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Rock and Roll from the Heart

On August 15, 1969, I knew where I wanted to be because I had heard so much about it. Only one major problem I was 12 years old so this was one rock festival I would have to sit out. Do you have any idea what I’m referring to?

The one and only, the legendary Woodstock Music Festival. I watch bits and pieces of it on YouTube and I just love all of those great rock artists singing up there on that great stage. I was one of those who thought that this rock festival had taken place near the town of Woodstock, New York in the Catskill Mountains. Instead, it took place on a piece of farmland in White Lake which is a hamlet in the upstate New York town of Bethel about 50 miles from Woodstock.

The promoters of the festival were John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield, and Michael Lang. They figured that the Woodstock Music Festival would be a great way to raise funds so that they could build a recording studio and rock-and-roll retreat near Woodstock, New York. Woodstock was an artist’s colony which was already home to Bob Dylan and some other musicians.

In order to make it all possible, the promoters had to sign up some top acts and they signed up acts like The Jefferson Airplane, The Who, The Grateful Dead, Sly, and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Creedence Clearwater Revival as well as many others. However, the festival almost didn’t happen because they couldn’t find a location in which to hold it. So it was lucky that dairy farmer Max Yasgur agreed to give them access to 600 acres of land in Bethel, New York.

The gates to the Woodstock Music Festival opened on Friday, August 15th and over 400, 000 people were ready to rock and roll. You can imagine what it all looked like – overwhelming. In such a crowd I’d be afraid to bring along small children but there were families nevertheless. My mom and dad were never into rock and roll but dad did like Elvis Presley who was not going to be part of this festival. I always wondered what it would have been like if my dad hadn’t died two years before and all three of us had been part of that festival. It just boggles the mind. Anyway troubles already started that first day because those without tickets were getting through gaps in the fences and eventually the organizers had to make the festival free of charge. The event began with folk singer and guitarist Richie Havens followed by Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie that Friday night.

So there they were all those young and happy hippies enjoying three days of love, peace, and incredible music. Some of the outstanding moments of the Woodstock Music Festival were the career-making performances of acts such as Santana, Joe Cocker, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Finally the closing act by Hendrix with an improvised solo guitar performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Unfortunately for all good intentions, the festival left its promoters practically bankrupt but they were able to make up for it with the release of the documentary hit film in 1970. No other festival has had the success that the Woodstock Music Festival had. Just think today some cows are wandering on the hallowed ground on which a lot of rock and roll greats once stood.

What do you think?

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  1. I have to say I was a bit of a geek. That summer, 1969 began and ended for me in July. Once Apollo 11 launched, landed, launched and finally landed again, my focus was NASA. I didn’t even think about Woodstock until 4 or 5 years later.

    🙂

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