In 1969 Woodstock made a statement that rang loud and clear across the country. Today, the free-for-all music festival is celebrating its 50-year anniversary this week on August 15-17.
For those too young to remember, Woodstock was a concert that brought more than 400,000 people together to enjoy rock-n-roll music and ballads, but to also engage in a free-spirited atmosphere of peace and love, the mantra of the decade. The free concert was held in an open field, on a 600-acre dairy farm, in New York state near the town of Bethel.
And, the festival was significant.
Life during the 1960s was filled with an ever reoccurring theme of “make love, not war.” The theme was frequently heard on college campuses, as well as in national newscasts. The phrase was the moniker for the hippie culture and college students who were protesting and demonstrating, or participating in sit-ins at government buildings or in campus classrooms. The slogan was a protest against the Vietnam War and a stand against the establishment. In tandum, young adults also voiced complaints against marital commitment, government interference, and capitalism. The 1960s and the “make love, not war” slogan represented a huge change in American culture.
Nonetheless, the era ended with an array of outstanding accomplishments and many notable heartaches.
It was a news filled year with the Apollo 11 space flight and Neil Armstrong and Edwin ‘Buzz’ Aldrin walking on the moon for the first time; Concorde 747’s first flight; the Charles Manson cult murders; Chappaquiddick; the Beatles’ last performance at Apple Records, along with other news items. In 1969, the average cost of a new house was $15,555; and average income per year, $8,550.
1969 was the year some noted as “the year that changed America.” It was a mixed-up volatile decade that culminated into Woodstock.
Woodstock was the benchmark.
The list of musicians who participated in the concert was outstanding. There were performances by The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Joe Cocker, Blood Sweat & Tears, Santana, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, and many more. Approximately 32 bands performed during the two-day event which has since been regarded as one of the greatest moments in popular music history. Rolling Stone cites Woodstock as one of the “50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll.”
Woodstock was the highlight of the 60s hippie movement.
The historical importance of the event is found in the peacefulness and compliant attitudes concert-goers exhibited for nearly three days. During the event, 400,000 – 500,000 people chose to get along for the duration of their time together, in a field that offered no amenities. According to reports, concert goers shared food, tent shelters, clothing, vehicles, and most assuredly, drugs.
The gathering was peaceful, and security was never an issue.
Concert-goers lived up to the message on festival ads and flyers which stated, “August 15, 1969, Woodstock Festival –– Three days of Peace Love and Music.”
The concert had a profound impact on the direction of the hippie movement in the United States. Rather than becoming a revolution for change, Woodstock was a resounding blueprint for peace, love and music.
To the establishment, however, the festival was a threat. Woodstock was deemed a dangerous affront to mainstream standards and conformity. Public officials and media stood terrified of the principles and doctrines behind the concert movement. There was fear, as it had been a volatile year. In the end, however, the event was deemed amazing.
There was a sense of unbelief that a group of nearly 500,000 could assemble so peacefully, so focused, and remain completely unified in kindness and commonality.
Society may have been more fragmented in 1969 than it is today, it’s hard to say. Nonetheless, Woodstock proffers a beacon of hope, that even today unity is possible.
Just imagine …. 500,000 people coming together today, peacefully, harmonious in assembly, focused on love and music, all with the common goal to attain peaceful resolve …..
What a welcomed change that would be.
To Woodstock, which was originally called an Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music, Happy Anniversary!
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For those interested in revisiting Woodstock, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) offers a newsworthy documentary on the festival and how it came about. The documentary has actual film footage of the event, with an in-depth look at the organizers, and the townspeople of Bethel, New York. The commentary includes observations from concert-goers and their opinions as they look back upon their festival experience.