Turns 50 the hip­pie dream, pin­na­cle of Wood­stock, ONE OF A KIND

Global Times US Edition - - LIFE A - Page Ed­i­tor: xuli­[email protected] glob­al­times.com.cn

‘Idyl­lic no­tion’

Sri Swami Satchi­dananda, a yoga mas­ter from In­dia, opened the fes­ti­val with an ad­dress urg­ing com­pas­sion, a mo­ment seen as em­body­ing the non-vi­o­lent cul­ture Wood­stock aimed to rep­re­sent.

“I am over­whelmed with joy to see the en­tire youth of Amer­ica gath­ered here in the name of the fine art of mu­sic,” said the slight, bearded man, sit­ting cross-legged be­fore the mas­sive crowd, lead­ing the con­cert­go­ers in chants of “om.”

Later on, Coun­try Joe Mcdon­ald of the psy­che­delic rock band Coun­try Joe & the Fish fa­mously led them in chants of “f **k,” be­fore play­ing the anti-war protest song “I-feel-like-i’mfixin’-to-die Rag.”

By the time Hen­drix tore through his elec­tri­fied, ab­stract ren­di­tion of “The Star-span­gled Ban­ner,” now con­sid­ered iconic, the masses were head­ing back to the real world, just be­gin­ning to sear their col­lec­tive myth into the history books.

Danny Gold­berg, a long­time mu­sic in­dus­try in­sider who cov­ered the fes­ti­val for Bill­board as a star­ryeyed 19-year-old, fondly re­mem­bers the week­end as “a lot of peo­ple with smiles on their faces.”

“I was taken al­most im­me­di­ately with this sweet­ness – the idyl­lic no­tion of the hip­pie brother and sis­ter­hood that rarely man­i­fests it­self, even then,” he told AFP from his Man­hat­tan of­fice.

“But it was quite pal­pa­ble at Wood­stock.”

‘Night­mare of mud’

The adage holds that if you can re­mem­ber Wood­stock, you weren’t re­ally there – and many pre­cise de­tails of the week­end are hostage to the dru­gad­dled and ever-ag­ing rec­ol­lec­tions of at­ten­dees and even the or­ga­niz­ers them­selves.

Ru­mors per­sist but mys­tery en­dures whether any ba­bies were born at Wood­stock.

Sleuthing over the decades has fallen short, and no one has come for­ward as off­spring born on­site – though it’s likely some were con­ceived there.

Re­ports from the time say a trac­tor clean­ing debris ac­ci­den­tally ran over one per­son in a sleep­ing bag, while at least one per­son is said to have died from a drug over­dose.

Like a crit­i­cally panned movie turned cult film, in the days fol­low­ing the fes­ti­val, main­stream news out­lets were largely dis­mis­sive.

“The dreams of marijuana and rock mu­sic that drew 300,000 fans and hip­pies to the Catskills had little more san­ity than the im­pulses that drive the lem­mings to march to their deaths in the sea,” read an ed­i­to­rial pub­lished in The New York Times.

“They ended in a night­mare of mud and stag­na­tion... What kind of cul­ture is it that can pro­duce so colos­sal a mess?”

But An­nie Birch, who car­a­vaned in with a group of friends at age 20, re­mem­bers the fes­ti­val as “so peace­ful, given all that mass of hu­man­ity.”

“That crazy rain, we had an amaz­ing fire that never went out,” she told AFP.

“All those bands be­came iconic. It was just like wow, let’s get to­gether in a big way. It was leg­endary.”

‘Mu­sic and peace’

In the fes­ti­val’s af­ter­math, Yas­gur, the landowner, told a tele­vi­sion crew he “be­came quite apprehensi­ve” when faced with the “sea of peo­ple.”

But “th­ese young peo­ple made me feel guilty to­day be­cause there were no prob­lems – they proved to me, and they proved to the whole world, that they didn’t come up for any prob­lems,” he said.

“They came up for ex­actly what they said they were com­ing up for – for three days of mu­sic and peace.”

Birch, now 70, said Wood­stock was a defin­ing mo­ment both for her per­son­ally and for her en­tire gen­er­a­tion.

“It was amaz­ing,” she said. “I was happy to be a part of that ex­pe­ri­ence.”

But she views it as a one-of-a-kind event – not some­thing that can be recre­ated.

“I’m eter­nally hope­ful for the state of hu­mankind that some­thing equally amaz­ing could hap­pen,” she said.

Pho­tos: IC

Peo­ple at­tend the Wood­stock Mu­sic and Arts Fes­ti­val in 1969. Top: A com­mem­o­ra­tive plaque on the site where the Wood­stock Fes­ti­val took place 50 years ago on a farm in up­state New York

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