Most of us Baby Boomers weren’t at Woodstock. Only 400,000 of us made it 40 years ago this week—but we’ve all got stories of why we weren’t there—and what Woodstock means to us now, even if we never even tried to reach the three-day festival.
“I was in college, so I could have gone—but my parents would have died if I’d gone,” said a friend over lunch on Sunday. “They would have just—died.”
“How do you know that?” I asked.
“Because I did go with friends to see ‘Hair,’ and I was dumb enough to leave the program on the table when I got home. My mother found it and wept.”
“She wept? You’re kidding.”
“It’s true. She cried that her daughter would go to see ‘Hair.’ Imagine what would have happened if I’d gone to Woodstock?”
Another friend? This is a guy who managed to see Bob Dylan and the Beatles in concert at various times, among other great pop-music accomplishments. He’s a way cool guy for an aging Boomer. But Woodstock? “I wasn’t old enough. I would have gone, but I was only 13.”
Turns out, this guy was so gung ho for popular music in the late 1960s that he convinced his Mom to take him to a Beatles concert years before he could even qualify for a driver’s license. You’ve got to give him credit for the creative courage there. But Woodstock?
“No way. Can you imagine? ‘Mom, drive me to … Woodstock’? Wasn’t going to happen.”
Then, there’s this guy, a teacher and sometime writer who told me over coffee: “To have seen Jimmi Hendrix and the Who, Santana, the Greatful Dead, Janis Joplin all in their prime—I dream about it sometimes,” he said. “I sat through the movie on DVD, again, a while ago—and you know mainly what I thought? Everyone looked so &*$%@# young! That’s when I had this dream about it. I dreamed I was young and I was there with this girlfriend I had at the time. How sick is that? Who forced that into my mind that I should have that dream? I didn’t even want to go to Woodstock at the time! Now I wish I could have gone, I guess. But why do I dream about it? And with a girlfriend I haven’t seen in 30 years?”
There’s no question the “W” word evokes a weird generational mix of spiritual reflection.
I’m keeping my friends’ names anonymous today, because their spontaneous responses about Woodstock were intended for my ears—not the whole world with their names attached.
But I’ll bet you’ve got some reflections, memories—perhaps even rants at what Woodstock represents as a commercial commodity—that you wouldn’t mind sharing with the world.
This isn’t open just to Baby Boomers. Anyone can click here and Email our Home Office with a thought. Please do!
SOME GREAT WOODSTOCK STARTING POINTS:
THE BUCKSKIN-COVERED DVD GIFT SET: OK, I’ll admit I’m hooked on this buckskin-covered box of Woodstock media goodies, including the long version of the “Woodstock” movie, tons of extra documentaries and musical performances that didn’t make it into the movie version—plus a mini-magazine of famoous Woodstock photos, a replica of Woodstock tickets and other intriguing pieces like a “Stats Card” on the three-day festival. (The photo at top today shows the set “unpacked.”)
I’m fascinated by the evolution of popular media since the 1960s and this “DVD gift set” is a weird repackaging of our dreams and memories—mainly dreams for most Boomers who never set foot on Max Yasgur’s Dairy Farm. As we age, this is part of the mythology some Boomers are claiming is a part of our collective past.
Is it really? As we’ve said, send us an Email with your thoughts.
ASSOCIATED PRESS WEIGHS IN: Our ReadTheSpirit article today is one of 100s hitting news media this week. Michael Hill’s story for AP isn’t a bad starting point. Hill’s version includes: The young hippies who watched the sun come up with The Who in 1969 are
now eligible for early bird specials. Many of the bands are broken up
or missing members who died. But Woodstock remains one of those events—like the moon landing earlier that summer—that continues to define
the 1960s in the popular imagination.
MSNBC on JIMI HENDRIX: Very few people actually saw Jimi Hendrix’s stunning conclusion to the Woodstock festival. Because of the rain, mud, lack of provisions and huge delays in bringing acts up on stage—the vast majority of the crowd had left by the time Hendrix performed. The “three days” were billed as August 15, 16 and 17—but Hendrix performed on the morning of August 18. Check out MSNBC’s page with vintage video plus a story on Woodstock and its last day.
WIKI and WOODSTOCK PROJECT: The Wikipedia page for Woodstock is interesting and includes the list of bands and songs performed at the festival. But, if you’re really itching to dive into the deep end of Woodstock archives, the Woodstock Project is a sprawling and often messy explosion of various details and images related to Woodstock over the years. The site also includes an Altamont section—the festival only 110 days after Woodstock that was, in many ways, the evil twin of Woodstock. (At Altamont: As the Rolling Stones performed, a high-out-of-his-mind fan pulled a gun in front of the stage was stabbed to death by a member of the Hells Angels—a horrifying detail preserved forever in the documentary film, “Gimme Shelter.”)
FINALLY, SOME WOODSTOCK STATS: You’ll find tons of intriguing—and, in some cases, troubling “stats” on the Stats Card inside the DVD gift set. Here are a few of them:
2 Births at the festival
8 Hours to drive 98 miles from New York City
15 Miles walked by many fans who abandoned their cars as the festival became gridlocked
15 Dollars average price for an ounce of marijuana
18 Dollars for the original 3-day admisison
68 Doctors treated people attending the festival
80 Feet, width of the stage
120 Minutes, the longest waiting time between acts
2,366 Population of the town
60,000 People expected to attend
400,000 People attended, although more than 300,000 left before Hendrix performed
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(Originally published at https://readthespirit.com/)