The Woodstock Music and Art Festival was the most popular Rock festival ever and remains an icon of its time. Attendance was predicted to be 200,000, over 500,000 attended, and millions wish they were there. Many of the top musicians of the 60s appeared on stage, a few gave career-making performances, a movie was filmed, and it spawned several successful hit songs. Festival goers put up with rain, mud, and not enough food, water, or toilets, but most of them loved it.
The festival was named Woodstock for the town where it was originally scheduled, but it eventually ended up in Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, about 40 miles away. Bethel is a rural area, and roads and highways in were jammed. People abandoned their cars and walked for miles to get there. By Friday night, the fences and ticket barriers had come down, and the concert was opened to all….which prompted thousands more to head for the concert.
The weekend turned out to be rainy and the fields soon turned to mud, but the big party went on, fueled by music, marijuana, and beer. The press had fun reporting about the open sex and naked people dancing in the mud. Through it all, there was surprisingly very little violence living up to it’s billing as “3 days of peace and music”…well, actually it turned out to be 4 days as some bands ran late.
History has noted two performances as being especially memorable. The Who began their set at about 4:00 in the morning and, as they started their hit “See Me, Feel Me”, the sun rose just as lead singer Roger Daltrey began to sing the chorus. Later, political activist Abbie Hoffman interrupted the show and attempted to rally the crowd with yippie slogans, but Pete Townshend knocked him off the stage with his guitar. At the end of the set, Townshend smashed his guitar and threw it into the crowd.
Jimi Hendrix’ performance will also be remembered as one of the greatest in history. He was already known for making his guitar sing, and his version of The Star Spangled Banner was a one-man symphony. His performance was controversial because we were deep in the Vietnam war protest at the time and there was a growing antiwar sentiment.
Two people died at the concert, one from a drug overdose and one that was run over by a tractor while sleeping in a field, and it was reported that there were 2 births. Max Yasgur (the owner of the farm) said to the crowd at Woodstock on August 15, 1969: “This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place and I think you people have proven something to the world: that a half a million kids can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music and I God Bless You for it!”
The Woodstock concert film was released the following year and Woodstock became synonymous with flower power, the hippie culture and peace protests common to the 70s. The concert site and surrounding land was purchased in 1997 and has become the Bethel Center for the Arts. It opened on July 1st, 2006 with the New York Philharmonic playing (quite a difference, huh!).
Country Joe McDonald
The Incredible String Band
Credence Clearwater Revival
The Grateful Dead
Sly and The Family Stone
The Jefferson Airplane
Country Joe and The Fish
Ten Years After
Blood Sweat and Tears
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
Paul Butterfield Blues Band