Woodstock at 40: A triumph of capitalism

It was billed as a "Love-in," a "Happening," and an "Aquarian Exposition." What it became was a half million strong stoned out, bad tripping, muddy, bloody mess that has been lionized through the years using good old fashioned Madison Avenue techniques of huckstering and an almost defiant defense of the "Flower children" who went.

Did I mention the music rocked?

What people tend to forget - conveniently - is that barely a week before the concert at Yasgurs Farm kicked off, a stone cold, pathological killer and several of his hippie followers broke into the residence of Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate, and murdered 5 people in cold blood. Charlie Manson was no hippie. But he took a bunch of drug addled kids, drunk on an ideology that promoted consequenceless sex, and mind expansion through drugs, and filled their minds with hate, programming them to kill at his command.

Many historians have written that the death of the sixties followed the assassinations of King and Kennedy a year earlier. But I think the excesses of Woodstock and Manson probably put the nails in the coffin even if they didn't kill the decade outright. The generation that took Woodstock as an example of how 500,000 people could sit in a field, get stoned out of their minds, and not partake in any violent activity obviously had never been to an Indy 500 or Daytona. The idea that Woodstock represented something special is a mirage - a media created fantasy that continues to this day.

Ray Waddell writing for Reuters:

And the business has endured. Woodstock Ventures, the firm that oversees the licensing and intellectual property related to the Woodstock festival, is still run by the original producers of the event. And for several decades now, that once ragtag group of hippies has evolved into -- if they weren't already -- good businessmen with savvy instincts.

For Woodstock's 40th anniversary -- officially August 15-18 -- the breadth of projects and merchandise is staggering. Rhino and Sony will deliver albums of performances, Warner Bros. will release the original film and the Ang Lee-directed narrative feature "Taking Woodstock," VH1 and the History Channel will air a documentary by Barbara Koppel, several publishers will release books, Target will sell anniversary-themed merchandise, and Sony is launching a social networking/e-commerce site, Woodstock.com.

"We're not perfect. There are some small decisions we would have changed here and there, but for the most part, if we weren't happy with the way something felt, then we didn't go ahead," says Joel Rosenman, one of the original organizers and now a partner in Woodstock Ventures. "And that's because what happened in 1969 and how it feels to us is more important than pretty much any commercial consideration."

I'm sure they turned down stuff like Woodstock Memorial toy guns, and Woodstock lawn ornaments. But they licensed all the usual stuff like lunch boxes, cups, mugs, plates, dolls, and anything else they could slap the name Woodstock on to make money.

Absolutely nothing wrong with this, of course. It's the American way. Except the moralistic nonsense spouted by these still addle-brained 60 something adults that places what happened 40 years ago beyond any reasonable context is something that entire generation does on a regular basis. Glorifyng the 60's as a time that should be emulated is myth making. In 500 years, the only thing remembered about the 60's will be the Apollo moon landings and perhaps the struggle to codify into law civil rights. Woodstock will be a footnote - if that - and a curiosity for historians of the future who will wonder why everyone was making such a big deal out of it.

In the meantime, go see the movie (which is hilarious at this distance in time as well as being a first class treat for music fans), take your tye-dyed T-shirts out of mothballs, put on your bell bottoms, and go roll in the mud. That generation grew up as all generations grow up. Some grew out of their childish liberalism and became conservatives. Others still cling to the dream of brotherhood and socialism.

And when that generation is dead and buried, it is likely that Woodstock will die with them.



It was billed as a "Love-in," a "Happening," and an "Aquarian Exposition." What it became was a half million strong stoned out, bad tripping, muddy, bloody mess that has been lionized through the years using good old fashioned Madison Avenue techniques of huckstering and an almost defiant defense of the "Flower children" who went.

Did I mention the music rocked?

What people tend to forget - conveniently - is that barely a week before the concert at Yasgurs Farm kicked off, a stone cold, pathological killer and several of his hippie followers broke into the residence of Roman Polanski and his wife Sharon Tate, and murdered 5 people in cold blood. Charlie Manson was no hippie. But he took a bunch of drug addled kids, drunk on an ideology that promoted consequenceless sex, and mind expansion through drugs, and filled their minds with hate, programming them to kill at his command.

Many historians have written that the death of the sixties followed the assassinations of King and Kennedy a year earlier. But I think the excesses of Woodstock and Manson probably put the nails in the coffin even if they didn't kill the decade outright. The generation that took Woodstock as an example of how 500,000 people could sit in a field, get stoned out of their minds, and not partake in any violent activity obviously had never been to an Indy 500 or Daytona. The idea that Woodstock represented something special is a mirage - a media created fantasy that continues to this day.

Ray Waddell writing for Reuters:

And the business has endured. Woodstock Ventures, the firm that oversees the licensing and intellectual property related to the Woodstock festival, is still run by the original producers of the event. And for several decades now, that once ragtag group of hippies has evolved into -- if they weren't already -- good businessmen with savvy instincts.

For Woodstock's 40th anniversary -- officially August 15-18 -- the breadth of projects and merchandise is staggering. Rhino and Sony will deliver albums of performances, Warner Bros. will release the original film and the Ang Lee-directed narrative feature "Taking Woodstock," VH1 and the History Channel will air a documentary by Barbara Koppel, several publishers will release books, Target will sell anniversary-themed merchandise, and Sony is launching a social networking/e-commerce site, Woodstock.com.

"We're not perfect. There are some small decisions we would have changed here and there, but for the most part, if we weren't happy with the way something felt, then we didn't go ahead," says Joel Rosenman, one of the original organizers and now a partner in Woodstock Ventures. "And that's because what happened in 1969 and how it feels to us is more important than pretty much any commercial consideration."

I'm sure they turned down stuff like Woodstock Memorial toy guns, and Woodstock lawn ornaments. But they licensed all the usual stuff like lunch boxes, cups, mugs, plates, dolls, and anything else they could slap the name Woodstock on to make money.

Absolutely nothing wrong with this, of course. It's the American way. Except the moralistic nonsense spouted by these still addle-brained 60 something adults that places what happened 40 years ago beyond any reasonable context is something that entire generation does on a regular basis. Glorifyng the 60's as a time that should be emulated is myth making. In 500 years, the only thing remembered about the 60's will be the Apollo moon landings and perhaps the struggle to codify into law civil rights. Woodstock will be a footnote - if that - and a curiosity for historians of the future who will wonder why everyone was making such a big deal out of it.

In the meantime, go see the movie (which is hilarious at this distance in time as well as being a first class treat for music fans), take your tye-dyed T-shirts out of mothballs, put on your bell bottoms, and go roll in the mud. That generation grew up as all generations grow up. Some grew out of their childish liberalism and became conservatives. Others still cling to the dream of brotherhood and socialism.

And when that generation is dead and buried, it is likely that Woodstock will die with them.