Monday, August 17, 2009


The Woodstock Art and Music Fair was held over three days in August 1969 -- the 15th, 16th and 17th -- so this is the 40th anniversary of that seminal event in pop music. Woodstock didn't take place in Woodstock, New York because of community opposition; rather, it took place at dary farm in Bethel, New York, about 40 miles away.

The line-up of performers was a true who's who of the era (excluding the Beatles and the Rolling Stones). Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Santana, the Band, Johnny Winter, Blood Sweat and Tears, Sha Na Na, Ravi Shankar, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and many others performed for the 300,000 spectators at any one time.

In spite of only 600 porta-potties, inadequate water supplies, mud, and choked roads, the festival showed that young people could gather for a musical celebration in a peaceful way. With Joni Mitchell's song as well as a film about the festival and records from the festival, Woodstock became more than it was at the time. (Joni Mitchell was not present at the festival, even though she memorialized it with her song).

The era of peaceful rock festivals lasted only a few months. "Woodstock West" was held in December 1969 as the Altamont Speedway Free Festival in northern California. Marred by death and violence, Altamont sealed the uniqueness of Woodstock.

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