Friday, August 21, 2009


Once again, we've had to suffer through another Woodstock redux. Ever since that epic party, the media, made up mostly by people who came of age during that time, forces us every ten years to stop thinking about less important matters such as war, famine, recession, and relive the Age of Aquarius. This past week's 4oth anniversary paeans were even more over-the-top than past mass recollections. As the collective Baby Boomer memory grows dimmer (all that adolescent drug use certainly adds to the fog), the apotheosis of Woodstock into some major turning point in history becomes even more rapturous. We are led to believe that for those three days humankind achieved some sort of spiritual zenith when love and peace reigned supreme. The USA was never the same since, Brian Williams tells us, with a straight face. Joni Mitchell's song, Woodstock, sums it up best: By the time we got to Woodstock/We were half a million strong/And everywhere there was a song and a celebration/And I dreamed I saw the bombers/Riding shotgun in the sky/And they were turning into butterflies/Above our nation. Yeah, right. How ironic that Joni didn't even attend the event, having decided that an appearance on The Dick Cavett Show would give her more exposure.

The sanctimonious, hyperbolic depiction of the "Woodstock Music Festival and Arts Fair" as a major historic event is an embarrassment to my generation. Who do we think we are or were? Woodstock was a party, nothing more, nothing less. True, it was a gargantuan party, maybe the biggest ever. When it came to open sex, acid dropping, pot smoking and great music, it was second to none. But did it really change the course of history? Gimme a break. A bunch of mostly pampered, privileged middle class white kids wallowing in the mud and getting monkeyed up didn't do anything but trash some nice farmland. Who doesn't feel peace and love when you're high as a kite and got your hand up some hippie chick's peasant dress? These kids were liberated alright, liberated from their parent's telling them to pick up their bedroom and be home by midnight.

We Baby Boomers are living up to the stereotype as narcissistic and full of self-importance. We are the greatest generation when it comes to megalomania. Woodstock was an orgiastic, modern day bacchanalia that had significance only in its size and hedonism. When youths tore down the Berlin Wall, that was a big deal. What college kids did in Iran this spring was a big deal. The civil rights Freedom Riders is a case of Baby Boomers showing enough courage to stand against the tide of history. What courage was displayed at Woodstock? Lying passed out in the pouring rain while Joe Cocker sang A Little Help From My Friends?

Woodstock only became a big deal when some savvy marketing guys decided to make it a big deal. Millions were made from licensing rights, movie and album deals. If it weren't for some shrewd hucksters, Woodstock would have gone done as just another music festival like Montreau or Altamont, only bigger and muddier.

If we Baby Boomers want to see a more accurate legacy of the the 1960's credo "If it feels good, do it," then we should look to our progeny's attempt to restage Woodstock at its 30th anniversary in 1999. Woodstock II had to close early due to mobs setting one of the stages on fire, numerous rapes and plenty of violence and mayhem. We reaped what we sowed. Despite all the nostalgic tripping, no wonder no one came up with the idea of Woodstock III.

1 comment:

ConnectingTheDots said...

Interesting blog. Arguably, the biggest legacy of Woodstock is its huge impact on the real children of the sixties: Generation Jones (born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Generation X). That peace ‘n love cultural mood magnified the naturally open-hearted feelings of children in the sixties; the residual idealism which was formed into those kids bears particular salience now as this generation has taken over U.S. leadership. This USA TODAY op-ed speaks to the relevance today of the sixties counterculture impact on our new GenJones leadership:

Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten a ton of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) now specifically use this term. In fact, the Associated Press' annual Trend Report forecast the Rise of Generation Jones as the #1 trend of 2009. Here's a page with a good overview of recent media interest in GenJones: