What does Woodstock mean to you?

40 years ago, 32 acts performed over three days and four nights at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York. A half million concert goers looked on as Joan Baez, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and many others defined a generation. If you were there, wish you had been, or were otherwise marked by those three days in August of 1969, what does Woodstock mean to you?

At Woodstock we learned we were all in the same prison. We succeeded in rattling the cage, but we did not break free. -anonymous text message

Woodstock? It was just a big, drug and mud soaked outdoor rock concert in NY. 40 years ago I was an 11 year old girl from CT who had just moved to a new town in NH and didnt know a soul. I knew about the concert -it was in the news- but I was more concerned about fitting into my new junior high. Did it define my generation? Not at all. It was something for the bored teenagers of the privileged who didn’t have a job that summer. -Lynne, Prior Lake, MN

Share your reply in the comments: What does Woodstock mean to you?

  • Jonathan

    Woodstock stands for the failure of the Baby boom generation. During the summer of 69 they preached love and peace, but 40 years later, after squandering the resources of the previous generation, delivered neither, love nor peace. Today we are locked into an endless war in the middle east and politically, the country is just as divided as ever. So much for changing the world.

  • Helen M. Rudie

    Woodstock to this octogenarian was an orgy in mud hat showed the decadent side of popular culture. It had no meaning to me personally at the time and has no meaning to me personally now. I’ve always been a bit bemused at all the fuss over it.

  • Jaell

    Worshipping musicians in a God-like way only illustrates to me how sheepish and easily manipulated people can be. The event seemed self-indulgent an unhealthy in terms of drug abuse, promiscuity, and sanitation. We think that young girls are crazy when they’re crying and overcome with emotions at concerts for the Jonas Brothers, but people have been doing it for years. Woodstock is the quintessential example of peoples desire to be led by anyone with a microphone and a little charisma.

    The reverence given to this event is over the top when there are far more important and influential people, places, and events that happened before and since. I am fine with the message of peace and love, but things are easier said than done. They wanted an end to war and poverty, but did we get it?

    Thanks for nothing, Woodstock.

  • judy

    In my little Hallmark Calendar of 1969 – I wrote “Going to folk rock festival”…who knew???

    So, what Woodstock means to me is: you never know ahead of time how history will record an event. Or, you never know ahead of time what an event will actually be once all the components merge.

    Life is interesting that way.

  • Robin

    Woodstock is emblematic of the infantile self absorption which characterized the baby boom generation. It is the counterpoint to D-Day, an event emblematic of the maturity and selflessness which characterized the previous generation. That Woodstock – a hoard of jobless, mud soaked, hallucinating teenagers – is so revered, speaks volumes about present day American values.

  • Mike R

    It means listening to more tired reminiscences from the narcissistic navel gazers of the Baby Boom generation.

  • Woodstock stimulates joyous and comforting thoughts of the burning bush speaking to Moses and of Jesus feeding the thousands. It also stimulates sad and angry thoughts of the establishment D.A.R.E.ing generations since Woodstock not to be like them.

  • sm

    It was a symbol of strength in numbers that this generation has been blessed and cursed with. It was a temporary release from being controlled by government via the draft. It reflected the ongoing political and social upheaval that would empower underclasses. And it horrified The Man and the status quo. Well played.

  • Cheryl

    At age 15; Woodstock signified to me to be a truly magical time with a generation full of life, creativity, emotion and values to which so many of us stood together in belief…this time was truly powerful…

    I was asked to go with some friends of mine…pack up the VW Bus and go…at that time being too young, could only embrace the newspaper, magazines and TV…this time will always be in my heart; it’s still exciting to know that I grew up in this unbelievable revolution…with a bit of hippie still in me, could not ask to have been born at any other time in history…

    Embrace Your Lives…There Is Only One Spin On The Odometer…

    Peace 🙂

  • Joe Schaedler

    Woodstock represents one of the last major acommercial cultural event in American history.

    Subsequent music concerts, along with cinema and most all other forms of artistic expression, all have undergone increasing waves of commoditization and pinpoint focus-marketing which undermine their most essential value to society as illuminating experiences of pure human beauty.

    Without such true experiences of unregulated humanity, we are becoming increasingly lost in an over-sterilized and cultureless wilderness.

  • stu klipper

    In hindsight it means that I’d set a pattern of travel that has pretty much become my SOP. To wit, going to where most people don’t. A good and I set out for “Woodstock” the festival and instead, due to either confusion or design, wound up the the actual town of Woodstock, N.Y. It was mostly deserted. We spent a weekend of tranquil peace and quiet far from the maddening crowds.

  • Henry Tan

    A more interesting question might be to ask how and why thousands of aimless and whimsical youth on a weekend holiday have come to symbolize an entire generation of tens of millions?

  • Paul

    It showed that young people seem to need chemical help to alter their mood,

    Wasted is the young on life.

  • colleen

    Woodstock was a great event. As a baby boomer I wish I would have been there so I could tell my kids and grandkids. I have a co worker who was there and tells us her stories. WOW!

    colleen from mn.

  • Robin

    Woodstock underscored my optimism about people. I learned that a very large, ill prepared group of people can remain caring, peaceful and make the most of a misserable situation, no toilets, no food, no water, rain, and very fertile mud everywhere. We turned the mud to a play ground and had fun together.

  • Loke

    I didn’t go to Woodstock, but I had a friend from college who did. She told me that is was amazing, but it was so horribly filthy that she was really ready to get out of there by the time it was over. There were no, or not enough, toilets and people were going out into the woods to find spots to relieve themselves. She said she picked up a leaf to clean herself and it had already been used!

    In spite of that yuck factor, it was an amazing event, a concentration of exhilaration, liberation and celebration of the belief that we were no longer going to conform to the expectations of the 1950s world of our parents!

    Peace & love!

  • Loke

    I didn’t go to Woodstock, but I had a friend from college who did. She told me that is was amazing, but it was so horribly filthy that she was really ready to get out of there by the time it was over. There were no, or not enough, toilets and people were going out into the woods to find spots to relieve themselves. She said she picked up a leaf to clean herself and it had already been used!

    In spite of that yuck factor, it was an amazing event, a concentration of exhilaration, liberation and celebration of the belief that we were no longer going to conform to the expectations of the 1950s world of our parents!

    Peace & love!

  • Jon

    I never made it to Woodstock being kinda busy pullin the Americal division out of the Que Son mountains in Vietnam. When you hear someone say how Woodstock changed their lives or the life of the society remember this; During those 3 days of fun and music 509 Marines and soldiers lost their lives. Now that was a bad trip.

  • Tim

    Woodstock reeks of hypocrisy. Most of the hippies eventually devolved into yuppies. A few of them stayed true to their professed values but the vast majority of this generation traded peace and love for stocks and real estate. Our economy and ecology have never been the same.

  • Alex

    Woodstock was full of a lot of optimism about making the world a better place, right? Well, to a twenty-something, Woodstock shows me how much the baby boomer generation failed. We’re up a creek without a paddle for decades to come because of the degradation the baby boomers allowed to happen. The Earth is dying, our food system is killing us, we’re addicted to doctors and pills, government is mostly a tool of the large corporations that have popped into prominence in the last 50 years, and the list goes on. Woodstock turned out to be a huge failure that my generation has to try to fix.

  • James

    In 1969 my fathers M-14 rifle in Vietnam…. it had a Woodstock.

  • Anita Kangas

    As a young teen-ager growing up near the University of MN and watching the students demonstrate against the Vietnam War, Woodstock, for me, was a culmination of young people uniting and saying “enough!” The world is changing and it will never be the same. Woodstock is all about revolution and celebration. It represents a pivotal moment in US history. It was ALL about the music and any time I hear Joe Cocker or Jimi Hendrix, I am back in 1969 remembering the event unfolding all over again. For me, it was amazing and exciting and I remember feeling no fear. I felt a sense of positive energy and hope for the future.

  • Colleen Duluth, Mn

    I was a 16 year old in 1969. My friends and I would have loved nothing better than to actually go to New York and be a part of this amazing event. The music represented everything to me about the times…Jimmi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner, Janis Joplin…and thousands of kids gathering to celebrate, raise hell, protest the war, plead for peace whatever.

    I can see where a younger generation would see a bunch of drug soaked hedonists where I saw a bunch of us wanting a better way than the staus quo; an unconscionable war where our country’s leaders lied to us, young men being drafted, the lucky ones with connections like our former President and vice-President getting a pass by joining the Guardor getting deferments. I had a brother at West Point a bit later and I used to write him “snag” letters asking why he was a part of the military industrial complex. I recall calling my parents to state I was quiting school to join the anti-war movement. They thought I had gone psychotic..I didn’t quit.

    40 years later I believe many of us had our consciousness raised for the better. Young women can take oppotunities for granted thanks to pioneeers like Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinam and Hillary Clinton. The civil rights movement thanks to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s blood and that of others has opened opportunities to to African Americans. The work is not done. Our press did not and does not cover our wars like Vietnam was covered. We had a nightly dose of body bags coming home. I do not like the conservative swing this wonderful country has taken. The press didn’t do their job with Iraq , the quest of $$ and having a business major is considered success. Thanks for letting me rant.

  • joe musich

    “Fear is the lock and laughter the key to your heart….” Crosby Stills Nash and Young. Or what about Wooden Ships :

    Stills: If you smile at me, I will understand

    ‘Cause that is something everybody everywhere does

    in the same language.

    Crosby: I can see by your coat, my friend,

    you’re from the other side,

    There’s just one thing I got to know,

    Can you tell me please, who won?

    Not bad sentiments. I’m watching the documentary and listening to the music this weekend. This was a major cultural event I’d like to see repeated. Oh bye the way how many of you knew Country Joe MacDonald was a Navy veteran ?

  • Alex

    Wow, the meanspiritedness of some of the comments saddens me. The boomers were maybe indulgent, but they were inspiring; they were pompous sometimes, but always deeply involved with life and improving it; I feel sorry for young people now. Those who blame the state of the world on the Woodstock generation forget that it was Ronald Reagan, a “greatest generation” member, who let the corporate wolves into the sheep fold. Of course, generation Y doesn’t read enough to know this.

  • Alex

    Every generation has its youthful glory, but some generations shine more than others. It is the historical milieu that calls forth the light and music reflects it best: the twenties are typified in jazz and Gershwin’s soaring urban symphonies; the thirties gave us ragged, cynical ballads and Astaire’s desperate romanticism; the forties moved to a beat of swing that made going off to war seem like a voluntary, vital leap; the fifties had an underground black swell of creativity that crested in the white stars of Presley and Holly ; and the sixties had personal liberation as a goal and psychedelic rock-to-heavy metal as their anthems.

    Woodstock is reviled by those who don’t feel its spirit–that spirit is unfathomable unless one shared, not by being there necessarily but by agreeing with the zeitgeist, the joy of accepting all different people from different backgrounds, of dressing or undressing as one pleased, of loving who and when one wanted, and of denying repressions inner and outer. I wasn’t at Woodstock but I lived its spirit and am not sorry to have done so.

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