San Francisco) Bill Graham dies at the age of 60 – killed in a helicopter crash on the way back from a Huey Lewis gig he had been promoting in California. His girlfriend, Melissa Gold, is also killed.


03 – Israeli and Palestinian representatives hold their first ever face-to-face talks, in Madrid, Spain.

05 – The body of newspaper baron Robert Maxwell is found floating in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Tenerife. Subsequent investigations reveal that he was $4 billion in debt and had stolen nearly $2 billion from the pension funds of his companies.

07 – Basketball player Magic Johnson announces he has tested positive for AIDS and is retiring from the game.

21 – President Bush signs the Civil Rights Act of 1991, which makes it easier to sue employers on the grounds of discrimination.

24 – Freddie Mercury, flamboyant frontman of British rock group Queen, dies the day after announcing that he is HIV positive. A tribute concert in April 1992 is attended by over 70,000 people and raises money for AIDS charities.


03 – John Sununu, President Bush‘s unpopular chief of staff, resigns after months of controversy over his use of military aircraft for personal trips.

04 – Associated Press correspondent Terry Anderson is released after nearly seven years in captivity in Lebanon.

04 – Pan American World Airways – better known as ‘Pan Am’ – ceases operations due to financial problems.

21 – 11 former Soviet states found the Confederation of Independent States, effectively dissolving the USSR.

25 – Mikhail Gorbachev resigns.

26 – The Supreme Soviet meets in Moscow and officially dissolves itself.