Woodstock Encapsulated an Era of Social, Political Protest
By Martin Phillips
15 August 2009
Woodstock, which celebrated its 40th anniversary 15-16 August, has
come to mean more than music. It's come to stand for the 60s protest
movement. But how did the music festival become a rallying point for
a new political movement?
Over four days the focus of the Woodstock crowd was on this main
stage. But behind the scenes something else was happening. Food had
run out. It was raining. Still a community was developing, as these
pictures at the Bethel Woods museum show. Zeke Boyle was a teenager
alienated from an older generation.
"The way people were sharing at Woodstock, if you were wet and cold,
they would offer you their extra shirt," he said. "They would offer
you food. People were sharing everything. "
There were other problems such as young people overdosing on drugs.
"I ended up drinking a lot and I ended up taking some LSD and I
didn't have that peace/love experience that a lot of other people
had," Joe Dipone recalled.
Still, just being part of the Woodstock community changed Joe Dipone.
"Looking back on it, it was really good for me, because what it did
it made me aware that there was a whole other lifestyle going on and
another different consciousness going on," he added.
Duke Devlin came for the music and fun.
"You had the war in Vietnam. You had civil rights, you had women's
rights, gay rights and you had the music, which was a form of
communication that we used strongly back then," he noted.
The music, says American musician Richie Havens, touched a powerful chord.
"If I could tell you how many people hugged me. From the time I
start. It was amazing. I don't even believe it myself. It was
thousands. Thousands," he said.
And after Woodstock many, like Zeke Boyle and Joe Dipone, went on to
protest the war.
"It gave credence to the whole movement and my part of the movement,"
Mr. said. "It empowered me and it made me feel my voice had some
meaning. In any way I can [I am for] speaking out against injustice
of any kind," he said.
Today the site is run by the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.
Inside, films about Woodstock, clearly show the conditions at the festival:
There are replicas of the hippie cars and the buses that brought
people to the site. People who were at Woodstock come here to tour
"It made me feel I could make a change in the world," she said.
In fact, says Michael Lange the promoter of Woodstock, he is the man
on the right, change is the legacy of Woodstock.
"What's important to remember is there's possibility for things to be
better and that people can make a difference," he said. "That if you
get involved and make a commitment to something, you can be part of
change that's positive for everybody. "
The site today is a shrine. Ralph Corwin, a boy who spent just one
day here still comes back often to clear his mind. He plans on being
"I will have my ashes scattered out there, because nothing bad has
ever happened to me here," he said.
Local people also feel this site is special. Years ago they placed
this monument on the small hill above the site so no one will forget.
Staten Island's role in the legendary Woodstock Festival
by Ben Johnson
Saturday August 15, 2009
Serving thousands of hollowed-out lemons filled with sugar, cottage
cheese and LSD on palm fronds at a music festival in 2009 would
almost certainly get you arrested. Giving them all out for free these
days might even get you classified as crazy, too. But hearing John
Foxell tell about doing exactly that 40 years ago at Woodstock, it
sounds downright honorable.
"All those people I served with the little lemons had a good time,"
says Foxell, 65, of Port Richmond. "We managed to have all the acts
perform, people got along, and things were not sold; this was not
about money, this was to show what we could do."
Luke Walter, 72, of New Springville, was obviously at the same festival.
"Look, not to give you a cliche, but it was peace and love," says
Walter, one of several handpicked security personnel who worked the
legendary happening in 1969 in upstate Bethel, N.Y.
"I'm telling you, if all the world leaders of that time had been
there, we'd have a lot less problems today." Foxell and Walter may
sound like stereotypical hippies, but they're not. These two men
merely echo a lasting impression the originally titled Woodstock
Music & Art Fair (which took place Aug. 15-18, 1969) had on an entire
generation, and countless people born since.
It's hard to blame them. After all, with some 500,000 attendees, 32
of the decade's best folk, rock and psychedelic groups -- including
Staten Island native Joan Baez -- three recorded deaths and two
recorded births, Woodstock remains a counter-cultural touchstone; the
most famous example of musical, sexual and chemical freedom in the 1960s.
Foxell and Walter have different memories from that giant alfalfa
field upstate, but they agree on one thing: Woodstock was a watershed
moment, never done before, never to be repeated.
"Woodstock was like a delicate and rare flower that blooms only
once," says Foxell. "Subsequent attempts (in 1994 and 1999) were
complete failures because all they paid attention to was how much
this was, how much that was. Everything was being sold at a giant
markup; there was no spirit, no feeling."
Foxell was studying English at NYU in the early 1960s, and befriended
a kid from his history class who played guitar. The kid's name was
John Sebastian -- who would go on to found The Lovin' Spoonful, and
play Woodstock as a solo act.
As a young man living in a building at First Avenue at the same time,
Foxell also fell in with a group called the Hog Farm, led by hippie
activist and standup comic Hugh Nanton Romney, a.k.a. Wavy Gravy. As
part of the Hog Farm, Foxell helped plan, organize and man the
Woodstock festival, and went up early to prepare the stage and area
at Max Yasgur's 600-acre dairy farm. His carpentry skills proved
nonexistent, so Foxell was asked to do menial tasks, including making
and serving the LSD lemons to whoever would take them.
Walter, a bank security officer at Wells Fargo who had a few years
earlier been shot four times in a failed robbery and lived to tell
the tale, became involved for different reasons. Woodstock founders
and business partners Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, Joel Rosenman and
John Roberts became concerned when expectations of a crowd of 50,000
was exploded with 186,000 tickets purchased ($18 for all three days),
and their fears doubled when they saw the crowd amassing in Bethel
days before the first chord was to be played.
An arrangement for off-duty cops to work security unarmed fell
through, and Lang reached out to trusted friend Lenny Kaufman and
asked for help. Kaufman tapped Walter, then 32 years old, to help
make sure things behind the scenes ran smoothly.
"Lenny come up with about five guys and I was one of them, doing what
they called 'inner security'," says Walter, who still has his
uniform: A blue T-shirt with the festival logo. "We brought the
helicopters running in and out with musicians, water, everything. It
was funny, the whole weekend we were running around because they were
worried the concessions would get ripped off, or something else.
Everyone was so paranoid, but once we got up there, it was really
just a big party. Nobody really made any problems, and everything
became free anyway."
Both Walter and Foxell can be seen briefly in the famed 1970
documentary, loading a truck and riding in a cart, respectively, and
both have plenty of stories.
Walter got shots of B12 to stay awake and keep working, inadvertently
drank a jug of orange juice spiked with LSD ("right before Sly and
the Family Stone went on"), and met his second wife near the stage,
but not before people offered him everything from large quantities of
dope to sexual favors in exchange for a seat on one of the departing
Foxell, who kept a stash of hamburgers and whiskey near him at all
times, hitched bumpers all the way home when it was over, at one
point tied to one like a dead deer.
Both can recount harrowing moments, and Walter still gets guff for
missing his daughter's first birthday. But it was all worth it.
"The government had been making it so clear that we were the problem,
that we were what was wrong," says Foxell. "We didn't see it that
way. We had to show our parents, our government, our friends that we
could do this without having it fail, becoming a big disaster,
everyone shooting, stabbing and raping each other. We had to show we
could be adults, even though we still dressed like children."
"That time was a very politically charged atmosphere," says Walter.
"But the music, to me, it's still one of my favorite times. It
inspires me to think young, if you will. I happen to be a very young 72."
Read The Original Woodstock Festival Press Release
By Evan Schlansky
August 15th, 2009
*WOODSTOCK MUSIC AND ART FAIR OFFERS 3 DAYS OF PEACE & MUSIC
Serious and large scale preparations have been made by the Woodstock
Music and Art Fair, a major pop festival to be held in upstate
Wallkill, N.Y., Aug. 15, 16, & 17 to insure three days of harmonious
living in anticipation of what is expected to result in the most
heavily attended pop music festival of the season.
In a special meeting of the underground press and pop music leaders
called by Woodstock Ventures, Inc., (Thursday June 26), ground rules
were laid by VPs Artie Kornfield and Mike Lang, of the Woodstock
Festival, concerned about the tones festivals are taking throughout
the country. Heading the meeting with Kornfield and Lang was Jim
Fouratt, freelance underground writer and originator of the first be-ins.
"We are here to curtail incidents between the kids and police," said
Kornfield. "If we want to stop violence and tension from becoming the
norm on the fair grounds, (Newport, Calif., June 22: Denver Pop
Festival, June 27) we've got to set new tones and for the festival
and redefine its meaning."
Woodstock has set its concept of the festival at "three days of peace
and music." "This is a scene away from all scenes or no scene at
all," said Lang. "At Wallkill we have 600 acres of free-space-to-roam
on cleared country ground…perfect for a three day holiday.
Offered by the Woodstock festival are free camping grounds which will
be the site of free round-the-clock workshops in poetry, craft,
theatre, pottery and music, free cookouts and guitar playing around
centrally controlled 24 hour fires and free rice kitchens for hungry
music lovers with little or no money for food.
Camping supply stores will sell food for cooking out and organic food
stands will offset a major delicatessen concessionaire contacted for the event.
Mathematically computed, are the number of comfort stations, first
aid stations, water supply, food, and garbage detail to clean fair
Concerned with the esthetic as well, the four Woodstock principals,
including VP Joel Rosenman and Woodstock Ventures president, John
Roberts have planned "countless mind blowers" for the fair grounds.
"Invisible art things, are one," said Rosenman, "structures that you
can't tell if their natural or man-made." Other things include chimes
in the woods, things to play on, poems and paintings over rocks and
"things to make for good vibrations."
A carefully screened and briefed security staff headed by West
Pomeroy, former Law Enforcement Coordinator for the Johnson
Administration, will traffic the fair grounds and provide information
and service at all fair-goers. Assisted by the Rev. Don Ganoung,
Pomeroy said his men will be unarmed and plainclothed. "We are not
there to police," said Pomeroy. "Our function is to service."
Woodstock does not figure on gate crashers. "Parking facilities will
be provided for outside the fair ground area," said John Roberts,
"all patrons will be bussed to the gates, a twenty four hour service."
Underground spokesman Jim Fouratt closed the meeting. "Part of the
trouble stems from the fact that we really don't know what to expect
from the promoters, what their offering, what we are really paying
for. The Woodstock people have laid it out so we don't know what to expect.
Both Kornfield and Lang deny having backers. They say they and their
partners Rosenman and Roberts have subsidized the entire event. All
under thirty years of age, they say they got the idea of doing the
festival because they needed one to go to that was groovy. "It all
happened," says Roberts, "because Mike and Artie wanted to see all
their favorite performers on the same stage just once."
This press release is a part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and
Museum's 40th anniversary of Woodstock exhibit which tells the story
of the festival. Woodstock turned out to be the most heavily attended
festival in rock and roll history. The resulting music and
peace-loving movement changed the world. The exhibit is open through
November 2009. To view other original festival planning and marketing
documents, please visit www.rockhall.com/visit/woodstock.