Woodstock: Three days that gave young people a break from war, assassinations and Nixon


06 August 2019 | PSB 

I know. We have all by now heard enough about the hippies and peace and love and the mud and the skinny dipping. 

Many of the reviews of this PBS program simply regurgitate the lazy notion that this program adds ‘nothing new’ to the 50-year-old folk legends and nostalgic fairy tales.  

But in truth this program actually highlights a number of topics that the first movie and the mainstream media still fail to address: Death. Whether in Vietnam or in the murders of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and Robert Kennedy. 

Those ‘stories’ were at the very heart and soul of young people in America -and beyond- in 1969. The war was the top story on the evening news programs. The war was in the heart and soul of every boy who, with one stroke of a pen, or one bad error in judgement, could actually find themselves Going to War. Not as soldiers, mind you, but as young boys.

Indeed, so horrible were these prospects that even I took part in anti-war marches. And I was Canadian.

But the war and other such backstories are rarely mentioned in the reviews or most of the features on Woodstock because if they were acknowledged in any fundamental way, they would have to also acknowledge that the wars of today and tomorrow are barely acknowledged in any fundamental way.

I mean Time Magazine ran an item (A New Woodstock Doc Offers a Hippie Nostalgia Trip. But It’s Time to Think More Critically About the Festival) that failed -completely!- to even  mention the war as a backstory, even though these were some of the most compelling scenes in this very documentary, the very documentary they were reviewing.

Again, that is not a simple oversight. That is intentional. Pathetic and intentional. 

So yes, whether young or old, do watch this documentary and see for yourselves the horrors that helped create these Three Days that gave everyone a temporary break from war and assassinations and draft cards and the threat of nuclear war and racism and all the rest.

Watch this documentary and realize that although we may not need another Woodstock, we do need to look beyond the media manipulation and the biblical cult of consumerism and take action to right the wrongs of today. And the past. 

Just as we had to do at the time. In its most basic form, the decision we had to make was whether to live lives mourning the assassinations by the state of the men who tried to bring peace or to live lives dedicated to the short, blissful time when peace still seemed possible.   

Most people from that time would probably tell you that they picked the latter. Most people from that time would probably also tell you that now, perhaps for the first time in their lives, they are beginning to wonder if that battle is lost. Time will tell. 

James Porteous



In August 1969, nearly half a million people gathered at a farm in upstate New York to hear music. What happened over the next three days, however, was far more than a concert. It would become a legendary event, one that would define a generation and mark the end of one of the most turbulent decades in modern history.

Occurring just weeks after an American set foot on the moon, the Woodstock music festival took place against a backdrop of a nation in conflict over sexual politics, civil rights and the Vietnam War. A sense of an America in transition—a handoff of the country between generations with far different values and ideals—was tangibly present at what promoters billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music.

Woodstock turns the lens back at the audience, at the swarming, impromptu city that grew up overnight on a few acres of farmland. What took place in that teeming mass of humanity — the rain-soaked, starving, tripping, half-a-million strong throng of young people — was nothing less than a miracle of teamwork, a manifestation of the “peace and love” the festival had touted and a validation of the counter-culture’s promise to the world.

Who were these kids? What experiences and stories did they carry with them to Bethel, New York that weekend, and how were they changed by three days in the muck and mire of Yasgur’s farm?


join the Hawkins Bay Revolution
before it is too late


James Porteous
who does not receive any
financial remuneration
from these stupid
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