BABY BOOMER BABBLE
Woodstock, 40 years later
Woodstock. The crowning glory of the hippie era. Actually, Woodstock was not held in Woodstock. It took place in Bethel, New York, which is about 40 miles from Woodstock. Woodstock definitely sounds better, so it was probably a good decision to use that name.
The Woodstock Music and Art Festival was held on August 15-18, 1969. It ended up being attended by approximately 400,000 people. I, unfortunately, was not one of them. I had just returned from spending my twenty-first birthday in Florida, on spring break. By the time we got home, I was broke. Also, on my return, I started going out with my eventual wife. It didn't seem like a good idea to head to New York and skinny dip with a bunch of naked girls. I was trying to make a good impression.
Woodstock ended up being a combination of good music, protest, and just plain fun, which was an excellent hippie combination. The slogan became “Three Days of Love and Peace.” Anti-war sentiment was high, and the music was the best of the times, so it seems like a good time was pretty much had by all. The event has been romanticized as a culminating moment in the hippie movement. Four-hundred thousand flower children, gathered in one place, to listen to the best music of the day and make a little love. I fail to see the harm in that.
The list of musicians who played at Woodstock is a who's who in early folk and rock music. Richie Havens opened the festival, followed by Country Joe McDonald; Arlo Guthrie; Joan Baez; Tim Hardin; John Sebastian; Santana; Canned Heat; Mountain; Janis Joplin; Sly and the Family Stone; Grateful Dead; Creedence Clearwater Revival; The Who; Jefferson Airplane; Joe Cocker; The Band; Blood, Sweat, and Tears; Johnny Winter; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; Paul Butterfield; Jimi Hendrix; and a whole host of lesser known artists. This is quite a distinguished list. And the best part of it all, it was free. Well, sort of. Actually, it was to be a money making affair, and some tickets were sold in advance, but due to the large crowd, most people entered for free. They had no idea so many people would attend, so crowd control was next to impossible. Early attendees tore the ticket stands down. A majority of that 400,000 went in for free.
Today, the site of Woodstock is marked with a monument to the festival. They say tens of thousands of people go there each year just to look and try to imagine 400,000 people living for three days in a mud-covered field, enduring horrible weather, having the time of their lives. I'm going to go there myself one of these days, just to finally be able to say I was there.
The 40th anniversary of Woodstock was just held on Aug. 15-16 on the original site, now the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. About 15,000 people showed up. Once again, I was not one of them. Some things I guess are just not meant to be. Anyway, Happy 40th to one of the biggest hippy happenings of the day.