In the summer of ’69, a whole lotta stuff was going on! Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the start of the Woodstock Festival. It started on a Friday and lasted an entire magical, mud-soaked weekend, a special moment in time, a snapshot of a generation, a decade, and 1969.
The TV news was filled with reports about the festival, including the closing of the New York thruway, and it became the signature event for a generation. It was spontaneous and one-of-a-kind, as subsequent attempts to recapture the spirit of those three days has never worked. You can’t plan to catch lightning-in-a-bottle.
Sure, you can say everyone was too stoned to cause trouble. You can sneer at the sexism, homophobia, and racism of the anti-war movement, but that is pretty much the situation for all movements made up of humans. Some ‘isms’ were worse than others, some a whole lot better than society in general.
The anti-war movement was based on self-interest: a whole lotta guys didn’t want to go to Vietnam and become part of the meat grinder. Nothing wrong with that.
It also did try to create something new, something better, and music was a big part of that. It was, in the days of pre-Internet and cellphones and everything else, an event that grew from simple word-of-mouth and the old-fashioned telephone.
There was a real sense of community among the festival-goers, people going out of their way to enjoy life and help others as so many unexpected thousands caused some problems, including heavy rains that turned everything to mud. In a world of war and riots and anger, people enjoyed peace and camaraderie and love.
The ideal never quite measures up to reality, but for three days on Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York, it came pretty close.
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