Sunday , May 28 2023

Woodstock, a legendary festival of the hippie era, celebrates 50 years


Initially, it was primarily to promote, with a series of concerts, musical creation in northern New York.

No one, and especially not the young organizers, anticipated that the Woodstock festival would become emblematic of a generation and of the hippie movement, with its idealistic message of peace and love cutting through a decade of violent demonstrations and assassinations, on a Vietnam war background.

50 years ago, from August 15th to August 18th, 1969, at a time when rock was still young, long hair was a riot, where anti-war demonstrations were almost daily.

Between 400,000 and 500,000 people joined the crowded fields to hear star performers such as Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix in an atmosphere of freedom and camaraderie, illustrated by images of naked young men walking hand in hand. the hand, splitting grass or acid, ignoring the torrential rains pouring over this area of ​​Catskill, about 200 km northwest of New York.

The organizers initially set the ticket price for the three days of music for mythical band names such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, or Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young for $ 18.

But the organizers – John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld, all in their twenties – quickly revised their plans, facing the huge traffic jams that swept the country roads leading to Bethel's place. about 100 miles southwest of the town of Woodstock.

Access to the festival would quickly be in the image of the event: free.

Shortly after the first deals, streams of water began to fall, turning the site into a muddy field.

The food was missing. We couldn't see much, but we could hear the helicopters turning around, managing to bring along musicians and supplies.

– "Idyllic" Weekend –

Sri Swami Satchidananda, a Yogi master from India, set the tone of the festival by opening it with a call for mercy.

"I am glad to see all the young people of America assembled here in the name of this art of music," said the slim, bearded man, sitting cross-legged, pulling the crowd into vibrations of "Om" sounds.

Other more muscular songs would follow: Joe McDonald of country psychedelic rock band Joe and the Fish was going to get the crowd to sing a resounding "Fuck", before singing the anti-war song "I-Feel-Like-I" Fixin & # 39; -al- Die-Rag.

While thousands of people have returned to the "real world," hard to guess from having just written one of the great pages of 60's history, the festival ended with a very futuristic rendition of the American anthem, "The Star -Spangled Banner, "by Jimi Hendrix.

Danny Goldberg, a music industry specialist who started Billboard magazine at the age of 19 at the time, remembers seeing this weekend "a lot of people with a smile on their face."

"I was almost immediately attracted to this goodness," he told AFP from his Manhattan office. Such an "idyllic" vision of hippie brotherhood (was) rare, even at the time, "but it was" remarkable in Woodstock, from start to finish. "

– "monumental bazaar"

Woodstock's stories are variable and sometimes contradictory.

Rumor has it that babies are born there. If no one has publicly claimed such a remarkable birth, it is certain that some have been screened.

At least one person would have died from an overdose. A tractor also reportedly crushed someone who was sleeping in his sleeping bag, according to reports from the time.

As a film torpedoed by critics before becoming a cult, the event was then treated with contempt by the mainstream media.

"The dreams of marijuana and rock, which attracted about 300,000 fans and hippies in the Catskills, were hardly healthier than the makeup they throw into the sea to die," the New York Times reported. August 18, 1969.

"They ended up in a mud nightmare … What kind of culture can produce such a monumental bazaar?"

Annie Birch, a 20-year-old filmmaker at the time, remembers "a very peaceful moment, considering the mass of people."

Despite the "crazy rain, we had an amazing fire that never went out," she told AFP. "All these groups became mythical (…) it was legendary."

– "Music and peace" –

Afterus after the festival, the owner of the field, Max Yasgur, acknowledged on television that he was initially upset watching the crowd enter.

"But they blamed me later because there were no problems, they proved to me, and they proved to the world that they didn't come to create problems."

"They came to do exactly what they said they wanted to do: three days of music and peace."

Half a century later, Annie Birch, now in her seventies, feels "happy" to have participated in such an important event.

"I remain forever hoping that for the good of mankind such an incredible event can happen again," she says. "I endlessly prefer love and peace to war and hate."

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