(Republished from the Guide's current events edition, topping the listings for August 15, 2019.)
In an age before an internet or social media or mobile phones to get the word out about anything, there was person-to-person excitement on par with the Yukon gold rush.
Immediately, Woodstock was about more than the music. It brought the counter-culture a realization of itself as an energized, youth-driven sociopolitical community for change. The Women's Rights, Gay Rights, Environmental, anti-pesticide, anti-plastic, anti-corporate, pro-marijuana-legalization, and other key movements galvanized into forces with the longevity to bring change that is still occuring into our time.
Almost right away in its own time, the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements became unstoppable -- even as the tragic and turbulent '60s concluded. Nixon would fall; yet in the establishment backlash, the glorification of greed and Reagan would rise; the fight to stop corporate hegemony and its message management would come to collide with industrially-driven climate change; the primacy of Wall Street banksters and an insidious warconomy would continue to deny humanity's basic needs; and in a post-Warren Report world, we would find ourselves in a time when every message seems exploitive and must be suspect.
Still, we are better equipped to face all the existential challenges, chaos, turmoil, cynicism, and manipulators of our time because, 50 years ago, we learned the Woodstock "fish cheer" ("Gimme an F") from Country Joe & the Fish; Jimi Hendrix combined the pomp and presence of the National Anthem into a revolutionary and instantly iconic guitar solo that still confronts the listener with the interwoven sounds of missiles, falling bombs, and chaotic combat in the name of the nation; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young advocated a more ethical philosophical underpinning for teaching our society's children; and Joni Mitchell offered the realization that each and every one of us, however humble or deprived, is stardust, and can shine untarnished, like gold.
If any past time seems simpler than ours today, it wasn't. The '60s, with its backyard-bomb-shelters; ever-vigilant and ever-airborne nuclear bombers; prototype war masquerading as defending freedom but actually for economic domination of other people's resources; and pantheon of assassinated visionaries; all attest to that. Fifty years later, those three days of peace and music -- mud and all, in a magical moment called Woodstock -- remains a state of mind as hallowed and legendary as any Camelot or Xanadu. It continues to empower us all to speak truth to power, and to call BS to those determined to con us. It continues to inspire the dream, yeah, of attending the ultimate music festival -- and much more, of living in a better world.