Will’s Thoughts On The 50th Anniversary Of Woodstock
Next year (2019) is the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair (informally known as Woodstock, or The Woodstock Festival). Woodstock was a music festival, billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music”. It took place from August 15th to August 18th, 1969, out on Max Yasgur’s six hundred acre dairy farm, in the Catskills near the town of Bethel, New York. Rolling Stone magazine said the Woodstock festival was one of the ‘50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll’. Organizers expected no more than 50,000 attendees, but what happened, no one could have predicted. While there have been other music festivals, there has never been another one that receives the reverence that Woodstock does. In many ways, it was a pivotal point in modern history, in the U.S., and worldwide.
For three days, over half a million people lived elbow to elbow at Woodstock, in the most exposed, crowded, rain-drenched and uncomfortable kind of community possible, yet there was not so much as a fist fight. The movie ‘Woodstock’, released in 1970, was the biggest blockbuster of its time, and, for many viewers in rural areas, it was the their first ‘up close and personal’ look at the Hippie movement (those long haired, freaky people, who preached love, peace and got stoned). Up until that point, Hippies were just an emerging subculture. But, after Woodstock, the movement spread across the face of the planet. Middle fingers were joined by first fingers to form peace signs, people finally began protesting war, environmental consciousness was born and the entire health food industry began. Woodstock was also one of the few times where police wisely stayed on the sidelines, refusing to intervene unless it was necessary, though drugs were openly being used right in front of them.
I was still a teenager when Woodstock occurred, and I joined millions of others who began looking at themselves through rose colored glasses. In our minds, we were societal rebels, stoned noble knights and maidens who were out to change the world. We hitchhiked everywhere, crashed on couches whenever and wherever we could, and bummed food, smokes, tokes and money constantly. We believed that our long hair was a symbol of a global brother and sisterhood, and was a statement to the world that change was at hand. In our minds, we were all beautiful people, spreading a beautiful message. However, the reality was that most of us were really a bunch of lazy stoners, usually unemployed and on welfare, who were leeches needlessly straining the resources of society.
That said, I still have fond memories of lying in parks on sunny days, in awe of nature’s beauty, listening to musicians, smoking pot and drinking sweet strawberry wine. It was a time of humanity when change was so tangible that you could almost touch it, when optimism was a way of life, and yet there was always an undercurrent of sadness, because we all instinctively knew it was not destined to last. Yep, I reckon Woodstock will always hold a special place in my heart, and those of millions of people. Woodstock was not only the greatest rock concert ever held, it used peace, love and rock and roll to change the world. Happy anniversary Woodstock, and thanks!
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