Some in our baby boomer generation call it the greatest musical event of our time. But whether or not it was the greatest, arguably it was the most formative. “It,” of course, is Woodstock. In a piece for BoomerCafé, Michael Murphy makes the case that the sounds of Woodstock still ring in our ears.
More than 40 years ago, organizers hoped to attract 50,000 attendees to a music festival outside of Woodstock, New York, to raise enough money to build a music studio there, close to where Bob Dylan and other performers lived. They secured a location in nearby Wallkill, then got a permit, printed tickets, and spread the word. Until things went wrong.
Local residents, fearing a deluge of hippies, rescinded the permit, leaving organizers to find a new location just weeks before the start of the festival. That’s when they met Max Yasgur and the rest, as they say, is history. Woodstock history.
Far more than 50,000 showed up for “Three Days of Peace and Music.” Estimates go as high as half-a-million. Roads were clogged. Not even performers could get in. Organizers persuaded Richie Havens to take the stage before an impatient crowd. Country Joe McDonald, not scheduled to perform with his band until the third day, reluctantly followed Havens. Later, John Sebastian, who wasn’t even on the Woodstock program, was persuaded to perform acoustically while electrical equipment was salvaged from the torrential rains.
In spite of the rain, mud, and power shortages, attendees persevered. Perhaps Wavy Gravy said it best when he took the stage and proclaimed, “We must be in heaven, man.”
Woodstock is relevant today, not just because of the great performances four decades ago. The music lives on because many performers still tour and continue to share their Sixties messages of social consciousness and activism.
In the past few years, I’ve attended concerts by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and by Arlo Guthrie. They still sound great, and their music is as relevant today as it was in the Sixties.
This year, Country Joe is paying tribute to Woody Guthrie’s hundredth birthday, and he’s working on an album. John Sebastian recently concluded one. Roger Daltrey and Peter Townsend of The Who continue to perform. So does Joe Cocker. The Grateful Dead, minus Jerry Garcia, still wow the deadheads of the world.
Credence Clearwater Revival and John Fogerty record and perform, separately of course. Carlos Santana’s career took off again in 2000, and he picked up his tenth Grammy. Jefferson Airplane’s Grace Slick retired from performing in 1988 and paints professionally.
Many of us mourn the loss of Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Garcia, and sixteen other Woodstock performers, but we can rejoice that so many of the greats continue with their music. The “Three Days of Peace and Music” lasted much longer. This August 15-18 will be forty-three years.
Category: Boomer Lifestyle