I wasn’t there.
Through no fault of my own, mind you. My parents decided to start a family a couple of years after they got married and I came along in 1966. And, frankly, young marrieds from Alabama with toddlers aren’t exactly the type to make the excursion to New York for three days of peace and love. Don’t even get me started on the reality that, unless Buddy Holly or Chubby Checker or Sam Cooke were on the docket (or Charley Pride and/or Johnny Cash if my father had any say so) then my parents weren’t interested.
So, I missed Woodstock. 40 years ago tomorrow.
But, like everybody else, I put on tie-dyed shirts and peace signs and wigs when our school had “60’s dress up day.” That’s all we really knew about the 60’s.
Those three days of peace and love have become mythic in our culture. I’ve had conversations with people that were there (or so they say…I’ve heard that some 400,000 were actually there, and some 1,000,000 say they were). Like any good college kid, I watched the movie–and did so again a couple of nights ago–and I’ve picked up books and read news accounts and seen interviews and the whole deal. In reality, it seemed like I missed something really great.
So, it was nice to read some balanced perspective today in the daily miracle that showed up in my driveway:
From the Miami Herald’s Leonard Pitts:
“…Woodstock was the distillation of an ideal which held that avarice could be stilled, hatred could be silenced and the disparate tribes of humanity could find reconciliation in the chords of song…But if the ideal was neither born nor died on Yasgur’s farm, it nevertheless reached its fullest expression there. Granted, Woodstock did not stop the war in Vietnam, even for a week. Indeed, young people left the farm, cut their hair, put on suits and ties, pantsuits and sensible shoes, and became doctors, cops, TV executives, mothers, fathers–respectable and responsible…They joined the world they famously opted out of.”
From the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Dick Polman:
“Boomers are risk-averse as parents because they realize they haven’t changed the world. If anything, the world is more dangerous now that it was in 1969, when Woodstock’s public address announcer was intoning that ‘the man next to you is your brother.’ We’ve spent much of the past decade wondering whether the man next to us is a bomber…This notion that Woodstock was supposed to be more than a party, that it was supposed to define how a generation felt about itself, to crystallize its political and cultural potential–it’s such a heavy load. Looking back 40 years, Woodstock has managed to inflate boomers’ expectations of themselves and, sadly, to amplify many of life’s inevitable disappointments.”
Like I said.
I wasn’t there…so I don’t really know the times and context. And, yes, my view of it is great music, peace signs and tie-dye in an almost cartoonish portrayal.
Not too shabby for an event that became what it became because the organizers goofed up so much.
And I think there’s a lesson in that.