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WOODSTOCK 1969 - 40th Anniversary of a Hippie Happening

Something unusual happened on August 15th, 1969. Something that has become legend in American pop culture. Wrapped in the fantasies of four decades of baby boomer memories and shrouded by the mists of an entire generation of flower children, a simple music festival became a major part of American pop culture history.

Originally billed as "An Aquarian Exposition" and slated for the dates August 15th through the 17th, it turned into four days (ending on the 18th) of free music and free love that became the Music Camelot to peaceniks and hippies the world over. Thirty two bands and singers ended up performing on that stage in Max Yasgur's farm in Sullivan County, New York in what would become the greatest music event ever. We were stardust, we were golden, we were at Woodstock.

Nearly half a million people attended and I accidentally became one of them. The summer of 1969 had already been a historic year for me, I graduated from high school and then I watched as Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. I did not consider myself a hippie, I was simply an eighteen year old girl living in "interesting times" and trying to grow up. I was having some difficulties with that and some issues with my parent's vision of my future when a couple of friends invited me to "drop out of all that establishment stress and go to this groovy concert we heard about in New York". With nothing better to do before starting college the next month - and never having been to the Big Apple - I said, "Why not?", packed my duffel bag and hopped into their "Magic Bus" on August 11th, 1969.



It took us four and a half days to get there and we were late. By the time we arrived the "impromptu" concert was already packed with what looked like half the hippies in the country and they were stoned, dancing, painted up and decked out in feathers, beads, flowers and fringe or just plain naked as a jay bird! The visual experience itself was almost psychedelic and the smoky haze of thousands of joints brought another level of "alternate reality" to the impact. It had also rained and we were standing in mud that promised to suck the shoes off our feet, which is probably why most people were barefoot! Instead of seeing the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty I had landed smack dab in the middle of the biggest, muddiest, most rockin' party of modern history. And I was scared to death and excited at the same time.

Wax nostalgic all you want about it, the fact of the matter was Woodstock was an outdoor concert, held on a rain soaked weekend, on a cow field that turned to mud, with no bathrooms, no food stands and no emergency facilities that was filled with half a million stoned, cavorting teenagers whose only beliefs were sex, drugs and rock and roll. It also had the best line up of music legends ever assembled in one place at one time. It was a once in a lifetime event and it was phenomenal.

I'm not going to tell you Woodstock changed my life because it didn't. I'm not going to give you a blow by blow of my three and a half days in a hot and cold, muddy, upstate New York cow pasture. As I look back forty years later I am glad I went. I was a part of history and part of something magical - even though I couldn't see it at the time. I may not have enjoyed the marijuana hazed air, the mud, the lack of decent facilities or the lack of food and I might not have been able to hear half the now famous acts (though I did shove my way up for Janis, Jimi, CCR and a few others!) but I can say I was there when it happened.

No, Woodstock did not change my life per se, but it took a good chunk of the "midwestern" out of me! I was never a "merry prankster" or a hippy/flowerchild and attending Woodstock did not turn me into one. But I will tell you this, when I get to heaven and Jimi Hendrix asks me, "are you experienced?" I can answer "Yes."

"By the time we got to Woodstock we were half a million strong":


Some Interesting Woodstock facts and trivia:
  • Rolling Stone magazine listed it in their 50 moments that changed Rock and Roll History
  • Woodstock took place in Bethel, New York - not Woodstock.
  • Woodstock was not an "impromptu" event - it was planned and the men behind the magic were Michael Lang, John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, and Artie Kornfeld.
  • Woodstock was planned as a money making event and only became a "free concert" after the crowd grew too large for the originally anticipated and hoped for crowd of 200,000.
  • Some people actually paid for this "free concert" - nearly 186,000 tickets were pre sold for $18. The price at the gate was supposed to be $24.
  • The UAWMF purposely cut the fence and turned it into a free concert. You might want to click that acronym to find out exactly what UAWMF is - anyone else remember them?
  • The massive numbers showing up ended up closing down the New York State Thruway.
  • There were two recorded deaths (one from a purported heroin overdose and another from an occupied sleeping bag accidentally being run over by a tractor in a nearby hayfield) and two births at the event.
  • The concert was originally planned to take place in Mills Industrial Park. Can you imagine Crosby Stills and Nash singing a song entitled: Mills Industrial Park?
  • The original location was chosen partly in hopes of lulling Bob Dylan (who lived nearby in the actual town of Woodstock!) out of seclusion - it didn't work (see below)

The Woodstock Music Acts in order of their appearance:
Richie Havens
Sweetwater
The Incredible String Band
Bert Commer
Tim Hardon
Ravi Shankar
Melanie
Arlo Guthrie
Joan Baez
Quill
Keef Hartley Band
Country Joe McDonald
John Sebastian
Santana
Canned Heat
Mountain
Grateful Dead
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Janis Joplin and the Kozmic Blues Band
Sly & The Family Stone
The Who
Jefferson Airplane
Joe Cocker
Country Joe and the Fish
Ten Years After
The Band
Blood, Sweat & Tears
Johnny Winter
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Sha Na Na
Jimi Hendrix

Those you might think were there but weren't:
The Doors
Led Zeppelin
Jethro Tull
The Byrds
Bob Dylan
The Moody Blues
Joni Mitchell

Some Woodstock links you'll want to explore:
How Woodstock Happened
Woodstock 1969: Mud, music and merriment
Woodstock '69
Forty Years Later. . .
Fun Woodstock Squidoo Lens
Woodstock Photo Gallery





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17 comments:

  1. Wow, Pop Art! What a retrospective and vicarious thrill. I've always secretly wished I had gone to Woodstock. When it happened, I was only 3 weeks into my first professional job as a social worker. My responsible little Capricorn Moon would not allow me such frivolity, nor could I even consider asking for time off that early into a new job. I get a real feeling of the event from this post. The one thing I'm not sorry I missed is the mud and muck. What an experience!

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  2. First, ah hah! you have a Capricorn moon - there's where we really connect - works nicely with my Capricorn sun,eh? Whatcha got in Aries and Aquarius?? LOL.

    Yes, I woke up and realized that 40 years ago today I packed my bags - was ready to go though I didn't leave on a jet plane, I left in a hippie bus - and headed off to a famous adventure!

    I guess I shall be playing all the golden oldies from those musicians this week!!

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  3. What a blast from the past! Thanks for all the info! I didn't make it to Woodstock, but I sure wish I had!

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  4. bettyl - even after all the info about rain, mud and packed stinky bodies, you still wish you'd gone?? Ok, I'm glad I went but if given the choice today....hmmmmm....not without a packed RV complete with full fridge, shower, kitchen and toilet!

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  5. I had no idea you were at Woodstock, but I'm not surprised. You are a venture out kind of gal.

    I watched a special on Woodstock on TV the other night. It was quite the event; not sure if it was a good one or not. I'll take your word for it.

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  6. Pam - good to see you here again! As far as Woodstock goes - let's face it, it was the biggest concert ever and I'm glad I was there.

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  7. wow. being an art student i didnt knw abt this, shame on me!

    Truly Trying Thursday

    thank you :)

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  8. Desi - I was also (or soon to be) an art student as my first year of college was starting in September of 1969.

    I didn't know about some of these things while I was there - although we heard rumors about deaths and, of course, knew which bands were there, lol. I was painfully aware of the truly miserable environment though. I don't think my clothes ever got completely clean from that weekend.

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  9. Did Woodstock happen that long ago? Wow, thanks for the memories. :)

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  10. Brenda - it did indeed and, trust me, if it wasn't also the 40th anniversary of my high school graduation I would have been just as amazed that 40 years had flown by!

    Today is Thursday - I think we were somewhere near Illinois at about this time 40 years ago - I know we stopped and got a hot dog in Chicago for lunch. Oh yeah, we hit the high spots on our road trip to Woodstock, lol.

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  11. But I will tell you this, when I get to heaven and Jimi Hendrix asks me, "are you experienced?" I can answer "Yes."

    That is an amazing thought! Thank you for sharing this first-hand experience. You know, it is kind of like JFK's assassination and other similar events in that many of us have seen so many representations of it (via movies, spoofs, documentaries, etc) that it seems as if we were there.

    But if you weren't there--you were not there.

    Thanks for this reminder--and for the wonderful resources.

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  12. PPR - here's another thought, most of the people actually there weren't really there! Purple haze does that to ya, hehe.

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  13. A great remembrance. Vanity Fair did an excellent piece on Sly and the Family Stone about a year ago. i didnt recall that they were at Woodstock

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  14. Kim - it's funny how people "remember" who supposedly did perform at Woodstock and who didn't.
    If you talk to most people they'll swear Bob Dylan was there, lol.

    I even had someone ask me once how I liked the Beatles at Woodstock, OMG!

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  15. How thrilling to blog along with a Woodstock attendee!! When I went through Woodstock songs for my T13, I couldn't get over how amazing it is to 'drop in' to the concert through YouTube. Now I'll know you were out there in that sea of faces, somewhere.

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  16. Julia - "sea of faces" is a good description, if you stood up during a music session and looked around that's exactly what it was like, a huge waving field of faces - except during the rain when it was a sea of tarps and whatever else people could find to sit under.

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