The Woodstock Music and Art Festival turns 40 this weekend. Hard to believe, isn’t it?
Of course, I didn’t make it to Woodstock in 1969, and there have been times since that I felt like the only person from my generation to not be there. But I was 16 at the time of Woodstock and 16-year-old girls from my world didn’t go halfway across the country with anyone except their parents, and my middle-aged parents just weren’t really into rock ‘n’ roll that much.
But, if Woodstock had been held three years later, when I was a 19-year-old college student, I would have so been there!
I have friends who went. At least they say they did. Since they actually seem to remember it, I’m a bit suspicious of their claim. But it sounds like fun. Not now, but back then it would have been fun. Gathering with a half-million of my peers in a pasture in upstate New York these days sounds like a fresh kind of Hell! We would likely spend most of our time bitching and moaning about our aches and pains, and how much our backs hurt from sleeping on the ground. We’d stand around, fully clothed (God, I hope!), in sensible shoes that likely cost more than the vehicle most original Woodstock attendees drove to the festival, complaining about the conditions and loud music.
And if it rained, like it did at Woodstock, turning Max Yasgur’s farm into a mud hole, we’d be long gone and rushing the nearest Holiday Inn. As for walking 20 miles to get there because of traffic jams, I don’t think so. There would have to be convenient shuttles and certainly adequate, and clean, porta potties. Woodstock had neither of those things. Those gathered there were rained on for three days, got little sleep, endured food shortages and had sparse sanitation facilities.
I wonder if that many of us, of any age group, could gather together in such large numbers in such unpleasant conditions and still maintain a weekend of “peace and love.” Woodstock was an amazing phenomena, in that for that one weekend a generation half a million strong gathered together to play, dance, make love, and do other things they weren’t suppose to do, and it all pretty much worked out okay. It wasn’t perfect, by any means. According to police reports, there were 2 deaths, but there were also 2 births! And, although there were more than a few drug busts, there were no reports of burglary or violent crime in the surrounding communities.
On the positive side, 500,000 young citizens were virtually left own and discovered the words Sharing, Helping, Consideration, and Respect to be very powerful. Thousands left the Woodstock event with a totally different outlook on life. And, as a side note, clean up of the 600 acre site was accomplished in five days by the Woodstock crew and attendees who stayed to help.
Woodstock has never been repeated. There was never another gathering like it that didn’t generate some kind of violence or extreme drama. That weekend, 40 years ago, changed music and it changed society.
I wish I had been there to experience it. If I only could have gotten Mom and Dad interested in a little road trip!