Saturday, August 15, 2009

Woodstock: 40 Years Later

I did not attend Woodstock in August 1969 but its milestone significance to an entire generation cannot be dismissed or underestimated. Although most men and women born between 1946 and 1964, the Baby Boom Generation, would say that that time in their life is no longer of any great consequence to them today, I would argue that the music festivals of the 1960 and '70s were singularly important to every soul who attended one: a defining time in their lives that helped shape who they are today...retired or soon to be. As I caught a glimpse of this dress this morning in the window of a high-end ladies clothing boutique, it struck me that the ladies who are might buy this dress were not even alive when the iconic peace symbol - used here as an expensive gold necklace - was first seen in protest of the draft, nuclear bombs and the Vietnam War. Today it's an accessory to an expensive dress. And perfectly acceptable in all settings...not a single reference to its original intended purpose as an in-your-face demonstration of your abhorrence of war. 40 years later, preschoolers can be found with peace symbols emblazoned on their tie-dyed onesies as they leap through the sandbox on the playground. I celebrate the grand passage of time, the technological marvels that are commonplace today and the ability to easily, seamlessly communicate - wirelessly - with others throughout the world...with a few badly typed keystrokes.

As an article in this morning's newspaper pointed out, the folks at Woodstock, 40 years ago this weekend, were totally cut off from the world outside of their gathering of 400,000 new best friends in Bethel, New York. (I wonder if they knew one day they'd be known as BFFs?) NO cell phones, IPhones, BlackBerries or Internet connectivity of any kind. Just a few hopelessly overused pay telephones. Nor was it anything but a sci-fi dream then - kind of Buck Rogers meets H.G. Wells and The Time Machine. Unimaginable. Today's kids, attending the same kind of music festival, three days of peace and love, would be photographing it on their phones, uploading it to Facebook, using Skype to talk to friends about it, and texting madly all through Jimi Hendrix as he played the Star Spangled Banner for the masses. It would be a concert for the entire world linked live in realtime. The world and its inhabitants sure have changed. It's not what Woodstock attendees imagined four decades ago, but pretty cool any way you look at it. There is a lot to celebrate.
In many ways this dress hanging in a store window, with its throw-back 60s look, and butterflies flitting about, speaks volumes about our world today.


  1. I didn't attend Woodstock, either. In 1969, I was busy working and raising a family. But I do remember it! And while I really enjoyed your commentary and agree with what you have to say, Woodstock itself had no grand illusions. it was about peace, sex, drugs and rock 'n roll - all wrapped up in one crazy package.

    What a mess it was. Do you remember the mud, the zonked out kids, the acres of torn-up land?

    Symbolic, for sure, and a fitting event for that time!

  2. Forty years ago this Monday, August 17th, Hurricane Camille hit the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A girl I was dating was attending a college in Gulf Port, right on the Gulf. After the Category 5 storm hit, the motel I would stay in was gone. Gone. I had never seen utter destruction like that before. Almost 40 years later I would return, in an all-together different capacity, to Keesler AFB, as Hurricane Katrina hit. Wow. Almost the same level of destruction, with loss of life, but now it was the Hard Rock Casino destroyed and the entire coastline. Gone. Horrible.