Taking Stock of Woodstock

The 40th anniversary of Woodstock this weekend is quite a life marker for many of us. (If that’s not true for you, it might be true for your parents.) I confess I didn’t attend the 3-day concert that reportedly drew up to a half million spectators to Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York. (I was playing in a young LA rock band that summer, the Berries, that was somehow overlooked for inclusion in the festival.) But the buzz spread quickly in the music community that something unique occurred that weekend. What is often forgotten, however, is that the Woodstock “era” – at least the peace-and-love hype – lasted less than 4 months. The violence of the Altamont concert in northern California headlined by the Rolling Stones and the Jefferson Airplane in December 1969 brought us back to reality. But from a business perspective, Woodstock put rock & roll concerts on the map as serious ventures. Woodstock wasn’t the first of the genre – the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 gets that award – but Woodstock was the most newsworthy and of course spawned dozens since. The Isle of Wight Festival, the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen (that outdrew Woodstock in 1973), Live Aid, and Live 8 all owe their existence to Woodstock. Interestingly the Woodstock ’99 concert, with its attendant mayhem, forms a stunning contrast to the original, which was astonishingly peaceful given the unexpected crowd and overall lack of planning. Let me end with the obligatory query: if you’re old enough, what were YOU up to in mid-August 1969?

John OLeary posted this on August 15, 2009, in Brand You.
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