Woodstock Photos Reveal Peace, Love, And Politics In A Way We've Never Seen Before
By Lyra Radford | July 28, 2017
It was more than a music festival it was a cultural landmark for an entire generation. Despite the absurd amount of people that descended on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm near the town of White Lake, it was still a surprisingly peaceful event. That’s not to say there weren't any problems... it wasn't all peace, love, and rock and roll.
Woodstock itself was an example of anti-capitalism at its finest
Woodstock was the brainchild of band manager Michael Lang and songwriter Artie Kornfeld. The initial goal was to hold an art and music festival over the course of three days, to raise enough money to build a recording studio in Woodstock. It was just a cash grab for them, they wanted to lure the hippies in with bands and make a bunch of money off them. What they created, however, took on a life of its own and became the most famous music festival in rock history. And they didn't make a dime. They were at least $1.3m in the hole debt and it took over a decade for the backers to recoup the losses.
There was an entry fee but most of the anti-capitalist crowd wasn't paying it
Woodstock came to represent the entire 1960s protest movement
It was a celebration of generational revolt
Woodstock was an expression of a generational revolt, to quote the Rolling Stones - "It's the singer, not the song". The anti-establishment cultural phenomenon that reigned throughout the 1960s may have been expressed through song but those who believed in the message were the real driving force.
A generation lost in space
The Woodstock generation were all defined either by the Vietnam War itself or the anti-war movement. They were a generation surrounded with both government propaganda and anti-war rhetoric. Most of the music tapped into the resulting frustration. It expressed disgust for war, the government, and society’s frauds. There was a sense of weariness, yet a strong refusal to conform or take any part in it. They didn't know exactly what to do or where to go, but they knew there was a lot wrong with the way things were.
There was a deep sense of distrust for U.S. government, unlike ever before
Country Joe McDonald graced the stage of Woodstock with an anti-war themed performance. Widespread social tensions were coming to a head. After the JFK assassination conspiracy theories ran wild. From there formed, a deeply rooted sense of distrust for the government, unlike ever before. That distrust continued to bubble around the Nixon administration and would eventually be proven justified after the Watergate Scandal came to light. It was a tumultuous era even without all the social movements.
Jimi Hendrix made history with peace, love, and patriotism
Sexuality, women's rights, and how they combined were big themes of Woodstock
The drugs, the promiscuous sex, it all tied in to wanting the freedom to explore alternative mindsets and lifestyles. Another concerning issue at the time of Woodstock was women's rights–which was often (strangely) celebrated with open sexuality amongst the hippie generation.
At a time when women were screaming for equality, Janis Joplin walked on the scene and became the biggest female rock star of the era. She was this powerful voice breaking new ground for women in the rock music industry. She was the embodiment of a wild child, leaving the confining community she grew up in to do things her way.
Children of the Woodstock generation had a very untraditional upbringing
Governor Nelson Rockefeller declared Woodstock a state of national emergency
The Hippie movement wasn't just political, it was spiritual
Whether it be through experimentation with psychoactive drugs, meditation, or yoga, the hippie movement embraced the concept of reaching alternative mental states. When the news broke that "Sweetwater" was stuck in traffic and wouldn’t be able to open the show, new arrangements were made. The crowd was more than happy to join a massive group Yoga session led by one of the Hog Farmers.
Festival goers soon discovered they were not ‘one’ with the universe
As the storm clouds approached the wide spanning outdoor event, the crowd attempted to tap into the powers of their collective unconscious by chanting their desire for clear skies to whatever deity they thought was listening to them. The crowd was urged from the stage, “Let's think hard to get rid of the rain.” A chant rang out: “No rain, no rain, no rain.”
It didn’t work, in fact, they may have made it worse. Joan Baez sang “We shall overcome” during a relentless thunderstorm and three hours and five inches of rain later, they had a mud-fest. The weather remained bad all weekend.
Not all the performers found Woodstock transcendental
The idols of the Woodstock Generation were placed on A Vertigo-inducing pedestal
The rock icons were put up on a massive stage, with a revolving platform to make the transitions between performances seamless. A member of the Scottish folk quartet “The Incredible String Band” described the experience on Woodstock stage to writer Mark Ellen: “It was incredibly high and three out of the four of us had vertigo. Little flimsy dresses on the girls, acoustic guitars out of tune, the drums damp from the tent, it was like playing off the Forth Bridge to this sea of people cooking beans in the mud.'
The festival became the third largest city in New York
It's pretty impressive when an event gets upgraded to 'city status' based on its size. The hippies really did have their Utopia. The sprawling farm they quickly overtook, became the third largest city in New York State– only for the duration of the event that is.
The unpoliced event became a drug society
It only makes sense that Woodstock, a festival full of those preaching anti-establishment and anti-authority rhetoric, was an unpoliced event. This meant people were free to drop acid, snort coke, and smoke as much weed as they wanted. It was all out in the open and some people even set up little “smoke tents” and advertised they had drugs.
They did their best to create a peaceful community
They really got into the groove of things in their little community and even created their own signage. They nailed them to trees along paths like street signs. Hippie appropriate names like 'Groovy Way' the 'Gentle Path' and of course 'High Way,' each pointed to the appropriate direction.
Woodstock was an unpoliced event
The hippies got their Utopia
The Woodstock generation got their wish, even if only for a duration of four days. They got to live amongst like minds, share food and drugs and rock out to music in their own Utopian society. All they’d been protesting for came to life on that farm for those summer days in 1969.
At least two 'far out' babies were born at Woodstock
Can you imagine being at a three-day rock festival (that was more like joining a hippy commune)
And then going into labor? There were at least two confirmed births at Woodstock.
At one point John Sebastian, lead singer with Lovin' Spoonful, announced from the stage: "Some cat's old lady just had a baby, a kid destined to be far out!"
There were reports of a new mother being airlifted to the hospital by helicopter and another birth happened in the nine-mile traffic jam just outside the festival.
The free food ran out fast
In addition to “Please Force,” the Hog Farm convinced promoters to also let them set up a free kitchen. So the hippie commune probably wasn’t expecting such a large turnout and they ran out of all that free food. A U.S. Army helicopter ended up being assigned to bring more food in.
There was a food-driven rebellion amongst the ‘hangry’ hippies
Anti-war activist got a new appreciation for the United States Army
Bad trips, overdoses, and cut feet
The spirit of Woodstock inspired some of the neighboring religious groups
The local Jewish Community Center heard about the shortage of food and resources at Woodstock and decided to put together some care packages for festival-goers. They prepared and had local nuns deliver sandwiches from around 200 loaves of bread, a solid 40 pounds of meat, topped with two gallons of pickles.
There were three deaths at Woodstock
The flaws with a hippy society
Woodstock was a celebration of all the positive aspects to a whole host of political and spiritual philosophies the hippies held. Of course, in addition to creating their ideal society, they also got to see where they were flawed.
You can’t give out free food and drugs forever. They couldn’t even make it four days. Governor Nelson Rockefeller declared it a disaster area, it was like the aftermath of a Hurricane except these people were doing it to themselves.
Woodstock had an effect on counterculture
Idealism is where good things start, only structure will make them last
The peace and love generation was destined to fail, it wasn’t built on a strong enough foundation. It sounded good but idealism and wishful thinking aren’t enough to hold the weight of the world. They needed structure, they needed some capitalism, and they ended up needing the help of the government they were rebelling against just to have their basic needs met.