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Woodstock

Woodstock

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Although the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival is a celebrated symbol of the hippie counterculture, it did not initiate the counterculture, nor did it mark its end. Nevertheless, Woodstock is a useful reference point for discussions of this significant social phenomenon. By 1969, the hippie movement had emerged as a group of primarily young people, who not only were opposed to the Vietnam War but also wore distinctive and colorful clothing, engaged in illegal drug use, and enjoyed rock and roll music.

In early 1969, business associates John Roberts and Joel Rosenman met record executive Artie Kornfield and festival promoter Michael Lang, and the four decided to produce the largest music festival to date. Although not fully immersed in the counterculture, they sought to produce a festival that would appeal to that group. To promote the festival they formed Woodstock Ventures, named after the town in Ulster County, New York, where Bob Dylan lived. Woodstock Ventures advertised the festival in the alternative and college media, hired a crew to assist with production, and booked the most significant bands of that era. Their most difficult concern was finding a site to hold a large, three-day music and art festival, which would also allow attendees to camp. Woodstock Ventures eventually found a site in Sullivan County, New York. They leased land from a local dairy farmer named Max Yasgur. Although Sullivan County residents expressed trepidation about the concert and especially the influx of hippies, Yasgur resisted this pressure and allowed the festival to occur.

Woodstock started on Friday, August 15, 1969, and on that day, approximately 400,000 (some estimated closer to one million) people, many without tickets, arrived at the festival gate. Fans waited hours in line, and when they entered, it was clear that they were not prepared for three days of camping. To make matters worse, it had rained considerably during the weekend, soaking the festival grounds. The promoters also did not adequately prepare for the throngs of attendees, and eventually they agreed to waive admissions fees.

Woodstock is the quintessential symbol for the hippie counterculture. Illegal drug use was extensive and open. While most of the fans maintained control, a small percentage of them overindulged, though there was also a freak-out tent to calm them down. Woodstock included a self-contained market, in which fans sold food, artwork, jewelry, and clothing to one another. The artists, promoters, and fans were more concerned about music and art than about politics, but the undercurrent of progressive activism was inescapable. The musicians and fans expressed support for social justice and intense opposition to the Vietnam War.

Woodstock attracted considerable media attention, which brought the hippie counterculture into the mainstream, and, as a result, the festival became part of the American cultural imagination. Although the festival was only one of many crucial events during a time of social and cultural upheaval, intellectuals, the press, popular entertainment, and the advertising industry have made Woodstock into the symbol of the cultural and political ideals of the late 1960s. Supporters of the social changes brought about by the 1960s cite the ability of the festival to overcome tremendous obstacles as an example of the success of the hippie subculture and progressive politics. Conversely, opponents of these changes deride Woodstock as an example of the chaos and lawlessness the 1960s wrought on American society.

Although in the early 1970s many experts predicted the end of the hippie movement, the spirit of Woodstock has not disappeared from the American cultural scene. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s, the Grateful Dead, which had been at the forefront of the hippie movement and performed at Woodstock, played thousands of shows throughout the United States. A new generation of fans, known as Deadheads, many of whom were not born when Woodstock occurred, followed the band to different cities. Like Woodstock, Grateful Dead concerts featured illegal drug use, expression of progressive views, and vibrant economic activity. This subculture was so significant that University of North Carolina, Greensboro, sociologist Rebecca Adams set out to study Deadheads by attending shows and conducting field research on the fans (Adams 1998). During the 1990s a second generation of musicians and fans maintained the Woodstock spirit. So-called jam bands, such as Phish, have developed their own followings, especially after the 1995 death of Grateful Dead band-leader and hippie icon Jerry Garcia. Since 2002, the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival has occurred every June in Manchester, Tennessee. Although this festival only attracts 90,000 to 100,000 people and is generally well organized, it is strikingly similar to Woodstock. An eclectic selection of bands entertains fans; there is widespread and open illegal drug use; progressive political views abound; and people sell food, art, and clothing.

SEE ALSO Popular Music; Rock n Roll; Youth Culture

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Adams, Rebecca G. 1998. Inciting Sociological Thought by Studying the Deadhead Community: Engaging Publics in Dialogue. Social Forces 77 (1): 125.

Makower, Joel. 1989. Woodstock: The Oral History. New York: Doubleday.

Steven Tauber

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Woodstock

WOODSTOCK

WOODSTOCK. The Woodstock Music and Art Fair took place in Bethel in upstate New York from 15 to 17 August 1969. Attended by 450,000 people, it is remembered as the high point of the "peace and love" ethos of the period, largely because the disaster that the over-crowding, bad weather, food shortages, supposed "bad acid" (LSD), and poor facilities presaged was somehow avoided. Woodstock was originally conceived as a moneymaking venture by producers John Roberts, Joel Rosenman,


Artie Kornfield, and Michael Lang. However, poor planning and happenstance forced them to admit most attendees for free. They were left with a debt of $1.3 million and a site that cost $100,000 to restore. Credit for the festival's success should go to the endurance of the attendees and to the likes of Wavy Gravy and the Hog Farmers, the West Coast "hippies" who organized food and medical support for the crowd.

Many rock and folk luminaries—including Joan Baez, the Grateful Dead, Ten Years After, Joe Cocker, The Band, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, and Crosby, Stills, and Nash—graced the hastily constructed stage. Cameras and recording equipment captured most performances, the best of which were subsequently released on a number of successful Woodstock albums and featured in an Academy Award– winning three-hour movie, Woodstock—Three Days of Peace and Music (1970).

To avert the feared crowd difficulties, the music continued virtually around the clock, stopping only for the recurrent rainfall. Jimi Hendrix, Sunday's headliner, eventually played at 8.30 a.m. on Monday to a thinning audience. Musicologists subsequently described his blistering rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" as a defining moment in rock history. Less often stated is the fact that the high fees that many of the artists demanded and the star treatment that they received significantly altered the ethos and the economics of the rock music industry. Attempting to cash in on Woodstock nostalgia, the producers subsequently staged two more "Woodstock" festivals. The 1994 twenty-fifth anniversary concert in Saugerties, New York, attracted a crowd of more than 300,000 and featured some of the original acts, along with more contemporary artists. Sponsored by the likes of Pepsi and MCI and with tickets costing $135 apiece, the event is remembered mostly for its obviously commercial intentions. Woodstock 1999, featuring six-dollar bottles of water, three days of ninety-degree heat, and artists such as Kid Rock, Insane Clown Posse, and Limp Bizkit, ended in violence, rioting, and arson, with numerous reports of sexual assaults.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Curry, Jack. Woodstock: The Summer of Our Lives. New York: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1989.

Makower, Joel. Woodstock: The Oral History. New York: Doubleday, 1989.

Spitz, John. Barefoot in Babylon: The Creation of the Woodstock Music Festival, 1969. New York: Viking, 1989.

RickDodgson

See alsoCounterculture ; Music Festivals ; Music Industry ; Rock and Roll .

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Woodstock (cities, United States)

Woodstock:1 City (1990 pop. 14,353) seat of McHenry co., NE Ill.; inc. 1845. In a grain and dairying area, the city has food processing and produces paper products, medical equipment, machinery, and chemicals.

2 Town (1990 pop. 1,870), Ulster co., SE N.Y., in an area of fruit and dairy farms, at the foothills of the Catskill Mts. The Woodstock Guild manages an artists' colony there (Byrdcliffe, opened 1903) and sponsors exhibits. The Art Students League of New York also had a summer school in the town (1906–22, 1947–79); an art school is now there.

Woodstock gave its name to the most famous of the music festivals of the 1960s and 70s, actually held (Aug., 1969) near Bethel, N.Y., c.45 mi (70 km) to the southwest. The name Woodstock has since signified the 1960s heyday of rock music and the youth counterculture movement. In Aug., 1994, a 25th-anniversary Woodstock concert was held in Saugerties, N.Y., c.7 mi (11 km) east of Woodstock.

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Woodstock

Woodstock Music festival held between August 15 and 17, 1969, near Bethel, sw of Woodstock, New York, USA. Forced to shift from the original Woodstock location because of residents' protests, c.450,000 people arrived for the free, outdoor concert. The event was a celebration of both the music and aspirations of the hippie generation.

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Woodstock (city, Canada)

Woodstock, city (1991 pop. 30,075), S Ont., Canada, SW of Hamilton. It is an industrial center with diversified manufactures such as electric generators, fire engines, reed organs, auto parts, and textiles. The surrounding country has mixed farming, dairying, and stock raising.

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Woodstock

Woodstock a small town in New York State, situated in the south-east near Albany. It gave its name in the summer of 1969 to a huge rock festival held some 96 km (60 miles) to the south-west.

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Woodstock

Woodstock •matchlock • padlock • armlock •Belloc •deadlock, headlock, wedlock •hemlock • fetlock • airlock •breeze block • gridlock • ziplock •flintlock • Shylock •forelock, oarlock, warlock •roadblock • woodblock • sunblock •gunlock • lovelock • firelock •hammerlock • fetterlock • interlock •Enoch • kapok • epoch • shamrock •bedrock • pibroch • Sheetrock •Ragnarök • bedsock • windsock •shell shock • aftershock • fatstock •Bartók •deadstock, headstock •penstock • tailstock • feedstock •tick-tock • laughing stock • livestock •nostoc, Rostock, Vladivostok, Vostok •rootstock • Woodstock • bloodstock •gunstock

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Woodstock

Woodstock ★★★★ 1970 (R)

Step into the way-back machine and return to the times of luv, peace, and understanding. Powerful chronicle of the great 1969 Woodstock rock concert celebrates the music and lifestyle of the late ‘60s. More than 400,000 spectators withstood lack of privacy, bathrooms, parking, and food while wallowing in the mud for four days to catch classic performances by a number of popular performers and groups. Martin Scorcese helped edit the documentary, trail-blazing in its use of split-screen montage. A director's cut is available at 225 minutes. 180m/C VHS, DVD. D: Michael Wadleigh. Oscars ‘70: Feature Doc., Natl. Film Reg. ‘96.

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Woodstock

Woodstock

In the 1960s, the small town of Woodstock, New York, 40 miles north of New York City, nourished a small but growing community of folk musicians including Bob Dylan, the Band, Tim Hardin, and John Sebastian. In 1969, Michael Lang, a young entrepreneur who had promoted the Miami Pop Festival the previous year, decided to open a recording studio for the burgeoning music community of Woodstock, which would double as a woodland retreat for recording artists from New York City. Lang pitched his idea to Artie Kornfeld, a young executive at Capitol Records, and Joel Rosenman and John Roberts, two young entrepreneurs interested in unconventional business propositions. Together they formed a corporation, Woodstock Ventures, to create the studio/retreat. They also decided to organize a Woodstock Music and Arts Fair to promote the opening of the studio.

As their festival plans grew in ambition, they realized that the small town of Woodstock could not accommodate such a festival, and a site in Wallkill, in the neighboring county, was chosen for the three-day weekend event. Throughout the summer of 1969 the project snowballed as more and more artists were signed to perform. It was decided that day one would feature folk-rock artists, day two would spotlight the burgeoning San Francisco scene, and day three would be saved for the hottest acts. By the time Jimi Hendrix was signed for $50,000, most of the major American bands were involved in Woodstock, as well as major British groups like the Who and Ten Years After. The music soon eclipsed all other aspects of the festival, such as the arts fair (which is almost forgotten) and the recording studio (which never materialized).

Woodstock Ventures spared no expense to cultivate a hip, counterculture image for their three days of peace and music. They advertised the event through the underground press—which was rapidly mushrooming into a national network of anti-establishment groups—to put the word out on the street that this was the happening event of the summer. The Wallkill site was chosen for its rustic scenery and laid-back atmosphere, but the name Woodstock was retained to convey the bucolic theme of the event. A pastoral craze of "getting back to nature" had been growing in 1968 and 1969, reflected in the country-rock movement spearheaded by Bob Dylan, the Band, and others. The lure of nature was celebrated in films like Easy Rider (1968), which depicted hippies cruising across the country, living off the land (more or less), and visiting communes. Woodstock Ventures hired the Hog Farm, a New Mexico hippie commune, to prepare the festival campgrounds and maintain a free kitchen for those who could not afford to buy food. The Hog Farm also set up a bad trip shelter called the Big Pink for the inevitable freakouts that were expected. A group of Indian artists were flown in from Arizona to sell handicrafts. An impromptu organization called Food for Love was hired to run concession booths. Wes Pomeroy was enlisted as Security Chief. Pomeroy was renowned for his enlightened attitude towards youth and crowd control. He had witnessed the riots of the 1968 Chicago Democratic Convention, and had developed theories about peaceful crowd control. For Woodstock he organized a non-aggressive, non-uniformed, unarmed security team, the "Peace Service Corps," to unobtrusively dissuade undesirable behavior such as riots, vandalism, and theft, while overlooking non-violent activities such as drugs, sex, and nudity. New York City police officers were recruited, and had to undergo intensive screening to demonstrate their ability to understand and peacefully cope with young, hedonistic, anti-authoritarian crowds. Unfortunately, almost all these groups eventually betrayed Woodstock Ventures. The town of Wallkill voted to drive out the festival a month before the scheduled weekend, and a new site was found in Bethel, New York (although some townsfolk offered resistance there, too). The Hog Farm turned out to be opportunistic and irresponsible, stealing watches and wallets from the Woodstock staff and clashing with anyone whom they perceived as establishmentarian, including the medical staff. The radical activist and showman Abbie Hoffman, a self-styled "cultural revolutionary" who was charged with inciting riots at the Chicago Democratic Convention, threatened to sabotage the festival with his influence over the underground press if Woodstock Ventures did not pay him $50,000. He claimed that the promoters were growing rich off the people, and he felt that Woodstock should return the money to "the people" by financing his own political mission, including his mounting legal debts from the Chicago Seven Trial. Hoffman also threatened to put acid in the water. The Woodstock promoters knew that Hoffman had the audacity and the influence to arouse anti-establishment animosity toward the festival, and they paid him $10,000 to appease him. But such was the reactionary nature of the times that many radical papers nevertheless portrayed Woodstock as a capitalist venture promoted by "straights" trying to profit from "the people."

Betrayals grew more frequent as the festival grew nearer. The day before the festival, the New York City Police Commissioner refused his officers permission to work at Woodstock. The officers then offered their services anonymously under their own conditions, and for extortionary wages. Food for Love threatened to quit during the festival, reneging on their prepaid $75,000 contract. A rumor soon arose that Woodstock Ventures was bankrupt, and during the festival many bands demanded that they be paid in cash before performing. Even the Grateful Dead, the most anti-commercial band on the scene, made this demand (two years earlier they had played for free outside the Monterey Pop Festival). In the end even Mother Nature reneged her clemency, and assailed her hippie worshippers with two rainstorms, steeping the throng of 500,000 in mud.

Many remember Woodstock primarily as a disaster, as it was officially pronounced, a monument to faulty planning, a testament to the limitations and hypocrisies of hippie idealism, a nightmare of absurdities, ironies, and incongruities. Over a million tickets were sold, but since the gates weren't built in time, droves of kids began streaming in days before the show, and by Friday the promoters, having no way to collect tickets, had to declare Woodstock a free concert. Acres of land that had been rented for parking remained empty as cars, vans, delivery vehicles, and an estimated one million kids clogged several miles of the New York State Thruway. State troopers arrested hippies on their way to the show, then danced naked on their patrol cars after drinking water laced with acid. Tons of supplies, and even some musicians, were stuck in the traffic jam and never made it to the site. At the festival itself, a 40-foot trailer full of hot dogs rotted when refrigeration fuel ran out, and thousands of people endured the stench of rancid food while they went hungry. The revolving stage, designed to eliminate intermissions between acts, was the biggest and most expensive ever built, but once the equipment was loaded onto it, it wouldn't revolve (the only time it budged was when the mudslide moved it six inches). Out in the campgrounds, a "pharmacy district" developed in the middle of the woods, where one could shop for sundry drugs. Bethel residents witnessed outrageous acts of bohemianism. One neighbor awoke to find a shirtless girl riding his cow. Another found a couple having sex on his front porch. Meanwhile, thousands of disoriented hippies showed up in the quiet town of Woodstock, New York, looking for the Festival which was a county away.

Bad press, bad weather, bad trips, technical problems, human error, divine intervention—none of these pressures was enough to snuff the spirit of the crowd that had assembled for three days of peace and music. The most common feeling among all parties—producers, musicians, audience, town, and nation—was the sense of history in the making. It was the largest group of young people ever gathered, and the greatest roster of musicians ever assembled, and it became the defining moment of a generation. Initial media response tended toward panic, reporting the disastrous aspects of the event. But when riots failed to flare up, the media recanted, reporting that Woodstock was a peaceful event, a mass epiphany of good will and communal sharing. On Sunday, Max Yasgur, the dairy farmer who rented his 600 acres to the festival, took the stage and complimented the crowd, observing how the festival proved that "half a million kids can get together and have three days of fun and music, and have nothing BUT fun and music." Of course, most of these kids were having a lot more than that, but the conspicuous absence Yasgur alluded to was violence. Rock festivals had become increasingly frequent since Monterey Pop in 1967, and each one was bigger and more riotous than the last. The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy also added a feeling of dread to any large gathering. When Woodstock promised nothing but disaster, then passed without a single act of violence, the relief that swept over the watching nation was almost intoxicating; it seemed like a miracle. The relief among the public and the evanescent bliss of the kids led to fanatical pronouncements of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

However, many commentators have since claimed that peace and good will arose not in spite of disaster but because of it. The hunger, rain, mud, and unserviced toilets conspired to create an adversity against which people could unite and bond. In "The Woodstock Wars," Hal Aspen observed that the communal spirit of Woodstock was typical of the group psychology of disasters: "What takes hold at the time is a humbling sense of togetherness … with those who shared the experience. What takes hold later is a privileged sense of apartness … from those who didn't." Aspen explained that the memory of Woodstock led a generation to arrogate "an epic and heroic youth culture" that subsequent generations could not match. Those who were once simply called baby boomers now dubbed themselves "Woodstock Nation," an independent and enlightened subculture. Abbie Hoffman wrote a book of editorials called Woodstock Nation immediately after the event, contrasting the newly united masses with the "Pig Nation" of mainstream America. He even contrasted Woodstock with the moon landing of July 20, less than a month before the festival, calling Woodstock "the first attempt to land a man on the earth." The closeness of the two milestone events in one summer invited such ironic comparisons. Ayn Rand used Nietzsche's dichotomy of Apollo and Dionysus to contrast the two events. She observed that the moon landing represented the culmination of the Apollonian, or civilized, aspect of man, which is governed by reason, while Woodstock expressed the Dionysian, or primeval, aspect of man, which is ruled by hedonism. The name of the moonlanding mission, Apollo, made this interpretation all the more compelling. But such was the sheer physical magnitude of the Woodstock Festival that it afforded enough complexity to accommodate many interpretations. The moonwalk analogies tended to view Woodstock as a moment of separation from the establishment, but it was also possible to view it as reconciliation. It wasn't just the audience of hippies who bonded together in the face of disaster. Community and nation also rushed to their aid. The Red Cross, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts all donated food and supplies to the starving hoards. Even local townspeople pardoned the havoc wrought upon their town and made sandwiches for the infiltrators. The youths who had fled from their parents in pursuit of utopian visions ended up welcoming assistance from the very establishment that Woodstock symbolically rejected. They were led to appreciate that these groups had maintained efficiency to get them out of their jam. Someone, they realized, had to stay sober. Many Bethel residents, for their part, commented with surprise on the hippies' politeness and peaceful behavior. Mainstream America saw Max Yasgur's observation born out, that rock and violence were not inseparable, and that perhaps the peace the hippies advocated wasn't such a pipedream after all. In 1972 Woodstock Nation repaid the compliment by nominating Yasgur for president.

When the initial euphoria wore off it became common to view Woodstock not as the beginning of a new era but as an ending, the high-water mark of the 1960s, when hippie freakdom reached critical mass and dissipated into mainstream, and the establishment coopted the diluted attitudes and fashions into a commodity. Much of the pride and idealism of Woodstock Nation crumbled as the following years brought devastating casualties to their culture. Someone was stabbed at the Rolling Stones' free concert at Altamont in December of 1969; 1970 brought the student massacres at Kent Sate University, the breakup of the Beatles, and the deaths of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin later that year. The following year, 1971, brought the death of Jim Morrison, the closing of the Fillmore Concert Halls, and the reelection of Nixon. Such defeats hastened the trend toward escapism, exemplified by rock's detour into country music and apolitical singer/songwriters, sinking into the quagmire of narcissistic spiritual odysseys in the "Me Decade."

In the wake of disillusion many claimed that the music was the most significant aspect of Woodstock, the only legacy successfully preserved. The documentary, Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music (1970), provided vicarious excitement for the millions who couldn't be there, and was enormously popular. It made innovative use of split-screen techniques to simulate the excitement of a live-performance, and won an Oscar for Best Documentary. The three-album soundtrack, Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More, also awoke nostalgia for the swiftly vanishing epoch. However, the arrangement was jumbled, and many performers were omitted. A two-album sequel, Woodstock Two, provided more songs by the artists already favored, but there were still notable absences. For some people, the albums proved what they felt all along, that the music was only a minor part of what was really a spiritual event that couldn't be captured on vinyl. Janis Joplin and the Grateful Dead, who seemed to epitomize the youth culture that had sprouted in San Francisco, reportedly delivered lackluster performances, while then-unknown acts such as Santana and Joe Cocker proved to be among the highlights of the festival. A privileged few recall Joan Baez's performance at the free stage as the highlight. The free stage had been built outside the festival fence so that those who did not have tickets could be entertained by amateur bands and open mic. But even after the festival was declared free and the fence was torn down, the ever-valiant Joan Baez, surveying the crowd of a half-million people, perceived that the free stage would still be useful for entertaining those who could not get close to the main stage, and she played to a fringe audience for 40 minutes until her manager summoned her to her scheduled gig at the main stage. This touching moment was not captured on film or record.

The 25th anniversary of Woodstock in 1994 brought a 4-CD box set which represented most of the performers and preserved the chronological order (although many performers, such as Ravi Shankar and the Incredible String Band, have yet to appear on any Woodstock recording). The documentary was rereleased on video as a "Director's Cut" package offering 40 minutes of additional footage of Hendrix, Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane. A CD-ROM was also released, boasting music, film clips, lyrics, hypertext biographies, and other features.

The most spectacular product of the 25th anniversary was the Woodstock Two festival in Saugerties, New York. As early as 1970 there were plans for sequels, but the original producers were in such legal and emotional disarray that it was impossible. For the tenth anniversary there had been an unspectacular sequel in New York City in 1979 with many of the original players, but nostalgia for 1960s flower-power was at low ebb at that time. But by the late 1980s and 1990s, nostalgia became almost clockwork, and in 1994 the sons and daughters of Woodstock Nation were ready to prove that they could party like their parents. Woodstock Two was a three-day concert with a ticket price of $135 (the original Woodstock tickets had been $18). It, too, generated a movie and soundtrack, and was broadcast on payper-view television. Woodstock Two featured mostly popular 1990s bands such as the Cranberries and Green Day, but also included older bands like Aerosmith, while Bob Dylan, the Woodstock, New York, resident who had missed the original festival, finally performed. Original Woodstock alumni included Joe Cocker and Crosby, Stills, and Nash. However, CSN's presence did little to add enhance the sequel's image. In 1969 CSN epitomized the 1960s spirit of togetherness with their angelic harmonies and intricate interplay of guitars. By 1994, they had sold "Teach Your Children" to a diaper commercial and consequently sold their respect. Woodstock Two also mixed rock and advertising, charging corporations a million dollars per billboard space. Pearl Jam, Neil Young, and others refused to participate for this reason. On the other hand, the promoters refused to accept alcohol and tobacco sponsors—a far cry from the pharmaceutical anarchy of the original Woodstock. The advertising slogan for the pay-per-view option was one of the worst ever conceived: "All you have to do to change the world is change the channel." The slogan alluded to John Lennon's line, "We all want to change the world," from the Beatles song, "Revolution" (1968), which was very typical of the political preoccupations of late 1960s music. The idiotic Woodstock Two slogan reflected the apathy and passive consumption often associated with Generation X.

However, one cannot blame the youth for the ineptly chosen phrase, nor assume that it reflected their attitude. The status of women, blacks, and gays was infinitely better in the 1990s than it had been in the 1960s. Beyond a few protest songs, Woodstock was a largely apolitical event. When Abbie Hoffman attempted to make a speech about marijuana reform, Pete Townsend swatted him off the stage. Many forget that the original Woodstock was quite commercial, as Hoffman and others had observed at the time. A common myth is that Woodstock was always a free concert, though it was only declared free by necessity. Hal Aspen notes that Woodstock is nostalgically eulogized as anti-commercial when in fact it was simply unsuccessfully commercial. Many of the innovations of Woodstock Two, such as the pay-per-view option, merely reflect improved technology and better planning rather than greater capitalism.

What really caused the Woodstock promoters to lose their credibility was their lawsuit against a simultaneous festival called Bethel '94 which was planned at the original Woodstock site in Bethel. The event was scheduled to include such veterans as Melanie, Country Joe McDonald, and Richie Havens. Woodstock Ventures, who had been thwarted and sued by many during the first Woodstock, launched an $80 million law suit to prevent Bethel '94 from happening. But 12,000 attended anyway, and Arlo Guthrie and others gave free impromptu performances. The litigation against Bethel '94 robbed Woodstock Two of any vestige of counterculture coolness.

Woodstock Ventures retained its exclusive rights, but the memory of Woodstock Nation belongs to the world; it is irrevocably imbedded in American culture. One of the most fertile legacies of Woodstock is the anecdotes, stories, and legends which recall the color and humor of that absurd decade. One elusive legend reports that a child was born, though no one seems to know whatever became of the child. The question usually comes up at anniversaries of the event, but remains a mystery. It is possible that the child born at Woodstock is simply a myth providing counterpoint to the deaths (there were three deaths at Woodstock: a youth died Saturday morning when a tractor ran over him as he slept in his sleeping bag; another died of a heroin overdose, and a third died of appendicitis). Besides the dozens of histories and memoirs, Woodstock has also inspired novels, stories, and songs. Its most famous anthem is Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young's version of "Woodstock" from their album Déja Vu (1970). The song was penned by Joni Mitchell and also appears on her album, Ladies of the Canyon (1970). Written in the style of a folk ballad, her song beautifully conveys the spirit—as well as the ironies—of Woodstock Nation, with its theme of pastoral escape, the rally of "half a million strong," the haunting subtext of Vietnam, and the poignantly passive dream of peace.

—Douglas Cooke

Further Reading:

Espen, Hal. "The Woodstock Wars." New Yorker. August 15,1994, 70-74.

Hoffman, Abbie. Woodstock Nation. New York, Random House,1969.

Makower, Joel. Woodstock: The Oral History. New York, Doubleday, 1989.

Spitz, Bob. Barefoot in Babylon: The Creation of the Woodstock Music Festival. New edition. New York, Norton, 1989.

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Woodstock

Woodstock



The Woodstock Music and Arts Fair, which took place near Bethel, New York, over three days in August 1969, was both a massive concert and a symbol for the youth culture of the 1960s. In the late 1960s, rock festivals, most notably the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, were gaining in popularity. Woodstock at first seemed as if it would be simply another rock and roll (see entry under 1950s—Music in volume 3) music festival, but because of its size and the number and stature of the artists who performed there, the name Woodstock stands out as the most famous of all rock festivals.

Hoping for three days of peace and music (and profits), a group of four young businessmen decided to hold a music festival in the town of Woodstock, New York, known for its arts community. As they began planning, and as they hired more and more famous musical acts to perform, the festival grew too big and was eventually moved to a dairy farm, owned by Max Yasgur (1920–1973), near the town of Bethel, not far from Woodstock. The size of the festival would prove to be a big problem. As the festival day approached, more than five hundred thousand young people descended on the small farming community of Bethel, creating significant problems. The festival organizers were not prepared for traffic jams; insufficient food, toilets, and medical care; and security and drug problems, among many others. Adding to these problems, two rain storms drenched the audience and created a mud bath out of the farm.

Despite these problems, and the disaster they created, the festival was a significant musical event, featuring such important rock acts as The Who; Jimi Hendrix (1942–1970); Janis Joplin (1943–1970); Jefferson Airplane; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; Joe Cocker (1944–); and Santana. More than a musical event, Woodstock became a symbol for the idealism of the hippie (see entry under 1960s—The Way We Lived in volume 4) youth and for young people in general in the late 1960s. Despite the many problems, the crowd was largely peaceful, and they kept their spirits up, many feeling that they were part of history in the making; they were not wrong. When a music festival at Altamont (see entry under 1960s—Music in volume 4), California, erupted into violence and murder a few months later, many looked back at the peaceful Woodstock festival as the last gasp of 1960s youthful idealism. Woodstock was, in many ways, a symbolic high point for the 1960s generation, proving that peace and love were possible in the world, if only for a moment.


—Timothy Berg

For More Information

Makower, Joel. Woodstock: The Oral History. New York: Doubleday, 1989.

Morthland, John. "Rock Festivals." In The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock and Roll. Edited by Jim Miller. New York: Rolling Stone Press, 1980.

1969 Woodstock Festival & Concert.http://www.woodstock69.com/ (accessed March 18, 2002).

Spitz, Bob. Barefoot in Babylon: The Creation of the Woodstock Music Festival. New York: Norton, 1989.

Woodstock.com.http://www.woodstock.com (accessed March 18, 2002).

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