Saturday, August 15, 2009

Woodstock Nation

Today is the 40th anniversary of the world's most famous rock festival and you would have to live under a rock not to know that. The fascination with Woodstock is pretty interesting given that fact that at the time it didn't get all that much attention. Which is understandable when you consider what an incredibly eventful year 1969 was.

Less than a month earlier, Neil Arstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon. The War in Viet Nam was tearing the nation apart, the Chappaquiddick incident was big news as well as the Manson murders which had just taken place.

With all the turmoil in the world it must have been quite an experience to attend a festival with a half million other people dedicated to "peace love and music". The lineup was pretty amazing too, Janis Joplin, The Who, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Band, Jimi Hendrix, the list goes on and on. Then there was the mud, the drugs, and the sex. A good time was had by all. It's no small wonder that it all came off with without anyone getting hurt.*

The baby boom generation for whom the sun still rises and sets upon, considers Woodstock to be its seminal event. The line "we can change the world" from Graham Nash's song Chicago was their mantra. The world did in fact change, a little for the better, a little for the worse.

Just as it has for every generation of Homo sapiens that has ever walked this planet.

Perhaps the most enduring legacy of Woodstock and its generation is its music which has permeated virtually every aspect of popular culture, much to the detriment of all other music. These days on the radio it's easier to find a recording of second and third rate rockers from the sixties than it is to find classical music. It's even harder to find jazz, blues or folk music. And it's virtually impossible to find anything else. Apparently rock & roll (and its descendants hip hop and rap) will never die.

The Woodstock generation is now the establishment, which is perhaps a little ironic since their other mantra was "question authority".

We were at a performance of Beethoven's ninth symphony last night at Millennium Park. It was a beautiful evening and the lawn was filled edge to edge with picnicking concertgoers, most of whom looked as though they were old enough to have been at Woodstock. The city looked beautiful and the performance was magnificent. At the risk of sounding like a fogey however I have to say that few in the crowd had the attention span to refrain from chatting, laughing out loud, or talking on their cell phones during the music. Many applauded smack dab in the middle of the Ode to Joy.

It made me think that the legacy, the greatness, and the sheer beauty of perhaps the greatest piece of music ever written, not to mention the commitment and sacrifice of all those young musicians on the stage, deserved better than that.

Sheesh, old folks these days!

* well not exactly, two people died during Woodstock, one of a drug overdose, the other was a sleeping person who was run over by a tractor.

No comments: