August 15 marks the anniversary of the “3 Days of Peace & Music” held in 1969 at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in the rural town of Bethel, New York, southwest of the village of Woodstock. This outdoor music event, despite thundershowers, gave voice to the counterculture youth generation of its time. A documentary film followed it in 1970 and a top-selling soundtrack album.
I’d like to share with you what it was like to be at the Woodstock Rock Festival — the music, the crowds “half a million strong,” the rain, the muddy roads, the traffic jams, the counterculture vibe, the media coverage, the movie film crew, the atmosphere, the awareness of its own importance, the sense of history in the making:
- What it was like to hear Jimi Hendrix electrically and psychedelically reinterpret the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner.
- To experience the frenetic exuberance of The Who as they defined a new youth anthem with We’re Not Gonna Take It and My Generation.
- What it was like to hear the newly formed supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young say, “This is only the second time we’ve performed in front of people; we’re scared s***less!”
- To describe to you what it was like to participate in “peace, love, and rock & roll.”
I’d like to do this, but I wasn’t there. However, I do remember when it occurred. And of course, who hasn’t seen the 1970 Academy Award-winning documentary movie — edited by a young Martin Scorsese?
Woodstock, the Event
Over fifty years ago, 400,000 Baby Boomers attended one of the defining moments of American post-modernism. While The Beatles may have introduced post-modernism earlier in the ’60s, Woodstock pulled together many distinctively American voices. This music festival was called “An Aquarian Exposition,” though it now may feel more like the “dawning of the aging of Aquarius.”
Here were the performers, 32 different acts performed over the course of the four days, in Yasgur’s field, from Friday to the morning of Monday — with a few of my comments: