15-17 August 1969, history’s most iconic rock festival took place. The festival was named the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. The festival was to be held in Woodstock in New York. However, the festival was moved to a dairy farm in Bethel (New York state). 25,000 participants were expected for the festival. Probably about 500,000 came. The festival was in the hippie era, it bore the stamp of the Vietnam war and became a protest against the war.
500,000 in bad weather
The weather at the festival was bad. Lots of rain, thunder and slush on the dairy farm. However, this did not stop the festival-goers. Several big names were on the show. Many of the performances have become iconic highlights in the rock and pop industry.
After Joe Cooker came on, his performance was halted for several hours due to thunderstorms. A lot of rain characterized the festival. The large number of visitors also came as a surprise. Expectations were 25,000. There were probably 20 times more people present during the festival.
To understand the Hippies, we need to understand the time. It was in the middle of the Cold War and the US was involved in the Vietnam War which seemed pointless. Hippie culture emerged in the United States in the mid-1960s and quickly spread to other countries.
The movement was a counterculture to the established middle class. In music and art we saw the hippie culture. It was initially young people aged 15 to 25 who established the culture. A generation of young people who grew up partly after World War 2 and were tired of war and rearmament. USA’s involvement in World War II was for them a symbol of everything they wanted to get away from. The struggle against the Vietnam War, nuclear weapons and the Cold War characterized the movement.
Like other subcultures, the hippie culture also had its codes for uniforming. Boys with afro hair and headbands, fringed jackets and flared trousers. Girls often with headbands, trousers with large flares, etc.
The hippies also uniformed themselves through symbols. Peace marks were often used on clothes and cars. The generation that grew up after the war wanted a new world, without war and nuclear weapons. The use of floral motifs is also prominent. They actually symbolize the same thing that peace does, peace rather than war, flowers rather than guns.
Musical Woodstock highlights
For many, perhaps the most iconic moment during the festival is when Jimi Henrix was the last artist on stage. His iconic guitar solo of the American national anthem is legendary. For others maybe Country Joe & The Fish and the performance of “Vietnam song”.
The list of artists who perform is long and incredibly many well-known artists. I can mention The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Band to name a few others. See the entire playlist in the column on the left.
The Woodstock festival was attempted again 30 years later, but the festival in 1999 was a big failure. The biggest rock festival of all time took place on a dairy farm in Bethel in 1969.