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Why was Woodstock famous?

Why was Woodstock famous?

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Why was Woodstock famous?

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.



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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 they came 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 christened over those few days.

The crowd

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.



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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 tastes, power 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.




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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.


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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 our lifestyles 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 together in 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 itself.


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.




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