MY BODY MISSED WOODSTOCK, BUT MY SOUL WAS THERE
Just a freshman in high school in 1969, I wasn’t quite old enough, or rebellious enough, to hit the road to Woodstock, and my parents weren’t about to take me there, although my dad did take me and my friend, Bob Chandler, to the Newport Jazz Festival for one day that summer. That was a more civil affair with amenities like seats and the “free-festival” exponents hadn’t quite gotten their fence crashing act together yet, like they would a month later at Woodstock. Mind you, this was a “jazz” festival where I saw Ten Years After, Jethro Tull, Blood Sweat & Tears, and the Jeff Beck Group w/Rod Stewart. The only jazz that day was The Steve Marcus Quintet in a set of post-Coltrane improvs and Rahsaan Roland Kirk, who tore the roof off this open-air hippie house with an uproarious set. He had to be dragged off the stage by festival promoter, George Wein, who was forced to let him back on for an encore.
But no, I didn’t go to Woodstock although I feel like I’ve been their through Michael Wadleigh‘s still brilliant documentary. I’ve read about a lot of artists denigrating their sets that weekend, notably The Who, who said it was their worse performance ever, but you couldn’t tell that from the ecstatic show that went down on film. Sly and the Family Stone made me converts with their exhortation to take me higher and a film has never ended more powerfully or poignantly than Jimi Hendrix‘s early morning closing set. He’d be gone five months after its release in March of 1970.
I’ve read a lot of naysaying commentary on Woodstock, including Jim Fusilli‘s jaundiced piece in The Wall Street Journal. He concludes his snarky article, But How Was the Music?, by saying:
One day, music fans no longer under the sway of the marketing of Woodstock as a cosmically significant cultural event will have access to every song recorded at the festival. After they plow through the dross to enjoy the few moments of musical magic that occurred during those three days and nights, it’s likely they’ll shrug, fully aware that a great many festivals held after Woodstock presented much better rock & pop music.
I don’t know, it’s been 40 years, that’s two human generations and 3-8 music generations down the line. Yet, Woodstock still holds a power that remains embodied in the music played there that weekend. I don’t hold any nostalgia for that time or the mythology of Woodstock, but I still get a warm buzz whenever I see images or hear music from that august event.
Peace & Love
John Diliberto ((( echoes )))