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See the extensive bibliography (divided into print, video/audio, and online resources) below the historical context essay.

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair

[1] The Woodstock Music and Art Fair was a rock and roll festival that took place over three days in the summer of 1969. The dates were August 15, 16, and 17, 1969. This event became a symbol of the counterculture of the 1960s known as the hippie movement, as well as the biggest rock event up to that point in history. The hippies, as the majority of the concert-goers were referred to as, were known for their peaceful gatherings as well as their rejection of materialism and authority. These young people were strongly anti-war, pro-civil rights, and advocated free love and freedom of mind- altering drugs.

[2] The festival started out as the idea of four young men Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts, and Joel Rosenman. Their original intent was to create an upstart recording studio, but it grew into something much bigger. They decided to host a musical gathering similar to the Monterey Pop festival that took place in 1967 in California, expecting only to attract near 100,000 people. Due to landowner protests within the city of Woodstock, New York, the partners had to venture elsewhere to find a venue large enough to house such an event. They found that place in Bethel, New York, on Max Yasgur's farm, almost fifty miles from the actual Woodstock, NY.

[3] As the starting date for the event drew closer, it was apparent that the organizers had underestimated the number of people who were going to attend the festival. The sheer magnitude of their miscalculation was evident on the first day of the festival in the 15-mile traffic jams approaching the farm. The commuting problem was so severe that the opening band of the festival, Sweetwater, couldn't get through the traffic, so an already present Richie Havens started the festivities off. Because of the enormous amount of spectators present at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, the organizers had to have food, water, and medical supplies brought by U.S. Army helicopters into the compound.

[4] Nearing the end of the first day of the festival, the fencing surrounding the Yasgur farm was broken down, and the 500,000 plus people began to pour in. This prompted the organizers to officially announce that the concert was free from that point on. Accompanying the onslaught of humanity was the onslaught of nature, as the skies opened up and brought forth torrential rains, winds, and lightning. Though these two occurrences put a strain on the management of the event, the remaining days of the festival went smoothly, despite the underestimation of 400,000 people by the organizers. With the help of volunteers from within and without the festival, the audience was able to acquire food and medical attention, relieving most of the trauma placed upon the crowd because of the overcrowding and severe weather.

[5] Performing at the festival were many of the biggest rock and folk stars of the 1960s. They included: The Grateful Dead, The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joe Cocker, Country Joe McDonald, Arlo Guthrie, Santana, Janis Joplin, Canned Heat, Joan Baez, Jefferson Airplane, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, John Sebastian, Ravi Shankar, Sly and the Family Stone, and Jimi Hendrix. The finale to the event was an expansive electric guitar version of the Star Spangled Banner by Hendrix. Through the many different styles and sounds of the artists present, the organizers of the event wanted to convey a sense of togetherness of all men, showing the world that people could come together in a peaceful manner and enjoy time with each other. Save for the events previously mentioned, their vision unfolded according to plan.

[6] The entire event was captured by Michael Wadleigh on twenty-one hours of film, which was subsequently cut down to the three and a half hour documentary, Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music, which was released in the summer of 1970. The documentary attempts to bring the viewing audience within the festival, giving them the feeling of actually participating in the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

[7] In August of 1994, the Woodstock name was brought back in the form of its 25th anniversary reunion concert. This media blitz was sponsored by Pepsi and ran on pay-per-view for the three days. Much like the original concert, the 25th anniversary concert brought together many varieties of musical acts to perform almost round the clock for the three days of music. Such stars as Nine Inch Nails and The Red Hot Chili Peppers performed to a sold-out crowd in the actual town of Woodstock. Tickets for this concert weren't free, however. Instead, they ran 150$ for a carload of three people for the three-day event.

[8] In August of 1999, the organizers of Woodstock were at it again, this time for the 30th anniversary concert. This three-day festival out-drew the original festival, with close to 600,000 people in attendance. This time the event was held in the same town as the original Woodstock Art and Music Fair: Bethel, New York. Unlike the original event, however, this most recent Woodstock was marred by appalling behavior on the part of the crowd. There were numerous accounts of sexual assault throughout the festival, and during the last act of the event riots broke out with blazing fires ensuing shortly thereafter. This event was also available through pay-per-view, and tickets cost 150$ a person for the three-day event.

Print Resources

Bell, Dale. Woodstock: An Inside Look at the Movie That Shook Up the World and Defined a Generation. Studio City: M. Wiese Productions, 1999.
A collection of sixty-nine relatively short pieces by a wide variety of people associated with making the film. Largely first-person memories, mostly informal, some interviews.
Elles, Marios. "Chinese Whispers: Jimi Hendrix, Fame and "The Star Spangled Banner." 49th Parallel No.17, Spring 2006.
"I show that Hendrix's Woodstock performance did not represent the high point of the festival either artistically or in terms of crowd numbers, and that rather than being regarded as iconic at the time, Hendrix's rendering of the anthem was regarded as controversial by his opponents and as a theatrical display of music virtuosity by his supporters. I also demonstrate how Hendrix's flirtation with the American anthem represented part of a wider cultural phenomenon at the time."
Hedgepeth, William. The Alternative: Communal Life in New America. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1970.
This books talks of the underlying community that attended Woodstock, that of hippies, as well as the rising communal nature of the younger generation within this time period. It looks into why these young people are banding together and forming small communities among themselves in order to live a more natural and free life. A main theory of these "American migrants"(15) is "that somewhere there must surely be something better away, way off down the road"(15). Tries to convey the sense that the communal scene, and with it the hippies of Woodstock, are looking for a greater peace within these set communities, and that by joining with other like-minded individuals their chances of success grow exponentially. Pictures within this book lend to depicting the experience of the "communal life," what it stands for, and how it progressed in America.
Hoffman, Abbie. Woodstock Nation: A Talk-Rock Album. New York: Vintage Books, 1969.
This book is a first-person perspective of the LSD-induced frenzy of Woodstock from the eyes of Abbie Hoffman, a highly visible and vocal 60s activist. It is broken up into various random pieces in which the author tells of his thoughts and feelings on such specific events and topics during the Woodstock festival as Flower Children, Janis Joplin, and Power to the Woodstock Nation. There are also excerpts from several nationally publicized editorials concerned with the festival and the opinions of the people both at the event and learning of the events from the media. There are also several pieces by the author, which were handed out separately at the festival -- literature containing his political beliefs and teachings. The overall theme of book is very anti-establishment, while still attempting to get the true flavor of the festival across to the reader.
"It Was Like Balling For the First Time." Rolling Stone 20 Sep 1969.
Another synopsis of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival. It goes on to explain the public outrage of allowing the festival to take place, as well as containing some poignant quotes from the irate locals. This is offset by a few comments of gratitude from some police officers and other peace officials. Overall, nothing groundbreaking within the article. It does a better job of giving the whole story than some of the other Rolling Stone articles, but it contains much of the same information.
Kopkind, Andrew. "I Looked at My Watch . . ." Rolling Stone 20 Sep 1969.
A biting commentary of the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair. Kopkind concerns himself with all that is bad about the Woodstock crowd. He feels as if it is just a corporate sham designed by a man, Michael Lang, who is only a hippy on the outside. Inside Kopkind feels Lang is nothing but a savvy businessman attempting to exploit a counterculture for his own greed. Overall, a very interesting article, and the most enthralling anti-Woodstock article I have read.
Kornbluth, Jesse, ed. Notes from the New Underground. New York: The Viking Press, 1970.
This book is an anthology of essays concerning the various "underground" cultures springing up in the 60's and 70's. A section is dedicated to the hippie movement, and several parts within the various essays refer to Woodstock as the quintessential hippie gathering of the day and explain what the whole Woodstock festival meant to the hippies and America in general. The essays also discuss several hippie ideologies, such as love, and question the motives behind such things. Concluding essays, speaking of the times within the communes as a pure way of life, lament the disappearance of the hippies and delve into the reasons for the disappearance, offering up several explanations for the overall dissolution of one of this nation's most prevalent "radical" groups.
Marcus, Greil. "The Woodstock Festival." Rolling Stone 20 Sep 1969.
A general synopsis of the festival. Talks a lot about the crowds and the conditions of the area. This piece doesn't concentrate on the musical performances, unlike most of the articles written on the event. In turn, it concentrates mostly on the attitudes of the people and the overall atmosphere of the gathering. A nice wrap-up of the Woodstock Music and Arts fair from a different point of view than most of the other articles, since Marcus was actually at the gathering.
Miller, Timothy. The Hippies and American Values. Knoxville: U of Tennessee P, 1991.
This author deals with the cultural revolutionaries of the 60's –- the hippies. The book is not so much interested in the political radicals of the day but of the cultural awareness spawned by the hippie movement. Information within the book is taken directly from the underground newspapers of the day, to give a higher standard of accuracy than that of a piece written using sources within the 90's. Talks of the different areas in which the hippies dabbled, including religion, politics, and community. Tells of the great hippie turnout of the Woodstock festival, and the importance of such an action, as well as their philosophies on these events as "sacramental gatherings." Tells of how rock festivals gave the hippies their outlet for creativity and participation within the communal gatherings that were housed at such events.
Morgan, Edward P. The 60's Experience: Hard Lessons About Modern America. Philadelphia: Temple UP, 1991.
This book deals with numerous issues concerning the 1960's in America. Topics include: The Struggle for Racial Justice, Political Education, The Vietnam War, and the Countercultural Revolution. Within these chapters, the author deals with both the commonly taught issues, as well as the subjects that some individuals would rather forget about this politically active time. In the last two chapters, the author deals with his early topics in order to see how they have matured since the days of Woodstock. A good book to learn of the many different national issues that went on during the 1960's and how the nation really responded to them, not just what the media of the day was feeding the people of our country. Teaches the "hidden" histories behind some of the most intriguing situations our country has ever faced and does so in a clear and concise manner.
National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence. The Politics of Protest: Violent Aspects of Protest & Confrontation. Executive Order #11412, June 10, 1968.
This is a national report written about the violent aspects of protests and confrontation. This report attempts to pinpoint the causes of these actions, while at the same time attempting to give solutions to this ever-growing problem of the 60-70's. There are slight dealings with the hippie community, but the text mostly deals with the more volatile political groups of the day. Gives good insight as to where the various groups were heading politically and allows for speculation on what the true motives of these groups, such as the hippies, were. Goes into different areas of protest such as student protest, black militarism, and racial protest. By learning of the different aspects of the more violent organizations, as well as the violent backlash of the authorities, the audience gains a greater appreciation for the pacifism of the hippie movement prevalent within Woodstock, while at the same time questioning this philosophy as a way of accomplishing things politically.
"Nightmare in the Catskills." New York Times 18 Aug. 1969: 34.
Slashingly negative editorial during the festival: "What kind of culture is it that can produce so colossal a mess?" And etcetera.
Schowalter, Daniel F. "Remembering the Dangers of Rock and Roll: Toward a Historical Narrative of the Rock Festival." Critical Studies in Media Communication 17.1 (2000): 86-102.
Schowalter examines the reason for critiques of rock music and its "hazardous" effects on audiences. He evaluates several films, one being Woodstock, by scrutinizing the "rhetorical construction" of rock music and how the performances and their audiences are portrayed in each. Throughout Woodstock, although more than half of the film consists of musical performances, Wadleigh downplays the actual music itself. Schowalter claims that the film "obscures its own music and is preoccupied instead with the delirious 'effects' of the music on the fans and with the enchanting aura of the festival" (90). Music is played throughout the film, yet the camera attempts to attract the audience more to the attitudes of the half a million people present at the festival, along with their copious drug use and the message of peace and love that they are trying to send. There is also lack of support for another seemingly important declaration of the counterculture audience: opposition to the Vietnam War. A number of the songs intended to send out a political message to the country were trivialized and lost their intended effect when played at Woodstock. For example, during one song, Country Joe and the Fish's "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag," the true meaning of the lyrics is lost because of the audience's preference to sing along and spell out expletives. Despite the fact that many believe the audience of Woodstock was there for the music and to protest the Vietnam War, there was much more of a focus on being caught up in the "rapture and ecstasy of the music" through drug use and a disregard of any political beliefs that were previously thought to be quite present.
Speck, Ross S. The New Families: Youth, Communes, and the Politics of Drugs. New York: Basic Books, 1972.
This book speaks of the new communal nature of the younger generation within the 60's and early 70's. It attempts to explain the ideals of these groups, such as the hippies of the Woodstock festival, and give an understanding as to what these people are all about. Deals with the inherent drug use that seems to go with these types of communities and relates this drug use directly to the Woodstock festival. Many statistics within the book attempt to give a better understanding of the lifestyles of these communal groups, or "new families," as the author refers to them as. Delves into the political teachings and philosophies of several of these groups and what they were trying to accomplish with their gatherings and living arrangements.
Stillman, Deanne, and Rex Weines. Woodstock Census: The Nationwide Survey of the Sixties Generation. New York: The Viking Press, 1979.
This book is a compilation of 1005 questions asked to various individuals of the Woodstock generation. It attempts to give an overall feeling and philosophy present within the "Woodstock Nation" of that era. The main focus of the book is to gain a greater knowledge of the individuals who comprised the "Woodstock Nation." Various questions such as current job, drug use in the past, and sexual revolution in the 60's, allow the reader to gain some insight into people of the 60's and how they turned out in the long run. The book explains the different philosophies behind the various polls taken and relates the findings to those of the modern era as well as throughout the different sects within the 60's. The overall concept is to give the people of the 60's something to look upon and see that they did indeed shake things up in the world, and that they brought more emotional and physical freedom into the United States than anyone could have imagined.
Thier, Gary. "Woodstock: Escape from Amerika." Rag 3.28 (1969): 3,7.
Personal report by a reporter for an underground journal.
Tiber, Elliot and Tom Monte. Taking Woodstock: A True Story of a Riot, a Concert, and a Life. New York: Square One Publishers, 2007.
"The funny, touching, and true story of Elliot Tiber, the man who was instrumental in arranging the site for the original Woodstock Concert. Elliot, whose parents owned an upstate New York motel, was working in Greenwich Village in the summer of 1969. He socialized with the likes of Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, and yet somehow managed to keep his gay life a secret from his family. Then on Friday, June 28, Elliot walked into the Stonewall Inn—and witnessed the riot that would galvanize the American gay movement and enable him to take stock of his own lifestyle. And on July 15, when Elliot learned that the Woodstock Concert promoters were unable to stage the show in Wallkill, he offered to find them a new venue. Soon he was swept up in a vortex that would change his life forever."
Veysey, Laurence. The Communal Experience. New York: Harper and Row, 1973.
This book deals with several counter-cultures that have been in America within the last thirty years. With respect to Woodstock, it tells of the gradual trends that these communes have taken over the years, citing the more pacifistic movement of the hippies as one direction they have turned. Offers insight into the beliefs and philosophies of the communal groups, such as the hippies, so the audience can get a feel for the reasoning behind the groups' actions. A good source to see the changing ideals of the communal groups and to see what types of groups grew out of the hippie movement of the 60's and early 70's. Through the different sections, the reader gains a better understanding as to where the hippies of the Woodstock era were coming from, and what they were attempting to accomplish with their teachings and gatherings.
"The View From the Mud." Rolling Stone 6 Aug 1970.
An interesting article that compiles opinions and experiences on festivals in general from various sources. The people chosen have been from varying backgrounds, and have each gone to a different festival since the insurgence of them during the time of Woodstock. Though this article is Woodstock-specific, it allows the reader to gain a greater understanding of the allure of festivals in general. The many experiences given through the article also allow the reader to gain a more personal understanding of the hippy generation.
"Youth: The Hippies." Time 7 Jul 1967: 18-22.
This article doesn't directly cover Woodstock, but it gives an excellent overview of the main counterculture involved in the festival, the hippies. It attempts to give a rational explanation for the resurgence of the counterculture lifestyle in general, then relates it all back to the hippies. It explains many of the aspects within the counterculture, such as their affinity for drugs and sexual activity. Overall, a good article, albeit a very stereotyping one. Even though many hippies act as the article suggests, there are many more who have differing beliefs that are still referred to as hippies, or a section of the hippy counterculture. After the article, there is an excellent pictorial of some hippies and various hippy gatherings. This is an excellent addition, as it allows the reader to get a closer look at what the hippy genereration is all about.

See Also

Dalton, Stephen. "'We wanted to change the world'; Forty years ago the world's most famous rock festival happened almost by accident. Stephen Dalton talks to veterans of the love-in that was Woodstock." The Times (London) 19 June 2009.

Fornatale, Pete. Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock. New York: Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 2009.

Lang, Michael. The Road to Woodstock. San Francisco: Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers, 2009.

Pareles, Jon. "A Moment of Muddy Grace." New York Times 9 August 2009.

Video/Audio Resources

Berkeley in the 60's. Mark Kitchell, dir. The California Newsreel. Videocassette. POV Theatrical Films: 1990.
This film deals with the politically active hotspot of the 1960's, UC Berkeley, during the time of the greatest civil unrest of this century. From the demonstration towards the House on Un-American Affairs to the Vietnam War protests, this documentary explores the viewpoints of the Berkeley student body and faculty and how they worked to change many governmental policies. Interviews with professors, experts, and activists explore the philosophies and goals of the students and radical leaders and allow the audience to learn just what the protests were all about, and how they truly affected American history.
Chicago, 1968. Chana Gazit, dir. The American Experience. PBS Video. Videocassette. WGBH Boston: 1995.
This film captures the 1968 democratic convention on film for all to witness. Within it we see the struggles between the anti-war protestors and the government officials fighting for what they believe was the correct thing to do at the period in time. The audience witness as violence and destruction ensues on the nightly news, furthering the sympathies for those being assaulted by officials while demonstrating. A critical time in American history caught on film, it truly exemplifies how the people and the government were interacting during this time of foreign and domestic unrest.
Hearts and Minds. Peter Davis, dir. Videocassette. Rainbow Pictures: 1975.
This documentary takes us from the time that the United States was considering entering into the Vietnam War up until the United States eventually pulled their troops at the ending of the conflict. Interviews with several notable officials give valuable insight into the thought processes behind entering the war, as well as being in the fight. Interviews included: Clark Clifford, General Westmoreland, Daniel Ellsburg, as well as war veterans and Vietnamese leaders. The film deals with both the politics and the personal side of the conflict, allowing the audience to experience how these difficult decisions were made throughout the Vietnam War.
Letter to the Next Generation. James Klein, dir. New Day Films. Videocassette. James Klein Productions, 1990.
This documentary deals with the Kent State incident, which occurred on May 4th, 1970. It relates Kent State in 1990 to how the school was in 1970. Reactions of the present-day student body on the incident, as well as their feelings on the way it is being dealt with at the present time. Interviews with people at the shooting as well as with some of the people acting within the riots prior to the incident allow for several perspectives of the event. Gives an overall feeling of the civil unrest within the student body of the school and how little has changed within the last twenty years pertaining to the people. By using the Kent State incident as the pinnacle of civil unrest during the 1970's, the film examines the way of life in 1990, showing the similarities and differences.
Vietnam: A Televised History. Prod. Central Independent Television, WGBH Boston. Videocassette. WGBH Educational Foundation: 1985.
This film discusses the topics of Cambodia and Laos as well as the peace talks ranging from 1968-1973 concerning the Vietnam War. In the first part of the video discussion includes the ways in which the small bordering countries of Laos and Cambodia were drawn into the war. The film goes into the genocide present and the American involvement in this region. In the second part, the video discusses the peace talks that took place between American, North, and South Vietnam. Goes into how the war was "stopped" due to a treaty signed in 1973, but how it began again and lasted another two years.
Vietnam: The War at Home. Barry Alexander Brown and Glenn Silberman, dirs. Videocassette. Brown and Silberman Productions: 1979.
This documentary deals with the anti-war movement in America during the Vietnam War. It centers on the radical activities initiated by the students of the University of Wisconsin in Madison. It goes into how the anti-war movement grew out of the student population and into the homes of all Americans wanting to put an end to the Vietnam War. Footage of anti-war bombings as well as actual war footage accentuates the passion expressed by the anti-war activists and their revolts. An excellent film to learn how our government and other political communities were affected and changed by the actions of the people.

Online Resources

1969 Woodstock Festival
This is an official page founded by audience members of the original Woodstock festival. It's a great place to begin a web search on the topic of Woodstock. Contained within the page are several sub-pages dealing with topics such as the music of the festival, possible reunions of the audience members, and sound bites of the actual performances. There are also areas in which people have written their own interpretation and accounts of the festival, as well as an online shop for Woodstock related material.
Acid Trip [Archived]
This is a site dedicated to the "virtual acid trip." It is supposed to give the trippy sensation of being on LSD. There is no information contained within the page, but the page offers itself up to an examination on the overall opinion of the 60's as being drug induced.
Counterculture of the Sixties [Archived]
A page being used as an information hub about the countercultures of the sixties, primarily focusing upon the hippie movement of the latter half of the decade. Contains documents relating to various movements, as well as several sub-pages containing documents relating to things such as the music of the 60's and how the 60's really affected the decades since.
This site is about everything hippie. There are sub-pages discussing everything from what hippies actual are, to shopping for hippies, to a link page to other pages dealing with hippies and hippie by-products. Excellent site to use in order to learn about the largest and most well known counterculture of the 1960's.
The Original 1969 Woodstock Festival [Archived]
This page doesn't contain any information pertaining to the concert, but it has a frame from a "live camera" located in the middle of the page. With this frame you can pan the crowd and zoom in and out of the action. A useful tool for a nice photograph, or to get a feeling of what it was like to be in the middle of a crowd of over 450,00 people.
Popular Culture in the 60s [Archived]
A page set up for use by a class at the University of Minnesota. It contains a good deal of information concerning many aspects of the sixties, but mostly dealing with the latter half of the decade. There are sub-pages dealing with things such as music, art, drugs, and films. Good all-around page for a study of the last five years of the 60's.
Psychedelic 60s
A great overall page for the discussion of the 60's. Deals with many of the countercultures of the decade: from the beats of the early sixties to the hippies of the late 60's. Main page contains many links to sub-pages dealing with everything from Timothy Leary and the use of illicit drugs, to the Vietnam War and the various radical groups of the sixties.
The Sixties [Archived]
This is the "Haight-Ashbury District On-Line." This site contains sights and sounds of the 1960s' breeding ground of the hippie counterculture. There are live interviews and performances available here, as well as stories dealing with the district and ways to contact people who were living the life back in the 1960's. A good site to experience what this specific scene was like, and a good source of possible contacts about this time in American counterculture history.
Sixties [Archived]
This is a jumpstation for many of the people and cultures present within the 1960's. Links include: JFK Jr., The Beatles, Rhino Records, Monterey Pop, James Bond, Woodstock, folk music, and Malcolm X. This is a good site to start from when wanting to experience the 1960's in a quick and direct manner.
Sixties [Archived]
A page containing several photographs taken during the 60's. The images do a fine job at capturing the essence of the countercultures within the sixties, specifically the hippies and the Black Panthers. The pictures depict many famous scenes of the 60's, from a Panther march, to the confrontation at the Pentagon, to the People's Park Riot in California.
Sixties Project
This page focuses on the radicalism that is present within the 1960's. The main focus is to gain acceptance and support for the different parties that were around during the time. It is a great page for materials related to radicalism and the countercultures of the sixties.
The Woodstock '69 Page [Archived]
This page contains many pictures and articles about the original Woodstock Music and Art Fair of 1969. There are links to sub-pages showing an actual set-list and artist-list of the event, as well as pages concerning the music of the festival and a links page. Informative page, though lacking the depth of some "official" sites.
The Woodstock Nation On-Line [Archived]
This is the official site of the Woodstock Nation, a group of people reliving Woodstock and keeping the history and mythology of the famed festival alive. Offers links to several essays on topics concerning both the festival itself, and the treatment of the original site in the future. This site is useful as an insider look into the continued support for both the original location of Woodstock, as well as the mindset of the founders of The Woodstock Nation.
Woodstock Posters
A helpful page pointing out literature on the Woodstock Music and Art fair, as well as links to things such as posters and original ticket stubs. A good site to see actual paraphernalia from the festival.