4 Days of Music, Peace, and Love- Reliving the Woodstock Music Festival 1969
The event wasn’t a mere music event, but a celebration of love, peace, and freedom. It was attended by more than 400,000 bohemians and hippies who desired to propagate their ideas of love and peace freely.
In late summer of 1969, for 4 days, more than 400,000 bohemians came together to create this festival of freedom and peace. Originally, the festival was planned to last for 3 days, but later extended to 4, owing to the enthusiasm of the crowd and the festival’s vibe!
Music enthusiasts and event organizers Artie Kornfeld and Michael Lang had close ties to the Rock & Roll and hippie movement in the New York City. They decided to establish a recording studio for artists like Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix in the Woodstock, and further planned to start their very own label.
Their lack of capital and investment was filled in by John P. Roberts and Joel Rosenman. These two young men had an infinite fortune, but nowhere to invest it into. While looking for business ideas, they were attracted by Lang and Kornfeld’s idea. All four named their business “Woodstock Ventures”.
During meetings and dialogues, they stumbled upon the idea of hosting a Music & Art Festival in Woodstock. The inhabitants of Woodstock were conservative, as opposed to the hippie movement, and considered it to be harmful to the youth. An alternative venue was to be found.
While looking for it, Max and Miriam Yasgur, provided their dairy farm for hosting the event. They did suffer social boycott and exclusion, but the support of others kept them from backing out from the event.
The next big thing to be managed was the sound system for over 200,000 people who purchased the tickets. It was quite a task and no one was willing to give it a try. Then came the guy – Bill Hanley. He built a special sound system with over 16 speakers adjusted on the 21-meter tall towers.
The organizers agreed to not allow more than 50,000 people with the Bethel Town Authorities, but they sold over 200,000 tickets. What was more surprising was that around 400,000 people came to attend the music festival. It was already raining in the month of August and cars began to pour in the town of Bethel, leading to traffic jams and chaos.
People started leaving their vehicles on the road to walk up to the festival. Some managed the traffic, while others decided to sing and dance on the roadside. The festival vibes were starting to construct in the traffic jams as well.
Due to this traffic, the performing artists were dropped by a helicopter. Even the supplies to the event were dropped by a chopper!
The news of traffic jams and chaos reached the reporters and they soon began reporting the failure of this festival. It was dubbed as chaotic, unplanned and negative by the media outlets. When the festival attendees told their relatives about the vibe of the festival, the news was termed to be false. The media now started sharing the message of peace, love, and freedom, which the festival stood for. It is interesting to note that there wasn’t even a single case of violence in this 4-day music festival!
With the number of attendees pouring in continuously, the organizers decided to not charge an entrance fee. The festival was declared open for all. The fences were brought down and people continued to walk into the festival.
The Vibes of the Music Festival
The festival not only stood up for peace, love and freedom, but it also propagated various other ideas and thoughts.
Spirituality and Meditation
To bring about positivity and calmness, rituals reflecting spirituality and meditation were practiced by many. Even one of the opening acts was by Swami Satchidananda, who spoke about the power of meditation and spirituality.
Fun and Relaxation
Many attendees participated in fun activities, while others only relaxed and grooved to the beats. The ground was muddy and wet. People took advantage of this and started splashing into it, enjoying their heart out.
Bringing out Your Real Self
The festival’s vibes demanded that you must “Be You”. All opinions were respected and all the new fashion was encouraged. People started wearing different and unique clothes and accessories. The festival brought out the idea of “Bohemian Fashion”.
Respecting and Encouraging Diversity
The festival was a conglomeration of all kinds of people: hippies, music lovers, mavericks and performers. The Woodstock Music Festival symbolized representation of American Diversity. People from all walks of life came together to create the World’s Largest Music Festival of the 1970s.
The festival had people of all age groups possible. Everyone, from a child to youngsters, the older and even the pets made it to the festival of love and peace. In fact, two babies were born during the event!
The Festival of Peace
The central theme of the event was peace. The posters had “Peace Bird” drawn over it, inviting people to celebrate peace. The festival symbolized how harmony and peace bring out joy and freedom to people and how much one can enjoy when the world is peaceful, without war and in harmony.
Many people came to the festival unplanned. They brought no food, no clothing, and no hygiene supplies. Yet, they made a community kitchen to serve all. There was a feeling of oneness. People used to share their supplies and food with strangers. They kept the Peace and Harmony vibe going!
The Freedom Van
Another unique thing which symbolized the festival was Freedom. The vans, which were decorated with the ideas of freedom became one of the most famous ones. People painted up their vans and relaxed in them. The colorful cars were the “messengers of freedom and peace”.
The festival also signified a revolution against sexism, racism, war and animal cruelty. The main aim was to bring freedom and harmony among the people. The festival did have a social dimension attached to it.
The Festival of Love!
The couple captured in the picture below actually got married after the Festival! They made an impromptu plan to come to the festival and were captured looking around, wrapped up together in a blanket. How’s that for a love story!
The Artists who Performed
The Legend of Rock ‘n’ Roll – Janis Joplin
Janis and her brand thought that this was going to be just like any other concert for them. But when they were being flown in by the chopper, they saw the aerial view and realized that they will have to give a memorable and one of the most iconic performances.
(The Aerial View of Woodstock Music Festival)
Janis went on and gave an electrifying performance. She loved the festival so much that she decided to stay there till the end! She was among the last ones to leave the event.
After the legendary Janis was The Who band. They performed their album named Tommy, and also smashed their instruments, as they did after every show. Their performance was interrupted by a “Yippie” Leader, Abbie Hoffman to protest the imprisonment of John Sinclair.
Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young
The band was newly formed and it was their second performance! They didn’t even know the location of the festival and yet managed to make the crowd sway to their tunes!
Sly and the Flying Stone
This legendary band had their performance at 3:30 AM on Sunday morning! The crowd was already exhausted due to continuous dancing and singing along with the other bands. But the high-voltage and dynamic performance by Sly and the Flying Stone woke up the people! Their performance was said to be one of the best at the festival.
The band was unknown, having not released any album. But they managed to win the hearts of the audience by performing their instrumental of “Soul Sacrifice”. Their performance was also shown in the Woodstock documentary!
The Iconic Jimi Hendrix
He was the last artist to play at the Woodstock Festival. Many were wet, cold and tired, so they left before his performance. His performance was enjoyed by 30,000 people only. Jimi performed “Star Spangled Banner” and gave one of the most amazing guitar solos! After his enthralling performance, he was named as the “Next Best Guitarist” by the Rolling Stone Magazine!
The Harsh Reality
Though the festival was full of good vibes and positivity, it was unplanned. There were traffic jams everywhere on the roads, people were pouring in despite the agreement of organizers to host only 50,000 people! This was indeed chaotic!
There were no restrooms, and people threw trash all over the Dairy Farm. After the festival was over, there were piles of rubbish, which wasn’t properly disposed of!
The festival accepted the diversity of America, but it turned out to be a hot-spot for drug addicts. There was the use of marijuana at the festival, and one drug-related death occurred as well! The drugs and alcohol were used in excess at the festival.
Many people came unprepared, without shelter, without food, and without supplies for personal hygiene. The organizers themselves were not ready for a large number of visitors! It can rightly be said ‘chaotic’ to some extent!
Due to this chaos and drug abuse, Nelson Rockefeller, the then Governor of New York wished that the event be overlooked by 10,000 New York State National Guard Troops. However, he was convinced not to do so by John P. Roberts.
Even a day before the event was to start, the stage wasn’t prepared and the fences too weren’t set up. They had to choose between the stage and the fences. They took up the stage, so that the people wouldn’t agitate over the lack of planning.
In spite of this mismanagement, the festival was a success and gained its organizers’ huge profits! The event was also successful in its aim of propagating the message of love, peace, and freedom!
Documentary: The Woodstock Festival
The producers thought it to be a good idea to document the festival, since it would help to further spread the idea of peace and love. It was filmed with a minimal budget of $100,000.
It surprisingly became one of the highest grossing films of 1970! The film was able to cover all the expenses of the festival and is also considered to be one of the best documentaries.
The 50th Anniversary Celebrations!
Michael Lang will be hosting an event, in the month of August, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival 1969. He wishes to invite new artists and the theme of this festival will be revolving around global issues, like climate change and global warming, as per Lang.