How much do you know about Woodstock, that most-famous of rock festivals held 50 years ago in 1969 on farmland in upstate New York? Well, you could learn even more if you were to pick up and read my latest book, Come Together: How Baby Boomers, the Beatles, and a Youth Counterculture Combined to Create the Music of the Woodstock Generation.
Come Together is now available exclusively at the Politics and Prose bookstore in Washington, DC or it can be purchased here through the Politics and Prose website.
Since we had spent 11 hours at the Bethel Hills site yesterday, we decided not to go early today. At noon, we went to lunch at the Two Rivers Grill in Matadoras, Pennsylvania where we staying. There we met my new favorite waitress, Lisa, who had just started work that week. For a few years now, if my wife Judy and I order dessert, we share. I’ve made it a standing joke to ask our servers to bring Judy a smaller fork or spoon so that I can get more of the dessert. Today, Lisa complied. But there was a twist. She brought the smaller fork for me, explaining that Judy, as a female, deserved the larger portion. Our dessert was delicious. It was fresh-baked caramel covered apple pie (neighboring upstate New York is known not only as the original home of Woodstock, but also for its apples) with home-made vanilla ice cream. And I don’t even like apple pie.
On the elevator at the Hampton Inn we met a Buffalo couple, Maria and Gunner, who had just arrived that morning and were going to the Woodstock for the first time. They asked us several questions, and since we all had lawn seats for the Santana performance, we asked them if they wanted to travel to the Bethel site with us. They said that would be great and the four of us were on the road by 3 p.m.
While Gunner and Maria wandered around taking in the atmosphere and the sights that we had been exposed to yesterday, Judy and I decided to focus on a just a couple of exhibits.
First up was the Light Bus, a version of which had actually made the journey to the original 1969 festival. In fact, the bus itself has a storied history. In 1968, Bob Grimm, who was then playing in a rock band named Light, asked his friend Robert Hieronymus to “paint us a magic bus”. Heronimus immediately got to work transforming a 1963 split window VW Kombi bus into a vehicle covered with esoteric symbols to welcome in to what was then being called a new Aquarian Age.
Like Ken Kesey and his fellow pranksters on their famed bus Further, Grimm and his friends made the trip across country in 1969 to Woodstock. Their painted bus was featured in an AP Woodstock photo that appeared in newspaper’s around America. Based on that photo, the bus began appearing in all kinds of publications and became a a talismanic of the peace and love portion of the late ’60s and early ’70s.
In 1972, the bus was used to run errands for the Savitra commune in Baltimore. Within a short time, the now decaying bus became unusable. However, in 2009, as part of the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, a limited edition diecast model replica of the Light Bus was a popular best-seller.
In 2018, Hironimus and a team of artists restored a 1962 Kombi VW bus in a secluded barn in Maryland. Now, that restoration was drawing big crowds, most of whom wanted to get the pictures taken with the Light Bus in the background.
Next, I headed to Recovery Unplugged tent to talk Jim, a recovering alcoholic police officer from my home state of New Jersey who I had chatted with briefly yesterday. He was at Woodstock at a representative of the music-based alcohol and drug treatment program Recovery Unplugged offers at its facilities in Lake Worth and Fort Lauderdale in Florida and northern Virginia. A fourth facility is expected to open soon in Nashville.
Jim explained that Recovery Unplugged are pioneers in music-based addiction treatment. “Actually, our C.A.C. is the man who literally wrote the book on music-based addiction,” Jim explained, pointing out Paul Pellinger’s book about the story of Recovery Unplugged Music Is Our Medicine. Several musicians including Steven Tyler and Richie Supa of Aerosmith, Morris Day of the Time, and the rapper Flo-Rida are associated with the program.
While we were talking, a Bethel Woods worker approached and told Jim that he and his fellow workers would have to take down their tent and secure all the Recovery Unplugged items as a severe storm was expected to strike the area in about half-an-hour.
Judy and I decided to seek shelter in the Woodstock Museum until the storm passed. We focused on two of the exhibits, one explaining in depth the background of all the artists who performed at the first Woodstock festival and the other a temporary exhibit We Are Golden: Reflections on the 50th Anniversary Festival and Aspirations for a Peaceful Future.
The special exhibition features a collection of of authentic Woodstock artifacts including Jack Cassidy of Jefferson Airplane’s bass guitar and the tunic he wore, handwritten lyrics for the song “Goin’ Up the Country” by Alan Wilson of Canned Heat, and a speaker cabinet and missing equipment used by Bill Hanley, whose work established the standard for outdoor concert sound.
Other sections included Voices from the Past, which presented first-person commentary about changing American society in the 1960s; Woodstock Remembered, first person accounts from people who attended the historic three-day festival; Woodstock Through the Lens, a collection of photos taken at the festival; and What the World Needs Now, an interactive exhibit tat engaged participants in conversations about what they want from society today and how the experiences from 50 years ago could inform attitudes, decision-making, and actions today.
While we were inside, the threatened severe storm never materialized and we headed to the amphitheater lawn to meet Gunner and Maria and enjoy in tonight’s concert with The Doobie Brothers and Santana, with its leader Carlos Santana whose musical breakthrough came from the song “Soul Sacrifice” which was featured in the award-winning 1970 documentary on Woodstock.
Of course, the original Woodstock was plagued by incessant rain storms that turned the festival fields into veritable seas of mud and mess. In fact, one of the lasting moments from the film featured the crowd shouting the “No Rain, No Rain” chant which provided the segue into Santana’s energetic performance.
Well, as if to prove the musical gods have a sense of both history and irony, after the Doobie Brothers concluded their set (which included their huge hits “Listen to the Music”, “Jesus Is Just Alright,” “Long Train Runnin,” and “China Grove,” as well as my all-time favorite Doobie’s tune “Ukiah,” lighting flashed and thunder rolled. Those of us in the amphitheater (which has a reported capacity of 16,200 but on this Saturday night, was estimated to be far more than 20,000) prepared for bad weather, and, indeed just minutes before Carlos Santana and his current band were scheduled to take the stage, rain began falling.
As they have on this tour all summer, Santana was paying tribute both to Woodstock and the 50th anniversary of his band. With an explosion of noise from the crowd, a precoded version of the rain chant from the Woodstock burst from the speakers and, once on stage, the band broke into three songs that became their standards from their initial Woodstock debut – “Soul Sacrifice,” Jin-go-lo-ba,” and “Evil Ways”. Now, while it is true you can’t go home again, or as the Chinese put it, you can’t put you feet in the same river twice, that Santana there-song opening was about as close as you can get if you had been one of the estimated 400,000 who attended Woodstock in 1969.
The Music of 1969: Talking ’Bout My Generation July 29, Aug. 26, and Sept. 23, 6:45–8:45 p.m.
The year 1969 saw a major upheaval in American culture and society, one that found a corresponding reflection in pop music. A glance at the charts shows the transition: carefree bops like “Sugar, Sugar” and “Build Me Up, Buttercup” are there, but so are psychedelic tunes like “Aquarius” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” The Allman Brothers, Blind Faith, Judas Priest, Mountain, and ZZ Top all debuted, while the Beatles recorded their final album. On the 50th anniversary of that tumultuous year, join Dave Price, D.C.-based author of the upcoming What’s That Sound: Song Lists and Stories to Help You Better Understand the Music of the Baby Boom Era, to explore the music of 1969 and why it endures.
Woodstock and Its Legacy
Mon., July 29
The Woodstock Festival—three days of peace, love, music, mud, and myth—made musical and cultural history. Pricerecalls the scene at Yasgur’s farm in performances by Richie Havens, Santana, Sly and the Family Stone, and Jimi Hendrix. Director Michael Wadleigh’s documentary about the event further burnished the Woodstock legend, and theWashington Post’schief film critic Ann Hornadayjoins Price to discuss the impact and legacy of that film. Get a preview of the two competing concerts, one at the site of the original festival, planned to commemorate Woodstock’s anniversary.
’59,’69,’79: The Music in Context
Mon., Aug. 26
Price leads a look at a how the music of 1969 is linked to pop’s past and influenced its future. He and songwriter and poet R. G. Evansrecall “the day the music died”—the 1959 airplane crash that claimed the lives of rockers Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper—and its reflection in Don McLean’s “American Pie.” With Rolling Stones expert Doug Potash, Price looks at the Stones’ ill-fated Altamont concert, a dramatic and violent contrast to the peace-and-love vibes of Woodstock. Then fast-forward a decade for some tracks and talk about albums from Donna Summer, the Clash, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Pink Floyd that show how diverse music was in a year when rock and disco battled for supremacy on turntables and the airways.
The Music of Protest
Mon., Sept. 23
America was founded in protest, and few times capture the nature of public dissent better than the 1960s and 1970s. Price explores several of the era’s massive marches and rallies held in Washington, connecting them to classic protest songs that provided the soundtracks for the civil rights and peace movements, from Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” to Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Full series CODE: 1B0-309 Members $75; Nonmembers $105 Individual sessions
CODE: 1B0-310 (Mon. July 29)CODE: 1B0-311 (Mon., Aug. 26) CODE: 1B0-312 (Mon., Sept. 23) Members $30; Nonmembers $45