The PBS Woodstock Documentary

It’s on Netflix. I just finished watching it.

Wasn’t gonna watch it, but then I started getting e-mail and texts about it, and last night while Felice was taking a shower I started it and got hooked.

Now if this was 1970, the documentary would only play in movie theatres. We’d line up to go, it’d be a tribal rite. You were either on the bus or off the bus, and you wanted to be on it.

But today no one goes by bus except for the disadvantaged. It’s like the sixties are only a memory. But this documentary brings them back.

The war. Started off as a rumor. We just had “advisors” there. And “there” was so far away. China was closed, Australia wasn’t advertising, Americans went to Europe, but if you flew east, you were positively exotic, because no one did, at least no one I ever encountered. The only reason to fly east was to get your ass shot off in Vietnam, which eventually we saw in black and white every night on the TV screen.

At first we were gonna win the war, after all we were America! And then some on the left started to say we never would and that the Domino Theory was hogwash. And then you started to approach eighteen and got scared. Would I have to go?

They’d find you, you couldn’t escape. You could get a deferment, like Arlo Guthrie, but most of us were not hippies, we were gonna qualify and we were positively freaked.

And the body count kept getting higher. And then there were protests.

The youth were all on the same side. The news referred to it as a “youthquake.” Sure, some areas caught on later rather than sooner, but the baby boomers, the population bulge, decided to question norms and deviate from them if they found them unworthy, and with music as the grease, we pushed ahead.

No one was a Republican. And if they were, you knew who they were. And it was not about being a Republican because you were rich, nobody was that rich. The Republican Party represented what had come before, the Democratic Party was about pushing ahead. It started in 1960 with JFK, and when LBJ started to put on the brakes, he encountered blowback. LBJ did so much good, but he couldn’t get us out of Vietnam. And then Nixon and Kissinger kept saying they were pulling back while just the opposite was true, kids were being killed day after day.

Let’s make it simple. You can either vote for the people who are gonna send you to Vietnam…

Or not.

Then again, you had to be twenty one to vote. You could die in Vietnam before that, the draft age being 18.

And when Mick Jagger sings “I shouted out, Who killed the Kennedys?” today, there’s no darkness, no reflection, it’s just entertainment, but it didn’t used to be. In the sixties they killed the leaders, today we kill the hoi polloi. Come on, admit it, when you’re invited to a mass gathering, when you go to an open-air concert in a non-traditional space, it crosses your mind, “I could die here.”

So they organize the Woodstock festival to make money. But people came for the music. And at the time, it was the bill of all bills, no show had featured so many stars, and this woke up all the fans and they made a pilgrimage to Bethel, New York. It’d kinda be like having a videogame festival outdoors today, based on the most popular multiplayer game, people have no idea how many people are hooked, then again, you play inside.

Back then we went outdoors on a regular basis.

No one is fat in this documentary. What is it, the fructose, the additives, the lazy lifestyle? I don’t know, but that was long ago, and in this footage the times look glorious.

Now you can only do something like this once. You can only push the envelope once. Like Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” promotion. Once people have seen the trick, it can’t be replicated. And today’s music festivals are about anything but the music, they sell tickets before the lineup is even announced. It’s not so much who’s on stage, but who’s in the audience.

But back then, we were all in it together. There was no VIP. Everybody was equal. Kids didn’t judge hippies, they wanted to be one! That was the freedom they were yearning for, and the exploration. You wanted to be all you could be, as opposed to studying economics so you could work at the bank. Who in the hell would want to work at a bank? As for the money…no one we knew, almost no one at all, was a millionaire. Society was much more homogenous. And you could make it on minimum wage.

It’s fascinating to see how word about the festival was spread through alternative newspapers. Those were the internet of their day. Radio was Twitter. There was no Facebook or Instagram, self-promotion was not lionized, you had no thought of becoming a business, first and foremost you were a person.

And the way everybody talked to each other, helped each other…today we judge people and exclude them.

Now I’m not saying everything was better in the sixties, there was poverty and racism but there was hope and a can-do spirit. As for Obama running on hope, wasn’t that a joke. And anybody proposing something new is criticized. We can’t have Medicare for All, the public won’t go for it! It’s like we’re going backwards, we’re isolating our country from the world, people want to go back to what once was as opposed to what can be.

But that can’t happen. And if it did, people wouldn’t like it. They’d lose their conveniences and just be a face in the crowd, if you were special back then it was based on your personality, not your clothing or your ride.

Oh, we’ve strayed so far from the garden.

And we’re never going back there.

But when you watch the footage of Crosby, Stills & Nash performing “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes,” you tingle.

Do you know what it was like to hear this “wooden music”? These were people on stage, evidencing their humanity, the tunes weren’t made by machines without melody.

It’s getting to the point where there’s no fun anymore. Everybody feels powerless, everybody is greedy, they and their family come first.

But back then Sly wanted to take us higher. If we believed in the music our lives were complete. In 1976 Don Henley sang “we haven’t had that spirit here since 1969.” Now we’ve gone even further off course. But it’s those acts from the sixties and seventies who are still alive who sell out stadiums, who fill every seat. Sure, it was about the money, but first and foremost it was about music.

Back at Woodstock they let the music set them free.

You’ll feel the same way when you watch this documentary.

“Woodstock: Three Days That Defined A Generation”

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