Woodstock Revisited

2019 Woodstock

By the time they got to Woodstock, they were half a million strong… at least according to the Joni Mitchell song. In actuality, 400,000 might be a more realistic number.

Young people from across the country made the pilgrimage to Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York, to attend one of the seminal events of the 20th century: the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. It all took place August 15–18, 1969. Headliners included The Who, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, and Jefferson Airplane. Woodstock marked only the second time that Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young played together. And who can forget that Sha Na Na was there too? Jimi Hendrix was the highest paid performer, and famously closed the festival with his version of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

The festival was pretty much a financial failure, since most attendees crashed the gates without purchasing tickets. Luckily, the producers owned the film and recording rights and were able to recoup their investment when the hit film was released the following year. A total of 120 miles of film were shot with 16 cameras, and the end result is an amazing view into not only the music but also the formation of the Woodstock Nation, the community that was formed during those three days. The hippies! The mud! The Port-O-Sans, traffic jams, and volunteers making sandwiches! Wavy Gravy!

All three major television networks covered the story. There are some great clips available here in case you are not familiar with the concept of hippies.

Many libraries are celebrating the big anniversary with great programs. Some are hosting historical talks and musical guests, while others are screening the original documentary.  Fair warning: the director’s cut of the film is three hours and 44 minutes long!

Fifty years later, Woodstock still resonates with the reading and listening public. One of the original organizers made an attempt at a sequel, a new festival called Woodstock 50. You can read about the timeline of events building up to the festival here. However, it was ultimately cancelled at the last minute due to "unforeseen setbacks."

Authors and publishers are also celebrating this fun anniversary. There have been several new books dedicated to the spirit of Woodstock, and plenty of older favorites are still in print. View list here.

Do any of our readers have any Woodstock memories? Maybe you were there or, more likely, heard some carefully edited stories from a parent or grandparent. Maybe your library patrons would like to reminisce together about their memories of rolling naked in the mud while humming “White Rabbit.” That could be fun and informative!