Friday, August 14, 2009

Woodstock: Peace, Music & Memories by Brad Littleproud and Joanne Hague

Tomorrow is the 40th anniversary of the first day of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, also known as the Aquarian Exposition in White Lake, New York. Because attendees began arriving a day early, as you learn in Woodstock: Peace, Music & Memories by Brad Littleproud and Joanne Hague, you could argue that today's the day. No matter what day you choose, the event is worth remembering for its music, mud, mishaps, and myths.

No one really knows how many people attended Woodstock. According to the authors of Woodstock: Peace, Music & Memories, no one ever took the tickets. Because the festival was moved at a late date out of Wallkill, New York, where a half-finished stage sat for years, construction at Yasgur's Farm was never completed. No one ever built the ticket booths. It would not have mattered, as the fences were not finished either and there were far too many people to send through narrow gates. It is estimated that only one third of the attendees had tickets, which they kept and now sell on eBay.

Several new books about Woodstock have been published. What I like about Woodstock: Peace, Music & Memories is that it features the young fans who came much more than the musicians who played. The book is filled with their snapshots and memories, giving readers a good sense of what it was like to be out in the field at the festival. Despite the rain, mud, lack of food, and distribution of bad drugs, most had a wonderful time. The bands played super long sets through the day and even the night, since no one could actually leave and come back as originally planned. People did start to leave on Sunday. By the time Jimi Hendrix played his famous final set on Monday morning (long past the planned closing time), only 40,000 people remained.

Readers wanting more about the performers should try Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock by Pete Fornatale. Most of the chapters in this history focus on the rock stars, telling how they got to Woodstock, how and when they performed, and what being at Woodstock meant to their careers. Many played poorly, which is not surprising with the rain, technical problems, long delays, hunger, and drugs. Others rose to the occasion and are still remembered for peak performances. Fornatale's book can be read to see who won and lost at Woodstock.

Littleproud, Brad, and Hague, Joanne. Woodstock: Peace, Music & Memories. Krause, 2009. ISBN 9780896898332

Fornatale, Pete. Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock. Touchstone, 2009. ISBN 9781416591191


Anonymous said...

Despite the rain, mud, lack of food, and distribution of bad drugs, most had a wonderful time.... all the while 109 true American hero's died that long weekend in Vietnam.

ricklibrarian said...

It is sad that 109 Americans died in Vietnam because of the mistakes of the Democratic and Republican administrations who sent them into an senseless war. Woodstock was supposed to protest that war. It really just became a party that many people remember well. More people died the next week in Vietnam. Soon people also died at rock festivals. Nothing was accomplished. It is difficult now to look at either the war or the concert objectively. Both have been mythologized.

Jimmy said...

*heroes...i believe you meant. lets try and look at it as a cultural landmark rather than a target for our political angst. Nobody likes war. Not everybody likes music's all ok...humanity AND the US survived both. why don't we try and learn from our mistakes without bashing or condemning those who made them?...just my humble ideas