Friday, August 14, 2009


Yes, my friends, it was 40 years ago this very weekend (August 15-18, 1969) that Arlo Guthrie uttered those now-famous words from the stage of the Woodstock music festival to a throng of nearly half a million people camped in the middle of Max Yasgur's farm out in the NY boonies. Enduring rain, wind, mud, hot sun, not enough food or porta-potties, and bad brown acid, the youth of America grooved to some thirty-two musical performances, some of which have gone on to immortality (Hendrix's anti-war version of the Star-Spangled Banner), some to pop culture sloganhood (Arlo's observation on the jammed traffic), or just plain goofy memories (a stoned and tie-dyed John Sebastian blowing his lyrics). Others, whose names escape me, went on to obscurity. I must say right up front that I wasn't at Woodstock, but I've seen Wadleigh/Schoonmaker/Scorsese film so many times I can practically lip-sync right from one end to the other. Our blog-sistah Cloudia, at Comfort Spiral is the only person I know who was actually there, and has lent me her ticket image to post here. Do click on her link to be taken to her own post for her own delightful first-hand accounting.

Probably the thing I took away most from the Sixties was the music. I was twenty-two years old when Woodstock happened, and I'd already been a big music fan since the late '50s. In the last few years I've written two books on vintage rock and pop music (the second is due out this September) and have one in the pipeline on early folk songs, so you know I love this stuff! Like Kiki Dee, I got the music in me. And so I want to pause and pay tribute to the event that has been called the defining cultural moment of the Sixties, and of the Baby Boomer (my) Generation. Here's a LINK to the Wikipedia article, with a list of the performers in order of appearance, a fascinating list of performers who turned it down, and other assorted tidbit, for those who want more trivia than I can reasonably include here!

The music. Most people have heard Joni Mitchell's song about the event, either her version, or more likely the cover by Crosby Stills Nash and Young. It's a classic, to be sure, but there's another Woodstock song that is very high on my list of favorites, Melanie's "Lay down (Candles in the Rain)" The story goes that when Melanie performed at Woodstock, it was at night and raining. When the rain stopped, people in the crowd started to light candles (and probably cigarette lighters)as a sign that the storm was over and things were looking brighter. The story further goes that Melanie was so moved by the sight that she wrote this song. Backed by the gospel sound of the Edwin Hawkins Singers (who had a 1967 hit with "Oh Happy Day")it became the other Woodstock anthem. So here you go, have a listen to Melanie's original album version, and take a look back at some of the old festival footage. Peace out.

To my blog friends: I have a crazy busy weekend of deadlines (proofing the digital proof of the aforementioned manuscript, work on the video trailer for it, and sundry other related things) but I will try my very best to get around to all-y'all at some point, and hopefully things will be back to a sane pace next week. But just because you don't hear from me, don't think I'm not thinkin' 'bout ya!


Lin said...

I remember those hubby turned into a hippie and joined the free love movement. Unfortunately I didn't and took my sons and got a divorce. He's still a hippie now almost 70 and two of my sons followed his path. Those were the days. I did enjoy most of the music.

SandyCarlson said...

I was a baby then. Music in our house stopped well before Woodstock, so I was in high school before I heard anything post-Buddy Holly!

Woodstock is a wonderful part of NY State. Just lovely. Must have been something.

magiceye said...

lovely tribute!

Sue said...

Thanks so much for the video of Melanie's song. I for that song for decades before giving up. My college roommate played it frequently, and I loved it but some how got it in my head that it was called "white bird" and in the pre-internet days, one couldn't find a song if just knew some of lyrics, but not its name or the name of the artist!

Sue said...

that was an interesting link (to "fly little white dove"), but no, I've never heard that song, I only ever heard "Lay Down(Candles in the Rain)". What I meant was that I never knew who the artist was -- my roommate (who owned the record player and the records) always played it. All I could remember after we stopped being roommates was the words "let your white birds smile" so I thought "white bird" was the name of the song, which made it impossible to find the song again.

Good luck with the book proofing!

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised that you were at Woodstock. Glad you gave the background for Melanie's song, I love it.

Good luck with the publishing chores!

Quiet Paths said...

I was 8 and listened to all this stuff via my older brother who is 9 years older. I loved it all; still do. Thanks for sharing the memories.

Shelley said...

It was interesting to see these photos! And she certainly had a beautiful voice!

Cloudia said...

Thanks for this flash back!

I must read your book(s).

Very Well Done and appreciated my bloggy Sistah!

Comfort Spiral

me ann my camera said...

I'm a bit slow in responding to this but I found the titler catfchy and brought to mind s trip we made in the summer of 99 probsbly. We ere on the New york Interstate friving to Port Dover , Ontario and stsrted to felling nervous as there wer do many police cars heasdind in the samew direction. Ehst were we heading into? It was scheduled anniversary Woodstock Concert. My ghusbsnd loved Woodstock, snd like you could probably lip sync any oh the performances.He had the double album, and a video of the originwl concert. Great stuff! I was relieved duringn our drive to discover what all the police activity was about in preparation for the weeekend. We came home Canadian all the way so as to not encounter traffic jams on the return trip home.

Dee said...

I was just didn't even touch my little midwest world when it happened. I remember reading about it at about 15 and thinking I had been born too late for the fun!