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Woodstock 1969

In: Historical Events

Submitted By jacobcunard
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Many large concerts have occurred in the United States, but none have been as symbolic as the three-day music and art fest that touted the slogans of peace and love. This event was identified as such as a result of the peace movement and the emergence of the flower children. Woodstock Music Festival took place near Woodstock New York on August 15, 16, and 17, 1969, and became a symbol of the 1960s American counterculture.
Woodstock began with the following four partners: Michael Lang, the manager of a rock band, Artie Kronfeld, an executive at Capitol Records, and two capitalists, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman who supplied most of the money and the original idea. Their original plan was to build a recording studio in Woodstock, a small town in the Catskill Mountains that had become a rock music Mecca when musician Bob Dylan and his rock group called the Band settled there. To get the word out, the four partners decided to hold a concert, which they called the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
The group originally tried to have the festival in the town of Woodstock, but the citizens would not permit it. Then after much debate Michael Lang decided to move the concert to Wallkill, New York, where the people also protested, so finally he decided to move it about 70 miles away from the town of Woodstock to Max Yasgur’s dairy farm. Looking back on the sighting of the Bethel farm Lang remarked "It was magic, it was perfect. The sloping bowl, a little rise for the stage, and the lake in the background.”
Woodstock had more acts scheduled to play then any other single event ever held before. They were trying to sign the biggest rock ‘n’ roll bands in America. The problem was getting the bands. Bands didn’t want to take contracts from an unproven venture, because they had no credibility. “To get the contracts, we have to have the credibility, and to get the credibility, we have to get the contracts,” Rosenman said. Woodstock Ventures solved that problem by paying enormous sums unheard of in 1969. The breakthrough came when they signed the Jefferson Airplane, the biggest psychedelic band back then. They signed for $12,000. An incredible sum of money considering the Jefferson Airplane usually took gigs for five or six thousand dollars. Credence Clearwater Revival signed for $11,500, and the Who signed for $12,500. Then the rest of the acts started rolling in. Woodstock Ventures ended up paying $180,000 on talent.
For additional help Woodstock Ventures and Michael Lang turned to a group of hippies from New Mexico called the hog farmers. The pranksters were living on a piece of land bought by Ken Kearney from the Hopi Indian reservation to house his counter cultured hippies. It was called the Hog Farm hence the name hog farmers. Wavy Gravy, the leader of the hog farmers rounded up 85 Hog Farmers and 15 Hopis. He donned a Smokey-the-Bear suit and armed himself with a bottle of club soda and a rubber shovel. Then he and the barefooted, longhaired Hog Farmers flew into John F. Kennedy International Airport. "We're the hippie police," Gravy announced as he and his entourage stepped off the plane on Monday, Aug. 11. The cost for this group was $17,000 and “worth every penny” Lang remarked.
The first day of Woodstock was supposed to be for folk music, and for the most part it was. This chaotic first day was highlighted with the fact that there were no ticket booths, therefore no tickets. This led to the tearing down of the fences and the largest free concert ever held. The headlining band was going to be Joan Baez. Tim Hardin, Arlo Gutherie, and Sweetwater were also slated to perform that day. The mess-ups at Woodstock weren’t entirely the organizers fault, because there was a lot of work to be done and Harvard wasn’t exactly handing out degrees in “pop planning”.
At 5:07 Friday morning Richie Havens kicked off Woodstock. With the lack of organization that went into Woodstock, Haven was forced to play for three hours non-stop before another band was even ready to set up. Finally a large U.S. Army helicopter flew in with more musicians. Ironically this helicopter saved Woodstock or the show might not have gone on. So the U.S. army saved the day for a crowd of people who were mostly anti-war.
On Saturday the only non-drug related death of the event occurred. There was a tractor pulling a tank trailer to pull the sewage from the portable toilets away. The grounds looked like a trash can by now with cellophane, sleeping bags, and cigarette butts littering the ground, but under this mass slept a 17-year-old Raymond Mizak. The tractor slowly ran over him. He died in his sleep. Also on Saturday two army jet planes flew over Bethel and broke the sound barrier. Conspiracies raged within the Woodstock Festival that the government was trying to disrupt their gathering or that they were all on the biggest drug experience of their lives.
On Sunday one of two births happened. A bearded hippie drove a motorcycle that roared up to the El Monaco Hotel. On the back was a woman screaming that she was having a baby. Resort owner Elliott Tiber raced in. The theory used to determine that Elliott Tiber was the one to deliver the baby was the fact that he was the only one not stoned. On Monday morning it ended with the finale with Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner. That moment is has gone down in Rock ‘n’ Roll history as one of the greatest moments ever.
On Monday afternoon the makers of Woodstock were listening to a different kind of music. They were in a 1.3 million dollars debt. In the hurry to build a stage in six weeks, five months of overtime pay was handed out to get this feat accomplished. The sound system that would have caused ear damage to anyone standing ten feet away took a huge chunk out of expenses, so in the end prominent family members of the four had to pay of the debt. Not only that, but they had local farmers complaining of the drinking, drugs, nudity, and kids trying to milk their cows.
When the Woodstock festival started, it was on its way to becoming the third largest city in New York, with scarce food and water, no law enforcement, plentiful marijuana, and portable toilets that were already reeking with excreted human waste. Then the bad weather began. Everything that could have gone wrong did, but it didn’t matter to the thousands of drug infested, music crazed kids. They were there to show the world that half a million kids could plan a weekend of peace and music, and only peace and music.
Now in the aftermath of the drunk, high, naked fun that those three days possessed, lives changed for better or worse and a generation and a counterculture flexed its muscles and made faces at the conformist society that shunned them.
To put into perspective how much peace actually did occur. The recent Newport Festival near Los Angeles had 75 arrests and 300 injuries due to violence, while at Woodstock in three days there were no arrests and no injuries due to violence.
Perhaps nothing could give a feel for what Woodstock was and what it was meant to be as well as the official Woodstock Music and Art Fair program. It states “What we are doing here is celebrating, and at the same time we’re checking each other out, and what we see is a bunch of fools rushing in where angels fear to tread. And hooray for us; we’ve been fearful angels too long.”
From the moment Richie Havens started the festival with his three hour set at 5:07 till midmorning when Jimi Hendrix finished with the Star-Spangled Banner 450,000 hippies piled in to a pasture in Sullivan County. For three days, this field became a counter cultural mini-nation in which minds were open, drugs were all but legal, and love was “free”. Gathered that weekend were liars and lovers, prophets and profiteers. They made love, they made money, and they made a little history.…...

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