Woodstock Essay

This essay has a total of 2775 words and 11 pages.



To some, the 60s were a decade of discovery as Americans first journeyed to the moon.
Others remember the time as a decade of America’s moral decline with the advent of rock
and roll and its representation of "sinful", inappropriate ideals. Yet for many people,
the 60s symbolized a decade of love and harmony. Hippies exemplified these beliefs, and
in 1969 they gathered at a music festival known as Woodstock to celebrate their music,
their love, and their freedom in a concert that has remained on of the most influential
events of the 60s.

The youth of the 60s were known as the "Love generation". They made love promiscuously
and openly, and preferred open to formal marriages. Weekend "love-ins", free form
gatherings, communal living quarters, and rock festivals were held in response to the
"love movement". The "love movement" was the hippie belief for peace and harmony. It
reached its peak in the summer of 1967, and by then it had over 300,000 followers who
referred to themselves as the "love children" or the "gentle people". They gathered in
San Francisco, the hippie center of the world, during the summers. During these "Summers
of love", they lived on the streets of Haight-Ashbury, sitting in groups along the street
and strumming their guitars (Frike 62).

These "love children", otherwise known as the hippies were the result of the antiwar
movement that was sweeping the nation during the Vietnam war. Hippies were resolutely
against the war. They participated loudly, and often violently in countless anti-war
protest rallies and marches. They were known to publicly burn draft cards, and some even
renounced military service for prison (Hertsgard 124).

Hippies were not only antiwar, they were predominantly antiestablishment. The status
symbols of their elders were decisively rejected: wealth, social position, culture,
physical attractiveness, and economic security. They held in disdain, cosmetics,
expensive jewelry, nightclubs and restaurants and all other refinements of the affluent
society. Wealth meant nothing to them. Personal freedom to express oneself was believed
to be the most important thing in life. They were antiauthority, antirace discrimination,
and antipollution, in short they were rebels against the society, fighting against the
moral standards of America they felt were unjust (Hertsgard 153).

Events such as rock concerts soon became a platform against the repressive government and
accepted morals. Such events provided opportunities to express their resentment. The
rock concert of Woodstock was a prime example. It was described by psychoanalyst Rollo
May as "a symptomatic event of our time that showed the tremendous hunger, need, yearning
for community on the part of the youth"("The Big Woodstock" 17). Rock concerts of the 60s
had become the equivalent of a political forum for the young for the expression of
political ideas, the spirit of community and awareness of the world around. "Woodstock
was a celebration of joy which wiped out, at least temporarily, the persistent feelings of
meaninglessness that permeate our culture" This concert, held in Bethel, New York, in
August of 1969, has become a symbol of the 60s. It is a symbol of the hippie culture
embodied in the youth of the time. This concert was the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
Billed by its youthful Manhattan promoters as "An Aquarian Exposition", it promised music,
peace, and great rock and roll. By a conservative estimate, more than 400,000 people, the
vast majority of them between the ages of 16 and 30, showed up for the Woodstock festival.
Thousands more would come if police had not blocked off access roads, which had become
parking lots choked with stalled cars. The multitude of cars and people also forced the
New York Thruway to close, creating one of the nation’s worst traffic jams ("Peace Mecca"

People walked as many as twenty miles to get to the concert, all the while singing songs
of peace and love and carrying placards displaying their hippie sentiments. Among the
many were "Keep America Beautiful-Stay Stoned", "Love is Power", and "Flower Power".
Flowers, along with a dove perched upon a guitar became the symbols of the festival.
These images were painted on cars, clothes and even bodies ("Rock Audience"). Their
shabby clothes were a symbol of their freedom, their uniforms being faded jeans and worn
tee shirts. They wore beads and feathers with their long hair pulled back in bandannas
and beaded headbands Had the festival lasted a little longer, as many as one million of
these colorful youths might have made the pilgrimage to Bethel ("What Happened" 8).

The lure of the festival was an all-star cast of top rock artists, including Janis Joplin,
Jimi Hendrix, and Jefferson Airplane. But the good vibrations of the good groups turned
out to be the least of it. What the youth of America, and their observing elders saw at
Bethel was the potential power of a generation that had in countless disturbing ways
rejected the traditional values and goals of the U.S. Thousands of young people, who had
previously thought of themselves as an isolated minority realized now what power they had
as a group over society (Fass 3).

Woodstock was the brainchild of four young entrepreneurs who wanted to put on a "great
Rock and Roll show for America" In 1968, the four men, Michael Lang, Artie Kornfield,
Joel Rosenman, and John Roberts, made a visit to their friend Max Yasgur who lived on a
farm near Bethel, New York. They had chosen the town of Bethel for their concert because
of the symbolic biblical reference in its name. The four managed to convince Yasgur to
let them hold their concert on his 600-acre farm. He agreed to the estimate that only ten
to fifteen-thousand people would be attending the concert on his land (Woodstock Music).

The concert was widely advertised, but the unexpectedly large crowd it attracted, about
400,000 people, suggested that the potential significance of the event was spread by some
kind of an underground network. "If you were a part of the culture,"said one pilgrim from
Bethel, "you had to be there." Consequently, the crowd was too big for the police to
handle, only one-fifth actually paid the admission for the concert, the remaining attended
for free ("All Nature 194-96"). Law was nearly impossible to enforce due to the massive
crowd, and the police were outnumbered considerably, one for every two-thousand attendees.
Drugs were used widely at the festival, yet out of fear of rousing the crowd to
hostility, fewer than 100 arrests were made on drug charges (Grunwald 227).

After the first day of the festival, the promoters hired the Hog Farm hippie commune to
police the fair. They took care of kids on bad drug trips, and acted as nurses to the few
doctors at Woodstock. Along with the mass drug use, thousands of people suffered from
injuries such as colds, broken bones, and sore throats. Due to the unexpected large group
of people, there was poor sanitation and very little water. The conditions became so bad
that the festival doctors declared a "Health Emergency" and over 60 doctors were flown
from New York City to help with the crisis (Huges 334).

The mishaps at the Woodstock were numerous, yet they failed to put a damper on the high
spirited crowd. It rained through the entirety of the weekend, turning everything to mud.
It rained over the instruments, and yet the bands continued to play. Consequently,
several performers were treated for electrocution burns. There was even a power blackout
during the middle of the Grateful Dead set, which lasted for several hours ("Woodstock").
Max Yasgur’s farm became a muddy mass of people as the rain fell throughout the days of
the festival.

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