Sunday, August 21, 2011

Woodstock 1969: Four days that changed the world of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Woodstock Music and Art Fair, the most famous of the 1960s rock festivals, held on a farm property in Bethel, New York, August 15–18, 1969. The Woodstock Music and Art Fair was organized by four inexperienced promoters who nonetheless signed a who’s who of current rock acts, including Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, the Jefferson Airplane, Ravi Shankar, and Country Joe and the Fish.

The festival began to go wrong almost immediately, when the towns of both Woodstock and Wallkill, New York, denied permission to stage it. Ultimately, farmer Max Yasgur made his land available for the festival. Few tickets were sold, but some 400,000 people showed up, mostly demanding free entry, which they got due to virtually nonexistent security. Rain then turned the festival site into a sea of mud, but somehow the audience bonded and the festival went on.

Acts who had started being noticed when they played the Monterey Pop Festival in California in 1967 took the final step to superstardom with their performances at Woodstock. Carlos Santana’s rendition of “Soul Sacrifice” is still considered one of the best he has ever done. Jimi Hendrix’s discordant, screeching rendition of “Star Spangled Banner” electrified the crowd, fueling its overwhelming sentiment against the Viet Nam War. ‘The Who’ achieved legendary status when Pete Townshend smashed his guitar and threw it into the crowd at the conclusion of the band’s performance of the entire rock opera, Tommy.

However the festival left its promoters virtually bankrupt. But they had held onto the film and recording rights and more than made their money back when Michael Wadleigh’s documentary film Woodstock (1970) became a smash hit. The legend of Woodstock’s “Three Days of Peace and Music,” as its advertising promised, became enshrined in American history, at least partly because few of the festivals that followed were as star-studded or enjoyable.

A 1994 festival on the same site was better organized and more successful financially, if less legendary. In 1999 a third festival was marred by a small riot. The Museum at Bethel Woods, a multimedia exhibit space attached to a performing arts centre, opened in 2008, with the stated mission of preserving the original festival site and educating visitors about the music and culture of the Woodstock era.

Take a listen to “Star Spangled Banner” by Hendrix  Live @ Woodstock 1969.

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