It began with a simple four-letter word: LOVE! In the 1960’s, this word became synonymous with a generation and a city call San Francisco. It was a concept, a belief deep in the hearts of all who were there (and those who wished they were). It began with Ken Keasey, the Merry Pranksters, and their bus “Further,” Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and the Beat Generation.
They gathered in places like North Beach, Haight Ashbury, Palo Alto, Berkeley, Seattle, Portland, New York, and LA. These pockets of anti-social, anti-establishment individuals questioned authority and their surroundings while searching for the real meaning of life and the deeper truths.
These small communities of like-minded individuals and “families” of communal creativity focused on poetry, art, folk music, jazz and rock ‘n roll, demanding to be free of societal restrictions, restraints, and hang-ups.
Then one summer – it happened! We Were Everywhere. The pureness of thought exploded exponentially and now there were millions of us. This event, this historical moment, which included most of 1967, became known as the ‘SUMMER OF LOVE”.
During this period, the Peace Movement was born with the “Human Be-In’s” in San Francisco and then the “Love-In’s” in New York. Anti-war demonstrations occurred everywhere and college campuses erupted with thousand of people refusing the draft. This startled the government as presidents were impeached, wars were stopped, and an entire generation stood up and said “Hell No.”
Social change was occurring and continued on multiple levels. Out of this orderly chaos came “The Movements”: The Free Speech Movement, the Free Love Movement, the Farm Workers Movement, the Women’s Movement, the Gay Rights Movement, the Environmental Movement, the Ecology Movement, the Animal Rights Movement, the Sexual Revolution, the Spiritual Movement, the Student Movement, the Civil Rights and the Anti-War Movement.
The message was clear – that the world was uniting behind one principle and one thought – LOVE! And its affirmation of PEACE, COMPASSION AND UNDERSTANDING. The world was brought forth by musicians such as Peter, Paul and Mary, the Mamas and the Papas, Donovan, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane and then carried on by many of the English musicians like Eric Clapton, the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones.
Because of this free-thinking environment a renaissance of gifted geniuses occurred with the likes of John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. New concepts and inventions touched every segment of society. The transistor, the calculator, the computer, and the internet all had their inception in the 1960’s. A whole new creative sector of the economy developed within and took hold to become Silicon Valley.
The international community was in awe of this explosion of creativity. Even athletes showed their solidarity by uniting with the winds of change. All of this started with a simple word, a simple thought – LOVE, and a generation of free thinking people willing to stand up and be counted and their willingness to be different.
Woodstock was not just an event, a happening or a concert with 400,000 people; it was a pivotal moment of realization for an entire generation. It marked an epiphany for the entire country. Woodstock was a statement to the world – “humanity had evolved” coming together through peace, love spirituality and rock ‘n roll.
An event originally intended for profit became the largest free event in history. The “Hip Movement” had come of age and was recognized by the world. The principles of love swept the country and we had become the ‘WOODSTOCK NATION”.
Amidst a time of military conflict abroad, as well as racial disharmony at home, the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival became an “Aquarian Exposition” that exemplified the counter-culture of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.
The festival was held for four summer days, August 15 – August 18, 1969 on Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York. The event was originally designed as a profit making venture but the realization that the event was drawing hundreds of thousands of more people than expected prompted organizers to turn the festival into a free concert.
The fences surrounding the grounds were purposely cut prompting many more people to show up. The Woodstock Nation swelled to 400,000 people creating the largest free musical event in history. Although the community that emerged during those four days of peace, love spirituality, and music embraced hip political causes and allied a strong sense of political activism during the Vietnam War it was the music itself that was essentially the driving force behind Woodstock.
Thirty-two of the best know musicians of that era performed including legendary artists such as Richie Havens, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Canned Heat, Country Joe and the Fish, The Grateful Dead, Joan Baez, The Who, and Sly and the Family Stone. The event is still regarded as one of the greatest moments in popular music history as well as a milestone on the evolution of American society.
As the site of Woodstock became a counter-culture mini-nation participants became aware that the event had taken on a new meaning than originally intended. Max Yasgur spoke of how the historical significance of Woodstock communicated to America that a community of 400,000 people and all the possibilities of disaster was instead spent during those days with peace on their minds. He stated, “If we join them we can turn those adversities that are the problems of America into a hope for a brighter and more peaceful future.” Forty years later, with renewed hopes for change in our country, we now see that it is far from impossible.