Saturday, June 14, 2008

Woodstock - a landmark event

Concerts - Woodstock by Michael Russell

In this article we're going to reflect on one of, if not the most famous concert in history, Woodstock.

If you were growing up in the 60s and were part of the hippie movement you were probably at the concert at Woodstock, even if you weren't there. Over the years, the number of people who claim to have been at Woodstock has gone from thousands to millions. Everyone has a story to tell about that. What follows, is the actual story in a very brief summary.

The actual name of the concert was The Woodstock Music And Art Fair, held in 1969 in Sullivan County in New York. This was truly the biggest concert of its kind to that date in history. The actual number of people in attendance was about 450,000. The concert itself ran for four days. The site itself has become a self appointed shrine. During the concert, in a time when drugs were most illegal, drugs were everywhere and people were having sex out on the lawn. And unfortunately, that is mostly what is written about when it comes to anything involving this event. But there was more to Woodstock than just sex and drugs.

Woodstock was a musical event the likes of which we will probably never see again. The concert itself cost more than $2.4 million to produce. Back then, that was a lot of money. The four men responsible for getting this piece of history together were John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld and Michael Lang. These were men who couldn't be more different from each other. Yet, they all had a vision to put something like this together.

The idea first originated when Roberts and Rosenman met on a golf course in 1967. What started as a screwball situation comedy ended up to be the plans for Woodstock that would take almost two years to complete. The work involved was enormous, not the least of which was getting all the musicians to show up. How many musicians? Over 20. This was something that was just unheard of at the time. And not just your run of the mill musicians. These were some of the biggest acts of the period, including Joan Baez, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, and of course the act that pretty much defined the concert, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

In the four days of performing the 450,000 plus people got to hear some great classics like Freedom by Richie Havens, Green River by Creedence Clearwater Revival, Try by Janis Joplin, I Want To Take You Higher by Sly and the Family Stone, We're Not Gonna Take It by The Who, Somebody To Love by Jefferson Airplane, and of course all the great tunes by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Ironically, the song "Woodstock" was not sung at the actual concert itself. This was a song that CSN&Y recorded after they performed at the concert.

A book could be written about this concert and probably was. We've only scratched the surface here. And while you can't relive the concert itself, there is a great box set of the whole concert, digitally remastered, that you can get. Enjoy!

Michael Russell, Your Independent guide to concerts.

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