The music venue in a cow pasture in New York state that defined a decade, Woodstock, turns 40 years old this weekend. Approximately a half million mostly young, college-age people attended the 32 act music festival. Greats like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, CCR entertained the rain and mud covered, ‘hazy’ revelers. The event lasted 3 days, even longer for those who had to figure out where they were.

Woodstock has been defined by Rolling Stone Magazine as 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll. Musicians who chose other venues that weekend kicked themselves for years over the decision not to attend Woodstock. (Bob Dylan and the Doors were 2 who come to mind who had other commitments.) No one had any idea that the event would turn in to what it did.

Woodstock is still the standard, even 40 years later. Many who played on that stage are dead–mainly because of too much hard living, booze and drugs. Joplin, Hendrix, Jerry Garcia are dead as well as others. Their music lives on. So many favorites–it took a while to select MY favorite. I did not go to Woodstock. I later saw Joplin before she died however.

[WARNING–its Joplin. Expletive alert. Turn your speakers down]

23 Thoughts to “Woodstock Turns 40”

  1. Censored bybvbl

    I didn’t go either. I’d gone to a big concert at the Atlantic City race track a few weeks earlier and saw many of the same acts. I decided big crowds for the restroom, heat from Hades, and BO aplenty were not in the stars for me a second time around. A few close friends went to Woodstock- loved the bands, the mud, everything.

    When you mention Joplin, I think of the lyrics to Mercedes Benz and how loose credit allowed too many people to fall into that trap. Haha – a long way from mud, jeans, and a simple lifestyle to gourmet kitchens, Tuscan vacations, and designer duds.

    Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz ?
    My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.

  2. Moon-howler

    Snicker. Even in those days my idea of roughing it was the Holiday Inn. I think that is exactly where I stayed for the Joplin concert. It was at UVA. Holiday Inn at the by-pass and 29. Eating at the Angus Barn. Roughing it. I don’t do places that don’t have bathrooms.

    Tell me about the Atlantic City racetrack. I guess you didn’t stay at a boardwalk hotel?

  3. IVAN

    Boy, do I feel old. I bought the album when it came out and wore the groves out of it in about 6 months.

  4. Censored bybvbl

    The racetrack wasn’t near the boardwalk. (At least we were too lazy to walk over there.) At that time the boardwalk was pretty sleezy from what some childhood friends whose grandmother lived in Atlantic City said. We didn’t have money for a room anywhere. We tried a small motel in mid-NJ but the manager must have thought “hippies” and told us there weren’t any vacancies. We slept in our VW bug in a Jersey turnpike rest area.

    I remember the crowds more than the racetrack itself. The bands had started the day before. I think it was a 3 day deal. The racetrack? Hmm. I’d have to say tiered and white.??

  5. hello

    No doubt some awesome music came out of Woodstock, I love classic rock and have many of the artist (and songs) that where performed there downloaded and listen to them often. However, it may have ‘defined a decade’ but that was a decade before I was born. I’m not trying to be rude at all but why do people cling so much to this event when 99.9% didn’t even attend? I just don’t get why 40 years later people still get wood thinking about Woodstock.

    I will say that I would have much rather gone to Woodstock 1969 than Woodstock 1999. It was a disgrace because of the all mighty corporate dollar. Then came the mayhem… Peace & Love v.s. Moshing and money.

  6. Moon-howler

    What an interesting question, Hello. I have no idea. I am going to venture a guess that it marked a time where things just came together in a way it hadn’t before. Many of the musicians of an age were there.

    For that matter, now you have me thinking, why do most people assume that everyone alive during the the 60’s did the drugs, sex and rock and roll until they dropped and were flower children? Most people weren’t hippies, took a bath, didn’t do that much pot, and were basically obedient to their parents.

  7. hello

    Yes Moon, I suppose that is kind of what I was getting at as well as something that I never really understood about the Woodstock praise. Correct me if I’m wrong but weren’t most people back then ‘squares’ (or at lest depicted that way in movies and such). Then 20, 30 and now 40 years later everyone fawns over Woodstock, I don’t get it. Maybe someone an explain the ‘Woodstock syndrome’ to me…

  8. Moon-howler

    It is an anniversary. 40 years later, it means those who were part of Woodstock are staring down the barrel of social security. Also, size counts. 500,000 people is a half million people. That is the size of a large city. That is just freaking enormous.

    I don’t think people then were necessarily squares, they just didn’t all fit the hippie image. I suppose I would have to ask you to define square.

    Much of the music from then still is around. Many of the artists are still around at least from that generation. There is also much confusion about who was really there and who was not. I would have sworn Dylan was there, and I would have been wrong.

  9. Censored bybvbl

    Ha ha. Joe Cocker can still belt out a song – saw him at Wolf Trap last month. A friend of mine asked me how many people were under the age of 50. I had to say at least a few dozen.

  10. hello

    You want me to define square? I’m afraid I can’t do that… as I said before, love the music, it’s timeless. I just don’t get the ‘love fest’ over it after 40 years. In 40 years is my generation going to do the same with Ozzfest? I don’t know…

  11. Moon-howler

    Probably. I go back to size counting. Baby boomers were coming of age. It was the baby boomer’s concert of the century probably. Something of their own. The alpha baby boomers came of age. Up to that point, everything has been a carry over from the parents.

    Finally, there was something about the summer of 1969. Man on the Moon. Chappaquiddick. Manson. Woodstock.

    Here is an article.

    I guess the term ‘square’ is relative. I know who I thought was square, other than my parents. It is hard to define though. Naturally, I didn’t think I was square, even though I didn’t trip and didn’t run off to live in Haight-Ashbury.

    In most families, parents had a lot more control over their kids than they do now.

  12. I was just listening to Joe Cocker’s Greatest Hits today in the car. His older stuff is great! But then my daughter asked me why I was torturing them with “that music.” Kids today. Sheesh.

    Incidentally, I will be as old as Woodstock next month. I’ve accused my mother of rolling around in the mud a month before my birth, which would explain some things about me. She denies it whole heartedly, of course. You know, those horrible “hippies with their drugs” and what not.

  13. @hello
    “In 40 years is my generation going to do the same with Ozzfest?”

    I would say yes.

  14. Moon-howler

    Pinko, tell them that is one reason music was invented, to torture the other generation with. Did your mother go to Woodstock?

  15. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    Alas, I’m too young (born in 70). But from the interviews, videos, the music itself, and other accounts, Woodstock ranks high on my list of special moments in American history. One of those super-rare events that almost defy description (I must assume one had to “be there” to understand). I’m a music nut, so the thought of thousands of people getting together to enjoy each other and music is something I (and I wish I could think of a better word) respect.

  16. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    I don’t think the 70s really had a “Woodstock” moment. But the thought makes me smile….a “Woodstock of Disco!”

  17. Moon-howler

    NIce tribute, Slowpoke. You missed it by a year, you devil, you! 😉

    I actually have met very few people who went. Maybe we were all there, at least in spirit. Who knows.

  18. Second-Alamo

    I watched the movie documentary again, and amazingly I understood every word that all those interviewed were saying. No translators needed. Ah the good old days!

  19. The Woodstock Festival did not take place in Woodstock, New York but in the town of Bethel which is sixty-seven miles due west. The second day of that mythic, three-day concert coincided with my eleventh birthday (I am going to be fifty-one on Sunday. Yikes! Where did the time go?). I remember quite clearly my friend Tom Finkle and I riding our bikes up to the bridge on South Street that overlooks Route 17 – a four lane highway which snakes its way into Sullivan County where the great event took place. It looked like a long and narrow parking lot. The New York State Thruway had been shut down. To the best of my knowledge, that had never happened before and has not happened since.

    To say that it was an exciting time to be alive almost sounds redundant. Less than four weeks earlier, two human beings had walked on the surface of the moon, a technological feat that will probably out shine every other event of the twentieth century in the history books that will be written a thousand years from now. As future decades unwind, it is a certainty that the photographic image of half a million kids, partying and dancing in the mud, will not continue to sustain the cultural significance that it does for us today. The years will pass by, the people who were lucky enough to be there will one day be no more, and the Woodstock Festival will be erased from living memory; a mere footnote to a very crowded century. But what a freaking party, baby!

    This weekend I’ll be listening to my copy of the Woodstock Soundtrack LP – on vinyl, of course. The very thought of listening to it on a compact disc seems somehow sacrilegious. Although I could have done without Sha-Na-Na’s version of At The Hop, all in all it’s a pretty good collection of tunes. I have always envied my cousin, the noted falconer Tom Cullen, who was a witness to Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Can you imagine? Canned Heat’s performance of Going Up The Country is one of the great moments in rock history; and for the last forty years, whenever I heard Joan Baez singing Joe Hill, I have had to pause whatever I was doing at the moment and concentrate on it – It is one of the most moving pieces ever recorded on tape.

    “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”

    Emma Goldman 1869-1940

    Dance with me, Emma!

    The last time I looked at my videocassette of Woodstock (which was well over a decade ago) I wondered about the fates of the half-a-million gathered on the fields of Max Yasgur’s farm in Sullivan County on that distant weekend. The passage of four decades decrees that a third or more of them have passed on. The average age of the attendees was about twenty-two. Today would find them approaching their mid-sixties; the age many of their grandparents were in 1969!

    There are many good people of that generation who have kept the spirit of the sixties alive – or have tried to anyway. America is not the same country it was forty years ago. 2009 finds us even more polarized than we were during the age of Richard Nixon.

    It is no longer merely a “generation gap” that is tearing America apart. The gaps today are almost too numerous to catalog: the political gap; the health insurance gap; the employment gap; the racial gap; the education gap; the class and income gaps. The world is a lot more troubled and sadder than it was in that long ago, magical summer of 1969. Sometimes I feel like a hostage to time. The truth is, for all the technological wonders of the twenty-first century, I just don’t like being here.

    No, I’m not going to kill myself. Chill.

    Where I come from, Woodstock has a special meaning to people because it happened here – or close enough to count. From where I now sit, Bethel is a mere forty-two miles northwest. According to this morning’s local paper, seventy-five media outlets from all over the world will be covering the events commemorating the anniversary this weekend. That’s enough of a reason for me to stay the hell away. I’m not as crowd-friendly as I once was. Besides, I would have preferred to attend the real thing forty years ago. That would have been too cool for words!

    Nostalgia is a permanent human condition. Each generation is nostalgic for the last. It absolutely boggles the mind to think that the year 2049 will find those of us who survive looking back on these hideous times with tender longing. Given our silly human quirks, that will probably be the case. Still, it’s hard not to reflect on the hope that was prevalent in the summer of Woodstock. We want to believe that there is a magical future where, as John Lennon once imagined, there are no countries; nothing to kill or die for. Maybe we will one day arrive at that wondrous place.


    Tom Degan
    Goshen, NY

  20. An Ordinary Joe

    I was there. It WAS muddy!

  21. @Moon-howler
    My mother wouldn’t have been caught dead at Woodstock! LOL!

    But seriously, I was born almost exactly one month after Woodstock. Maybe it was the fumes that traveled from NY to MA that did it….

  22. Moon-howler

    My mother would have either, Pinko. Not sure I would have liked it either. Too dirty, not enough privacy, wet. I like my creature comforts. Roof, dry bed, cold booze.

  23. Emma

    It’s funny how the Woodstock cohort became in the ’80s some of the most self-absorbed and materialistic people, and some of the most obsessive parents in history. Many of them epitomized the generation of the TV show “30-Something”–determined to raise a generation of hyperachiever kids enrolled in every conceivable actvity. Their unborn children had to listen to classical music to be intellectually “stimulated,” they attended “make-or-break-for-college” nursery schools, and were told “you are special” so much they actually believed it and expected trophies just for showing up.

    Funny how the ideals of peace, love and communal sharing gave way to rank materialism and perfectionism once they got a little of their own money in their pockets.

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