Objects in Mirror

Discussing the legacy of Woodstock

Posted at 9:46 AM on August 14, 2009 by Julia Schrenkler

Earlier this week MPR Digital Media intern Eliza Hartley opened our online discussion about the cultural juggernaut that is Woodstock:

"I'm too young to have partaken in the wonders of Woodstock, but the location of my college across the Hudson River from the famed location serves as a constant reminder of the music, loving, and living that so historically took place there 40 years ago. Were you there? What was it like? Regardless of whether you were or not, what did it mean? What's its legacy?"

In his reply, Gather contributor Jim H. shared his personal experience:

"I was there--

In 1969, I had a foot in two worlds: I was a HS English Teacher (and soccer coach) in North St. Paul by day, and after work I lived on West Bank and spent much time volunteering with the Youth Emergency Service (YES).

A former roommate from my undergraduate days and then a grad student of Ann Arbor, invited me to go with he and his circle of friends to Woodstock. We spent two days there, arriving later Friday. We set up a tent or two, and then most of us simply found a place to spread our blanket, drank some wine, smoked some dope, and enjoyed the music.

By Sunday morning, the weather had done us in. As the 'responsible adult' for this mangy group, I ended up driving most of the way back to Ann Arbor, piloting a huge Chrysler wagon with seven other stoned souls in it.

The 'atmosphere' at Woodstock, that allowed 400,000 people to coexist under lousy conditions, I've never seen before or since. The music was wonderful to our young ears--I missed Ritchie Havens, but caught ones I really did want to see, such as Canned Heat, and Janis Joplin--and the image of The Who running out 'See Me, Feel Me' as the sun came up remains part of my life.

I returned to teaching that fall, somehow changed. Three months later, a student in my Basic Communications class stood up and shouted at me, 'Well, it was your generation that screwed things up, and it's our generation that has to fix it.' I was 24 years old; he was 17.

Later in August, Time published an essay speculating about the meaning of Woodstock. (It's available online now, here's the link: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,901295-1,00.html Written in the McLuhanesque language of the day, it nonetheless was prescient. It closed like this:

'But the Second Comings of history carry with them no guarantees of success, and a revolution based on unreason may just as easily bring a New Barbarism rather than the New Jerusalem. As Yeats so pointedly asked: And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?'"

You didn't have to attend Woodstock to be impacted by it. Discuss the legacy of this event, or share what it means to you.

More from MPR
* Join the online discussion: What is the legacy of Woodstock?
* Today's Question from Friday, August 14, 2009: What does Woodstock mean to you?
* Listen to the Midmorning audio archive: 40th Anniversary of Woodstock

Edited to add:
Sunday August 1, 2009 at 6 p.m. CT, MPR News will broadcast "Back to the Garden -- Woodstock Remembered." Listen to the News service on the radio or stream it at mprnewsq.org.

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