Reliving a Groovy Time

 By  Toni Rahn
They came by car, truck, van, bus, motorcycle, bicycle, on foot, and anyway they could, to attend Woodstock. The little hamlet of Bethel, N.Y., swelled from a population of 3,900 to more than 500,000 for that one weekend in August 1969. Photo by John De Lorenzo, featured in
They came by car, truck, van, bus, motorcycle, bicycle, on foot, and anyway they could, to attend Woodstock. The little hamlet of Bethel, N.Y., swelled from a population of 3,900 to more than 500,000 for that one weekend in August 1969. Photo by John De Lorenzo, featured in “Woodstock Peace, Music & Memories.”
A lot was happening 40 years ago. The first manned spacecraft landed on the moon; Led Zeppelin I was released — and marked what many consider the beginning of the heavy metal movement; The Beatles performed for the last time in public atop the roof of Apple Records and released Abbey Road; the first withdrawal of U.S. troops from Vietnam began; Sirhan Sirhan admitted to killing presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy; “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” made its debut on the BBC; the Stonewall riots in New York City marked the start of the modern gay rights movement in the U.S.; and more than a half a million people attended Woodstock Aug. 15-18. That’s a lot of history-making events for one year, and there’s no question that many people are remembering and paying homage to many of these events.

To some it seems completely surreal that items from Woodstock would be some of the most intriguing and appreciated collectibles of today’s pop culture collecting market. However, as someone once said everything once new becomes something collectible to someone. The beauty of Woodstock collectibles is the wide variety of bands and musicians who played, and thus making their albums among the items appreciated by collectors of Woodstock memorabilia. Remember The Band, or how about The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Country Joe McDonald & The Fish, or Canned Heat? Today some of their 1968-1969 releases are worth more than you paid, and a unique piece of music history.

The story of four 20-something-year-old men with an idea to have a music event unlike any other has been told and retold countless times, but the story of these youthful aspirations and desire to bring some of the top rock, folk and pop music icons of the era together never gets old. John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld and Michael Lang, came from different walks of life – but all had a keen interest in music. Roberts and Rosenman, New York natives, from prominent families, were roommates trying to figure out what their futures might hold, when they put a classified ad in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times in 1968. The ad simply read, “Young men with unlimited capitol looking for interesting, legitimate opportunities and business propositions.”
At the same time, Artie Kornfeld, at the ripe old age of 25 was Capitol Record’s first vice president of rock music. Agreeing to take a meeting with hometown boy Michael Lang, 24, producer of the two-day Miami Pop Festival of 1968, Kornfeld and Lang’s friendship began. After countless nights of discussing the ultimate music event, the two heard about Roberts and Rosenman’s advertisement, and one meeting led to another and in time Woodstock Music & Arts Fair started to take shape, as told in the book, “Woodstock Peace, Music & Memories.”

From there the ball started rolling, and while there were challenges – convincing people that the event was for real, including the musicians who were a little hesitant at first to sign on with a group that didn’t have a lot of credibility (being brand new). However, that changed with the promise of paychecks for performing at the fest (unheard of at that time) and the signing of the era’s psychedelic super group Jefferson Airplane. Another challenge was the change of venue after the community of Wallkill, NY passed a zoning rule that banned such events. After reading about the ban in Wallkill Elliot Tiber, owner of a resort in White Lake and the holder of a Bethel town permit to run a music festival; contacted the group to see if he could help. While his space was too small, this meeting led to Tiber introducing Lang to Max Yasgur, and the rest is music history.

“It was magic,” Lang is quoted as saying about Yasgur’s farm site. “It was perfect — the sloping bowl, a little rise for the stage, a lake in the background.”

From these humble beginnings and the dedication of a troupe of 20-somethings, one of the country’s most impactful and historically significant music events took place — which remains the focus of fond memories for many who were there, who wish they were, and look at it now with a rich appreciation for the nostalgia it represents.

“The camaraderie reminded me of Walt Whitman’s (words): ‘And what I assume, you shall assume; for every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you.’ It felt like we were all connected in the moment on the same path,” said Robin Chanin in “Woodstock Peace, Music & Memories.”

Others recall the announcements coming from the stage, which covered a gamut of messages, including: “Stay away from the brown acid, it’s a bad trip,” and “Bonnie needs her medicine, so if Bob could meet her at the phones…,” said Ira Shapiro, in “Woodstock Peace, Music & Memories.”

Of course there were the less than happy memories as well: the lack of food and water, and shortage of toilet paper — due to the size of the crowd which was triple what organizers expected. But, there were groups like the Hare Krishna’s offering fest goers orange segments, and then there was the rain and the mud — which created places for free-spirited fun.

To learn more about the experiences of those who performed and attended, to view many seldom-seen photographs from the event, and take a truly groovy trip back to a time of peace, music and memories check out “Woodstock Revisited” and “Woodstock Peace, Music & Memories.” Both books tell the story of the festival from the perspective of the people who were there, and each offer unique elements (including a section on Woodstock memorabilia) that gives you a rich view of a life (and for many) a mind-altering, time.

From now until Aug. 18, 2009, when you purchase “Woodstock Revisited” or “Woodstock Peace, Music & Memories” at you get your choice of 2 downloads for FREE! That’s any two downloadable files when you order either Woodstock book. Just include Coupon Code GMNBART81109 when ordering to make sure you receive your free gifts.

Click here to check out the latest price guides from Goldmine

Leave a Reply