Welcome to the Woodstock - Preservation Archives
Dedicated to the Historic Preservation of the Site of the 1969 Woodstock Festival
THE WOODSTOCK SITE
Hurd & West Shore Rds
|Accomplishments of Woodstock
By: Zach Z.
Heartland Community College - Normal, Illinois
In Memory of the 27’s:
From the beginning of recorded time, music, in some form or another, has always been of great importance to mankind. Whether we are discussing an opera conducted by Mozart or Robert Johnson and his blues, the concept that music is valued greatly by society stays the same. As we reflect back on the 20th century, it is clear that popular music has changed quite a bit through that time in history. Although, American popular music of the 20th century was formed by those from the 19th century. With slavery came Africans who had unique styles of playing music that clearly had an enormous impact on music as we know it, such as drumming style and use of hidden meaning. Eventually, slavery ended and African Americans found themselves creating the blues to help them through the hard times of segregation. Blues was sped up and commercialized to evolve into jazz. Jazz went through its different phases and developed into rock and roll. It is rock and roll that we know best today. In its infancy, rock and roll was much different than it is now, but what remains the same is its genuine purpose, which is to have a good time and make a statement. Now one must wonder if it was possible to put on a concert, or rather, a festival that would stand for everything that is rock and roll in a very positive and productive way.
Well, a couple “hippies” by the names of Joel Rosenman and John Roberts thought of a way to do just that, during the late 60’s. It came to be called Woodstock ‘69, a three day music festival filled with all things pleasurable, most notably sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Although there was a lot of drugs, and a number of mishaps, like rain, food shortages, and a few deaths, all in all Woodstock ’69 accomplished a lot in the big picture. In fact, I believe that Woodstock of 1969 was the most important event of popular music as we know it, in the 20th century. For one, it exemplified diversity working at its best. There were almost 500,000 attendees, all of whom had varying statuses. One might also say that Woodstock re-invented the way concerts and festivals are held, that is, the mix of music and endless fun all in one huge package. Until then, there had never been such a large event. So is it its sheer size that it is most remembered for or is it remembered because it is the most definitive event in the history of rock and roll?
As for diversity, most people now think that most of the attendees were long-haired “hippies,” and many were, but many weren’t. It is hard to describe the level of diversity that was accomplished. In an interview with Chris, who actually attended Woodstock ‘69, said “The concert brought together a diverse group of people , mainly young, black and white, rich and poor, middle class, artists, gays, straights, the ideologically dispossessed, philosophers, gurus, hedonists, bikers, Christians, Buddhists, atheists etc. who all shared the common bond of alienation and angst that pervaded a society struggling to come to grips with a undercurrent of revolution, rejection of all authority, a crumbling of it’s institutions and a new world order where freedom of expression, creativity, acceptance of diversity, and equality was fermenting a new consciousness in the crucible of righteous rebellion toward war, overt capitalism and civil inequality.” It’s already hard enough to get all these different people into a place where they all have a common interest. They then also all have to get along the entire duration for it to be a successfully diverse event, and with a crowd of almost 500,000, many had predicted that crowd control would be a big problem. As I read in an article written weeks after Woodstock, these music fans never fought, the most the guards had to do was tell the skinny-dippers to keep at least the minimum amount of clothes on for the video recording crew, it might be because most of them were skinny-dipping at least slightly stoned. (Herald Times) After this is all said about diversity, no moment is more powerful than when almost 500,000 highly diverse, mud soaked, food and sleep deprived Americans gathered to hear “The Star Spangled Banner” played by none other than the event headliner and guitar legend, Jimi Hendrix.
Although, Woodstock 69 will never be duplicated, it did set standards for how rock concerts should be. So, in a way it reinvented the way concerts should be held. As I read in one book, until then, the largest event known held only had around 150,000 attendees, with much less chaos. (Tiber) An analogy might be, when you give a dog fillet mignon, he won’t like it when you start giving him dog food again. There developed a certain level of expectation. There had never been anything quite like Woodstock. The artists that played there are now put on a special pedestal in time as legends, which means when a big event is being judged, it is Woodstock 69 that it is to be compared to, as well as the artists. And were talking about artists like Janis Joplin, Country Joe McDonald, and bands like Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, and The Grateful Dead. Creating a bench mark for anything is essential for positive growth. It is kind of like how society uses deviance to create norms; Woodstock was the best and now we must compare other events to it, creating a goal of musical evolution. As Chris stated, “this group was a potential goldmine who would become the movers and shakers of the future.” As a result, Woodstock has set a precedent for the future musicians and fans alike to work towards duplicating it, even though duplicating Woodstock is an impossible goal. While trying to look back at the roots of rock and roll, it’s hard to think of an event or moment that was as definitive as Woodstock 69. In the early days of popular music as far back as the blues, Americans have used music to get through the hard times. Woodstock is about everything, whether pleasurable or not. Rock and roll derives from the blues, which seems to come off as depressing music, but its not meant to be. As I read once in my book from my rock and roll class, the blues is meant to give the artist and the listener hope and to stay positive. (Kastin) Ultimately, the blues covers pleasurable topics and not pleasurable topics. This is seen in rock and roll a lot. “Woodstock was a unique event where historic, emotional, sociological, and spiritual consciousness was forged against the backdrop of a musical event of grand proportion. All the components came together at just the right time in history,” explained Chris. One thought to consider is that, rock and roll, collectively, is about everything an American endures; the good times and the bad times. All that we endure in a lifetime doesn’t is not worth a thing if the values, beliefs, and general good nature of Woodstock is not grasped within that lifetime. As you can see, Woodstock was very beneficial, aside from the obvious mishaps. Diversity beliefs were strengthened by bringing together people with all different ethnic backgrounds, religions, and beliefs. And it did this in great numbers, almost 500,000 concert goers participated. Woodstock reinvented how concerts should be presented, as it reminded the listeners why they were there, for the music and peace. These two things are vitally important to civilization as a whole. Finally, it acted as a definitive moment in rock and roll history, because it represented everything that is “rock and roll.” So, in my opinion, Woodstock is the most important event of popular music as we know it, in the 20th century.
“How Woodstock Happened,” http://www.woodstock69.com/wsrprnt1.htm
Kastin, David, “I Hear America Singing,” Woodstock Nation: Three Days of Peace and Music. Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle, NJ, 2002.
Personal interview with Chris (in assoc. with Woodstock - Preservation Archives http://www.woodstockpreservation.org)
Used with Permission
Edited for this website