2019 marks 50 years since several key cultural events, from the moon landing to the Manson murders. One of the very biggest moments of 1969 was Woodstock, so naturally, there was plenty of well-deserved hoopla over the Golden Anniversary of those “3 days of peace and music” in August of ’69.
Naturally, most of the focus of Woodstock has been on 1) the music and 2) the extraordinary, spontaneous gathering of nearly half-a-million people. Time magazine deemed it “the greatest peaceful event in history.” Yet the festival had a much larger impact – and in ways that continue to ripple outwards.
The spontaneous experiment of Woodstock ultimately gelled some key cultural ideas. The first? The power of “youth culture” to effect change. It was perhaps the first time that Baby Boomers felt their collective power — (as they did again a few months later at the anti-Vietnam protest dubbed “the Moratorium”). Woodstock showed that a large group of young people can step far ahead of their parents and the “status quo,” raise awareness and move the needle on social movements. The “Women’s March” and “March for Our Lives” are just two of the most recent examples of this kind of influence.
Woodstock helped cement the idea that no one person was too small to make the world a better place. There are numerous stories of festival attendees who helped total strangers, whether giving them a ride, to sharing food or a tent. Many charities still operating today have their roots in the festival, Greenpeace being one of them. Many festival attendees were inspired to start or contribute to causes related to the environment, communities in need and much more.
Naturally, music was the beating heart of Woodstock. Its demonstrated power to bring large groups of people together through a common vibe has not been lost on future generations. From George Harrison’s Concert for Bangladesh to charity singles like “Do They Know Its Christmas” and “We Are the World,” Woodstock showed that music can do good (while making you dance).
While the official 50th anniversary of Woodstock is now in the rearview mirror, the particular magic dust that it kicked up is still drifting through the atmosphere, leaving a conscious mark on everyone it touches. Happy birthday, Woodstock!
-The CultureSonar Team
Photo: Public domain image taken from the original Woodstock advertisement