It’s hard to believe that the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, popularly known as Woodstock, turned 45 on Aug. 15.
It was the summer of 1969, the dog days of August, when Max Yasgur made history by renting out his 600-plus dairy farm acreage in Bethel, N.Y. to a bunch of young entrepreneurs, John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld, and Mike Lang who had the crazy idea of hosting a whole weekend of rock-and-roll music performed by the greats of the day in order to raise enough money to create an up-state recording studio. And where all those long-haired, peacenik, tuning-in, turning-on, and dropping-out, leaping unknown hippies could make love not war.
The promoters never dreamed more than 400,000 rock-loving, stardusting, golden, flower children would attend, but they did.
An advance ticket back then was $7 for a day, $13 for two days and $18 for the whole weekend.
When you compare that to tickets for the Electric Daisy Carnival for a three day pass at $300 at pop, or the Electric Zoo rave on Randall’s Island at the end of August, which will set you back about $350, for three days of electric-techno bacchanalia — seeing those great bands for only $18 was like getting it for free. No wonder the festival lost more money than it made.
The line-up on that misty, muddy, weekend at Woodstock included Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, Country Joe and the Fish, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, The Who, The Band, Jimi Hendrix, Melanie (“I’ve got a brand new pair of roller skates”), and even Sha-Na-Na, those glittering, ducktailed, pompadour a capella singers who specialized in tunes from the bad old ’50s, as well as many others. And it wound up as one of the greatest moments in rock-and-roll history, setting the stage for all future outdoor concerts.
Although a teen (and I thought old enough), my parents felt I was a bit too young to be allowed to go, and so along with all those other wannagoers that were deemed too young to march up to Bethel, I just listened to the radio and heard snippets about it on the television.
I remember watching Walter Cronkite on the evening news talking about the weekend after it was all over and my parents talking about those “Naked hippies going wild up-state.”
Footage showed the grounds chewed up, garbage strewn all over and Yasgur’s farm worse for wear, but to America’s teens it was the concert of the century.
Not for Nuthin™, but 45 years on and Joni Mitchell’s words still sum it up better than any documentary ever could, “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.” Happy birthday Woodstock. Peace, love and rock and roll 4 ever.
Follow me on Twitter @JDelBuono.