Friday, August 14, 2009
"THE NEW YORK STATE THRUWAY'S CLOSED, MAN!"
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!