Imagine this is 1969. You’re roughly 70 years old. You’re remembering 50 years ago. The great guns of Europe have stopped. The industrial slaughter of a world war is over. You think in your youthful way that in 1919 peace will bloom. A League of Nations was only a year away. You couldn’t know the Second World War was only 20 years away. Between the two, there were lesser conflicts and one giant revolution and civil war for the soul of Russia. The world was moving on tectonic plates of change. Forces were at play redefining the landscape.
But now it’s 1969. World wars are no more, just regional conflicts, like Vietnam. But there are battles in the streets for civil rights and civil wars. The times are changing. There’s this thing called pop/rock music. Your grandkids think it’s going to change the world. There’s this festival happening, Woodstock it’s called. Three days of peace and music, it’s supposed to be.
Half a million people, give or take, turn up. At first they had to buy a ticket but when the crush became a tidal wave, it was free. The tide could not be held back. Freedom walked into a field and thought it lit a bonfire for the ages. It was a gathering of young people, for sure, probably the biggest ever. They were there to have fun. A month before, men had walked on the moon, now half a million are gathered in a field as a storm approaches chanting, “no rain, no rain”. Such times.
Much is made of the line-up, but many stars have stayed away for various reasons. Bob Dylan was living a stone’s throw away. He didn’t go, but turned up at the Isle of Wight two weeks later. Also not there: Led Zeppelin, The Doors, Iron Butterfly, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles (albeit it would have been a stretch. Their last public gig was on the roof of a building that January).