Woodstock The Music Event and Festival

Woodstock was a unique music festival that brought people together for three days to spread a message of peace, love, and music. It was dabbed ‘Woodstock’ because the organizers had initially chosen to hold it in Woodstock town of New York. However, the location was changed to forty miles from Woodstock in Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel town of New York. The event was held between August 15 and August 18, 1969. It caught the city and the country by surprise since, in the history of music, there had never been a gathering of so many people in one place and at the same time. Kornfeld, one of the event’s organizers, did not imagine that a conversation among friends would translate into an important occurrence in history (British Broadcasting Corporation, “1969: Woodstock music festival ends”).

The event was characterized by a huge number of different kinds of people in a single place. The estimated number of attendees has, however, been a subject of controversy (Kastin 18; Spitz 56; Time Magazine, “Woodstock”), with some scholars claiming that more than five hundred thousand people attended the event (“About Woodstock 1969”; Zychowski, “Accomplishments of Woodstock of 69”). At the time, the British Broadcasting Corporation also reported that the local police estimated one million people were on the road to Woodstock, causing the worst traffic jam in Bethel (“1969: Woodstock music festival ends”).

The crowd included people of various backgrounds, nationalities, and personalities, but with a common purpose – their love of music. In other words, the attendees constituted both men and women, children, white and black, philosophers, dispossessed, atheists, Buddhists, and Christians. All these people came to hear and see their favorite music groups perform. Even though all the tickets to the event had already been pre-sold, the festival organizers declared it free on the first day when fans destroyed all the barriers and fences.

According to New York Times, the locals had sharply objected to the occurrence of the event, which the organizers had anticipated would pull a crowd of not more than fifty thousand people, raising concern about the security and availability of adequate facilities (“Woodstock”). Nonetheless, this helped generate much publicity, which played a big role in attracting the large crowd that turned up. Almost everyone in the country was interested in one way or another about the event, with people who did not manage to attend getting updates through video footage on television and through newspaper articles. There was great anticipation all over the country that effective crowd management would not be achieved (Kastin 25).

The event was filled with pleasurable things, notably drugs and sex, with rock and roll music being the center of attention. Kastin, in his book, stated that blues is meant to give the artist and the listener hope and to stay positive (45). Since rock and roll are derived from blues, this phenomenon was clearly demonstrated at Woodstock. Although the consumption of drugs, namely marijuana and Lysergic acid diethylamide, was high, the crowd was calm and peaceful and had a tone of social harmony coupled with a true sense of brotherhood.

The large gathering braved themselves against adverse conditions. These mainly included the August heat, rain, and mud, sleepless nights, food and water shortage, poor sanitation, illicit consumption of drugs, the unsatisfactory sound system, and shortage of security officials and doctors. These were among the challenges that caused distress from the first day of the festival.

The people in attendance had an opportunity to witness starling performances by thirty-two artists and groups who were among the best in rock and roll of the time. Some of the remarkable performances were Jimi Hendrix, the event headliner and guitar legend with his performance of the song “The star-spangled Banner” (Zychowski, “Accomplishments of Woodstock of 69”). The guitar performance in this song was amazing. Others included Janis Joplin, Country Joe McDonald, and bands like Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, and The Grateful Dead, among others. Their magical voices and beats were sensational, and the attendees longed to see them. The artists who performed at this music amalgamation passed as legends on the basis that future events would be judged since Woodstock can never be duplicated.

In the 1960s, it was noted that there was a new generation cropping up, which comprised the young people who were questioning the purpose of America’s social values and beliefs. According to Time magazine, the youth were rejecting the old cultural norms and values, opting to embrace new ideologies like capitalism, communal living, free-thinking, and free love. At Woodstock, this idea was relayed to the public by the artists through radio and television.

This festival was held at a time the country experienced great loss through the assassinations of Martin Luther King Junior and Robert Kennedy. The emergence of civil rights movements, the mushrooming drug market, and the revolution in music made it easy for the attendees who were forming a counter-culture in America to blend easily.

With the nation still experiencing the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the young generation did not fathom the idea of being sent across the world to fight a war they did not approve of. Having seen how their brothers and fathers died, a sense of frustration was rekindled in them. This was marked by rebellious behavior, overindulgence in drugs and sex, anti-war protests, growing long hair, and adoption of a rock and ‘hippie’ lifestyle. This memorable event gave them room to relax even in those turbulent times that engulfed the nation. During this event, they expressed themselves freely through chanting songs of peace and anti-war slogans. Distinctively this event marked an eye-opener to the older generation prompting them to turn their attention to the youth who were alienating themselves from the old ways of doing things.

Various artists made inspirational remarks, including Richie Havens, who told the crowd that freedom is not what they had been made to believe but that everyone had it. Also, Janis, for instance, publicly displayed individualism and sexual freedom that was beyond racial and gender lines (Fortunate, “Woodstock 1969: high times”). The festival was dominated by free and loving speeches.

The event was, however, coupled with a few mishaps. For instance, the British Broadcasting Corporation reported the deaths of two teenagers, one from drug overdose and the other was hit by a tractor (“1969: Woodstock music festival ends”). Stories about Woodstock’s real events rely mainly on hearsay. Numerous books have been written about Woodstock. For instance, Spitz’ in his book, Barefoot in Babylon: The Creation of the Woodstock Music Festival, 1969, gives a detailed account of how and why Woodstock took place (1-10). Currently, one can always retrieve newspaper achieves for an account from the reporter’s point of view.

Works Cited

About Woodstock 1969. Web.

“An Aquarian Exposition”, The Woodstock Music & Art Fair. 1969.

British Broadcasting Corporation. 1969: Woodstock music festival ends. 2006. British Broadcasting Corporation. Web.

Fornate, Pete. “Woodstock 1969: high times”. 2009. Guitar world achieves. Web.

Kastin, David, “I hear America singing”, Woodstock Nation: three days of peace and music. Prentice Hall. Upper Saddle, NJ, 2002.

Spitz, Robert S. Barefoot in Babylon: The Creation of the Woodstock Music Festival 1969. The Viking Press, New York. 1979.

Time Magazine. Woodstock – the message of history’s biggest happening. 2009. Web.

Zychowski, Zach. Accomplishments of Woodstock of 69. 2006. Woodstock – Preservation Achieves. Web.