Posted By RichC on August 14, 2009
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. 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 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'."
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.