To paraphrase something T.S. Eliot said about literary classics, we know more than we did in the sixties -- and the sixties are most of what we know.
Taking the good with the bad then became the beginning of the end of an era of excess that began like so many other ideas with good intentions and led to a wayward and destructive social and cultural path. Some took from these events lessons that portrayed the "good" while others were left with insidious drug additions and sexual inhibitions that continue in many ways to plague the U.S., outside of the era of the 1960s.
The symbolic importance of Woodstock, cannot be dismissed as it proved, without a doubt that even the conservative children of the rural (previously unaffected) population could and would join their urban counterculture brothers when the venue had the pull and draw that Woodstock did and react and act in many of the same ways, according to their own whim and the standards of the event and the counterculture. People, came form all over the nation to join in the festivities as Woodstock, even after the event had begun, swelling the ranks to an uncontrollable or supportable hoard of individuals who needed services which were simply not available. The event even later symbolically defined who was and who was not in the scene, if you were present at Woodstock you were a bonafide member of the counter culture if you were not you not only had missed out on the most amazing thing many had ever witnessed but you were somehow an inauthentic "poser" of the counterculture. The Woodsock event came to be the mark of a real member as well as proof of the almost religious zealotries that was guised as secularization of conservative social religion.
A secularization reversed itself into resacralization. A remark by Ralph Gleason, father figure to the Flower Children, about Altamont, applies even more to Woodstock: "The gathering was religious, of course, which is no new comment." 23 We talked about morality a lot in the sixties; did we not condemn the war on moral grounds?
The demand for continued messages from the "rock" stars who were the "preachers of the event, sadly went unanswered when even these leaders proved to individually be weak for the excesses of the period.
Impact on the Region
Though the region where Woodstock was held immediately felt the impact of the event, in the form of complete lack of ability to support and sustain such crowds the lasting effect was limited, except symbolically. Many would in fact not recognize the region, where the event was held, unless they had been one of the first few to arrive on the scene, as it is a rural open plain with little or no structural changes and nothing to indicate that so many had for a few days lived out a pinnacle fantasy of convoluted excess and standard. The lasting impact for many would simply be the fact the Woodstock, NY a quite sleepy little borough in the area is now a recognized household name.
The analogy of the reality of Woodstock to Altamont being the transcendence of the "free your mind" drug doer to that of the crazed self-destructive and socially destructive addict holds true of the whole of the period as every event, associated with te 1960s counterculture eventually turned to a parade of drugs and drug opportunism that drove many to question the ideals and standards of the period and call them much more than they were. "Sex, drugs and rock n roll" drove the idea that doing things that freed the mind and body from the confines of conservative actions and decision making was wholly good and therefore should be embraced. Yet, alternatively gave the detractors of the movement the ammunition they needed to call the movement inherently corrupt, as the drugs resulted in base and even violent actions, the sex ended in massive STD outbreaks and uncared for children and the rock n roll led to a corrupted mind incapable of making informed and real decisions about what was good and what was bad. There is no more telling of a call to action that the divide that this slogan created between the adherents to the counterculture and those who detracted from it.
Despite the one or two bad seeds that used the movement to further and propagate destructive social behavior, the real messages of the 1960s hippie counterculture should leave a lasting idea of the good rather than the bad.
Woodstock Thirty Years Later I arrived in San Francisco at the end of the summer of love in 1967 and stayed for six months in Haight-Ashbury. We would gather in Golden Gate Park for free concerts by the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane. It was there that I bought my first camera and started photographing these folks. Nearly two years later in New York, the idea of seeing old friends and meeting new ones brought me to Woodstock. When it began, no one could have known that the Woodstock Rock Festival -- a three-day celebration of community and music -- would turn into a watershed moment of American culture and a landmark of the twentieth century. Woodstock defined a generation and symbolized the differences between the World War II generation and their children. It was the largest peaceful gathering in our history, and it happened spontaneously. Woodstock grew to half a million by word of mouth alone. Most of us heard about it from like-minded friends and simply picked up our backpacks and went. We weren't concerned about where we would sleep, how we would live, or any of the other mundane details. We were drawn by the promise of the music -- the music that defined us and that still endures thirty years later.
Remembering the hippie culture, what it meant and who was a part of it is not difficult as many "hippies" still live today, some transformed other reformed and the world will likely continue to see them as influential arrangers of hope, rather than bringers of vile human nature.
How to Remember Woodstock
Bringing many together, most out of hand of any social intention, to listen to music and live as they chose to live, if only for a day or two is how Woodstock should be remembered. It is an infectious event that pervades social and cultural standards of the day and should to some degree be divorced from bad actions and attitudes that might have sprung from it.
From all over the country we made our way to the tiny town of Bethel (there was no place for the festival in Woodstock proper). Fortunately, a local farmer named Max Yasgur offered his land to the organizers, giving the event a home. Woodstock literally stopped traffic. For the only time in its history, the New York State Thruway was closed down by sheer volume. Undaunted, hippies simply left their cars on what was the best-paved parking lot around and walked the rest of the way to the site. The performers had to be helicoptered in; there was no other way in or out. Although tickets were sold, the endless stream of people arriving gave the organizers no choice but to let them in free of charge -- and it became a free festival. This was very much in keeping with the ethos of the participants: share everything, experience life, and "don't sweat the small stuff. "Music was at the heart of Woodstock. An endless roster of the best in the business performed day and night. Music was the common bond that transcended professional status, religion, education, and region. It brought us together as a community ready to change the world. Though often characterized by the slogan "make love, not war," Woodstock wasn't an overt demonstration. There weren't any posters or rallies; it all came out through the music. Hundreds of thousands of draft-age people were facing a war that seemed it would never end. The festival gave them hope. Young people from small towns could see that there were half a million others just like them who were facing the same thing. Although people watching from the outside thought it was the beginning of an era, it was in fact the end. Those of us who had lived through the summer of love kept hearing about an "end of summer" event in the East. We all wanted to be there. Woodstock was to mark the culmination of that era and the end of a decade. Since 1969, there have…
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