Woodstock – trying to remember 40 years ago

Posted By on August 14, 2009

Woodstock Festival 1969

The word — the place — the music — the festival called Woodstock still evokes passion either ‘positive’ or ‘negative’ and the music, politics and lifestyle branded the generation who came of age in the 1960s.  The 40th anniversary of the three day concert in Bethel, New York takes place this weekend marking the event that celebrated either “peace, love and music” or “sex, drugs and filth,” depending on your perspective. I thought it might be interesting to search my own memories of that time (BTW, age 10, I don’t remember much about the Woodstock event).

As a ten year old boy growing up in a rural place call Howard Farms just east of Toledo, Ohio, I was mercifully sheltered from the Vietnam politics and radical turmoil of the day. My biggest concern in the summer of '69 was playing baseball and following the World Champion Detroit Tigers on my transistor radio. When school let out, kids from the city living in summer cottages would move to our sleepy street and we would spend day after day playing baseball in the backyard. 124 Lagoon Dr Curtice OH (Howard Farms)Besides baseball we'd hang out on the beach and sleep in the treehouse (click image of a current day Google Cam photo of the house I grew up in and the 'baseball diamond' -- backyard). Occasionally discussions would address the newsier events of the time, especially the racial issues my summer friends, "city kids," faced. We'd also squabble over tuning the radio as music was a big deal to the teens of the group, but for the most part I was an idealistic kid dreaming about landing on the Woodstock moon or being Tiger's shortstop Mickey Stanley (and eventually Eddie Brinkman). Life was good when the only concern was listening to a music or a ballgame on a rainy day; I'm thankful never to have seriously pondered Vietnam or getting sucked into the hippie culture -- ten was a good age for the trials of 1969.

Nevertheless, Woodstock mentality lived on well past the one event -- it influence people and music for years to come. In my opinion, it did mark the 60's generations conclusion of "peace and love" as the generation evolved with more "anger and hate." The events during the violent year of 1968 may have accelerated the change, and to me it seemed to be reflected and amplified by the music. There was also real anger over its generations pointless dying in Vietnam and seeming futility in effecting change in a passive way.

In the late 60s, ballads of this hippie generation gave way to more aggressive and even violent rock n roll --  perhaps it continued to co-exist? Harmonies and dopey (pun-intended) lyrics gave way to angry and strained vocals; acoustical guitar chords turned into to screeching electric "noise" ... as my father was known to call it. As 60s icon Bob Dylan crooned earlier in the decade, "The times they are a changin'."

Crowd of approximately 400,000 attended Woodstock
A crowd of estimated at 400,000 attended the Woodstock music festival

What I remember about 40 years ago and the Woodstock Festival is not much ... it is the celebrating and memorializing of the event that sticks with me. The movie, the photos, the stories and the music are what I know and remember ... but just like listening to the Detroit Tigers and 'knowing' the players of 1969, I know the Woodstock performers.  I listened to their music as I grew older the 70s and their performances in my mind are what I remember. As with the Tiger ballplayers I knew their stats and their stance at the plate; with the Woodstock performers I knew their music and their lyrics -- that was enough (didn't really need the drugs and mud). I may not 'really remember' Woodstock, but in my opinion growing up with the music and not living the music was a better experience.

Woodstock poster 1969

Comments

  • Gary

    Morning Rich and I certainly enjoyed the trip down memory lane to Woodstock, when life seemed simple, and anything was possible. Hard to imagine that 40 years have passed, nevertheless the music remains timeless. I was actually one of the faithful, clad in the uniform of the day, a military jacket, torn jeans and wearing huarache sandals and just going to a party at a place called Woodstock! Like many however, we did not make to to Woodstock but will never forget the summer of 1969…

    Also, a belated Happy Birthday to Brenda. She and my brother share that special day.

    Gary

  • CJ

    Awesome review from you ol’ guys who were part of a wild generation. Enjoyed reading your memories.

  • TEchWiz

    I wasn’t even born when the hippies celebrated the 10th anniversary of Woodstock, but wish I my generation could have enjoyed freedom as much as those who grew up in the 60s seemed as if they did? Drugs must have been a big part of Woodstock as every program I’ve ever watched about the festival comment on drugs being everywhere. Enjoyed the reminder Rich and keep up the personal stories.

  • Thanks for the comment to my blog as always … and the Happy Birthday wish to Brenda (passed along). We both enjoyed the night out last week and the full spectrum of conversation.

    I knew the Woodstock post would trigger a response from you and figured that your memories would be a bit more colorful than mine — I’ll have to remember to ask about them next time we are together. 😉

  • chiropractic technique woodstock ga

    I never saw it like that before, do you have more blogs about this?

  • R2

    thank you for telling such a good and beautiful festival happened in those days. your memories were quit helpful my research work for 1960 and 70.

  • Daughter of a boomer

    Thanks for the great post that I talked about with my father. He must be about your age because enjoyed both the memories and the musical link. I’m doing a project and trying to “archive” his stories. (I found your site because of the myarchive.us domain) Thankis.

  • Stewart

    Excellent post.Such intriguing read and info, thanks for sharing this publish, I have already bookmarked your blog. I can see that you’re putting many time and effort into your blog and detailed articles!

Desultory - des-uhl-tawr-ee, -tohr-ee

  1. lacking in consistency, constancy, or visible order, disconnected; fitful: desultory conversation.
  2. digressing from or unconnected with the main subject; random: a desultory remark.