Woodstock 50 years later


The three days in 1969 that shaped my generation.
August 1969: 500,000 young people converged in a celebration of peace, music and love.

Fifty years ago this past weekend, Woodstock, the music festival that brought 500,000 young people together in a celebration of peace, music and love, was held at Max Yasgur’s dairy farm 70 km southwest of Woodstock, N.Y.

I wasn’t there, although I certainly wanted to be. I was 18 years old and my parents wouldn’t hear of it. One of the great misses of my life!

This past weekend, tie-dyed, white-hair pilgrims converged at the generation-defining site to celebrate the 50th Woodstock anniversary. Arlo Guthrie returned to sing “Flying into Los Angeles.”

And Ed and I celebrated the three days that shaped our generation last night by watching Michael Wadleigh’s 1970 documentary Woodstock, which received the Academy Award for best documentary feature. The director’s cut, which we watched, ran just under four hours with plenty of performance footage.

Highlights are too many to do justice to, but a few of them are:

  • A young nun, in an opening scene, flashing the peace signal.
  • Kids lined up to call their parents at phone booths.
  • Richie Havens, sweat drenching hi shirt, belting out “Freedom.”
  • A young Joan Baez, her lovely face radiant, singing “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.”
  • Joe Cocker giving his all to “With a Little Help From My Friends.”
  • Sly and the Family Stone with “I Want to Take You Higher.”
  • Ten Years After, featuring Alvin Lee, with a blistering rendition of “I’m Going Home.”
  • And the famous finales by the late great Janis Joplin (“Work Me Lord”) and Jimi Hendrix (his brilliantly twisted version the “The Star-Spangled Banner”).

I’m afraid the time has come for watching events such as this from the comfort of our living room.

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About rosemarymccracken

Rosemary McCracken is a Toronto-based journalist and fiction writer.
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