Rather a huge task to encapsulate what was a revolution in a few paragraphs, let
me try my best. There are hard facts and then there are philosophies, harsh
truths and psychedelics .
It Was Historic
There are music festivals and then there are music festivals. Woodstock was just
a three day music festival that left not only the nation but the world stunned
and we still cannot stop talking about you, debating it,
reading or writing about it, or watching its recordings. It was also a
spontaneous festival. It was not ‘organised’. Which had its pros and cons but
we will come to that later. People either loved it or hated it.
There was no grey area associated with this phenomenon. Ever. Some associate it
solely with sex, drugs, hippies and rock and roll, which is to a great extent
true, but many fail to see the cultural revolution it
represented. Again, whether good or bad, is only a matter of opinion. It
happened. And it changed the world’s culture and music.
It created common ground
Unlike now, where people know what music festival they are going
for and what they are going to get out of it, the crowd at
Woodstock did not know what they had in common or what was in
store. It was
only on the sets of this event that they realized how like
minded they were and how different their values were from what
they considered uptight middle class previous generations. Yes
for the music. But they discovered a lot more. Not only at the
event, but within themselves. Celebration was not on the cards.
But that is what it became. A celebration of a cult which was
over those few days.
Almost half a million stormed upstate New York to experience 32 bands. The
traffic jams, the fast running out of food and essentials, the incessant rain,
the heat, none of these acted as a deterrent. The New York Thruway
was transformed into a parking lot. The mud did not deter the setting up of
countless camps. It was a disaster to those not a part of it. It was the reason
they were born for the rest. An interesting point made
by DeCurtis, there were as many people at Woodstock as there were soldiers in
the Vietnam War!
It was free
No it was not intended to be a free music festival. But the crowd that just kept
pouring in made ticket checking an impossibility. People poured in just as the
rain poured down breaking all gates and fences that lay
in their way.
It created a market
For the business man, this event which was vastly covered by the
media, brought to the forefront a huge consumer base who they
were completely unaware of now till now. People with its own
and sensibilities that could be exploited in the future.
The line up
Yes, the legends. Richie Havens. Sweetwater. Sri Swami Satchidananda. Bert
Sommer. Ravi Shankar. Tim Hardin. Melanie Safka. Arlo Guthrie. Joan Baez.
Quill. Country Joe McDonald. Santana. John B. Sebastian. Keef Hartley
Band. The Incredible String Band. Canned Heat. Mountain. The Grateful Dead.
Creedence Clearwater Revival. The Who. Jefferson Airplane. Joe Cocker. Country
Joe & The Fish. Janis Joplin. Ten Years After. The Band.
Johnny Winter. Sly & The Family Stone. Blood, Sweat & Tears. Crosby, Stills &
Nash (and Young). Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Sha Na Na. Jimi Hendrix.
The culture of Woodstock
Woodstock was about a lot of things. Sex and drugs comes to mind
first. And music. Peace was the symbol. Every thing about it
pointed towards non violence. It was almost like a counter
image to the ongoing
war in Vietnam. And it was much much more.
It gave the hippie movement a stage
Hippies we considered counter culture and outcasts. Their passion for what they
believed in, peace and love, was misinterpreted as a fad resulting from an open
culture given to sex, music, drugs and alcohol. But in
reality, the original hippies were extremely ethical in things that mattered,
completely open minded and hence forever young at heart, and not dreamers but
doers in the heralding of the new age. There is a hippie
in each one of us if only we would dare to let it out. Woodstock proved to the
world that this was a legit culture, whether you liked it or not.
It united a culture
Other music festivals bring together people. Woodstock on the
other hand brought together a culture which held out in the
real world for a pretty long time, and in our minds and some of
even now. It was so secular it was almost religious. We can
think of people getting together for a common cause today only
if it comes to a natural disaster. Woodstock brought people
celebration of positive thoughts and life. Just three days of
unintentionally making a statement. That has lasted forever.
But Why Did it End?
Why did something so big and momentous, so world-changing, so revolutionary,
end? Yes it had its negatives, which ultimately overpowered the positivity it
was meant to stand for. So here is the other side of the story.
When a Celebration Became a Frenzy
When all the peace and love climaxed into what was called a frenzy of
destruction. Which led to it being termed a counter culture. It led to damaged
property, trampled fields, public orgies, murder, huge overdoses,
arson and rape. A good thing was as always, overdone. The people lost sight of
their idealism in their focus to manifest the very same in extreme ways. Hippie
culture gave way to mob culture. The essence of creating
a new thing turned into an essence of destroying the concept of civilization
Effect on Economy and Society
The hippies, having found their place in the legit world, elected people who
brought huge inflations and soaring taxes to the market. Instead of dissolving
the concept of racism, a new kind of racism was born where
you were either a hippie or you were not. This led to an unmanageable crime
wave not to mention the spike in drug use.
Is there Hope?
Maybe there is. When people study Woodstock as a learning experience and
separate the good from the bad. Then maybe there will be another movement.
Towards positive open mindedness that would benefit the world and unite
it for good.