August 29, 2009
Last week the 40th Anniversary of the Woodstock rock festival was celebrated, providing an occasion for apostles of the Age of Aquarius to reminisce. Indeed, who can forget Woodstock? Well, I can, for one. Being in my early teens, I should have been more aware of that transcendental moment in history, but I was probably paying [too much attention] to the triumphant Apollo 11 moon landing mission (July 16-24, 1969). The three astronauts -- Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins -- had to spend three weeks in complete isolation after their return to Earth, just in case they had been infected by any deadly lunar microbes. Just as they were released from confinement, Woodstock began! Even though I was pretty much a science geek back then, I do have vivid memories of the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman," Sly and the Family Stone's "Everyday People," and other hits of that year.
Actually, there are probably a lot of people who were at Woodstock who have forgotten most or all of it, being in an "altered state of consciousness" at the time. Not just the fans, but the musical performers themselves! To see what I'm talking about, watch a video of Joe Cocker's indecipherable rendition of "With a Little Help From My Friends," with humorously mis-transcribed lyrics. Hat tip to Rich Raab.
Who knows how history will judge the Counterculture Movement in general, and Woodstock in particular? No one back then could have imagined the devastating impact on the lower classes stemming from the liberalized attitudes toward drug use. When you see the millions of incarcerated young people and ruined families, it makes you think that the widely-ridiculed anti-marijuana propaganda film Reefer Madness wasn't so far off base after all. But the Sixties were about more than just dope and silly utopian notions, it was a time of sincere searching for truth and meaning as well as spectacular cultural advance, in a wide range of arts besides popular music. As the Baby Boomer generation begins to retire, perhaps we will begin to see the Sixties in a more balanced light, recognizing both what was good about that era, and what was bad.
By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half a million strong...
"Woodstock," by Crosby, Stills, and Nash
TRUE CONFESSION: Jacqueline and I went to Woodstock and "got high" a year ago in June -- taking a ride in a hot air balloon near Woodstock, Virginia, that is!