Woodstock: Then NOT Now (or why not everything relates to Obama)


You can say I’m a huge Woodstock fan; I own the inevitable (necessary) poster with an authentic ticket, signed books (Artie Kornfeld), a photo collection and personal drawings (above)… to name just a sampling. I’ve made annual, sometimes quad annual, trips to ‘the site’ at the intersection of Hurd and West Shore roads in Bethel New York. All this years before Bethel Woods Center for the Arts was built. In some ways, I feel like I was there, or should have been.

I first saw the Woodstock movie as a 7 year old in Moscow. I think it was on network TV to showcase the ‘American perversion and result of brute capitalism of the US’ or something like that… I vividly remember standing in the middle of our living room and watching the mud people, and Joe Cocker doing the most memorable (and spastic) version of “with a little help of my friends”… and that was it, I was hooked, I was a hippie-dude. Anything American was always overtly intriguing (as an antiestablishment statement), besides they were playing in mud and I’m 7!

Years later I found myself in New Jersey, and well within driving range of the site where it all went down. My first time there was as a road trip during college… This reporter from a Sullivan County paper let us know “it wont be there for long” and that millionaire Alan Gerry is going to “develop the holy bowl” and gave us a few copies of a local newspaper. She also let us know about the Woodstock Preservation Alliance… and again I was hooked, and tried to help out as much as a distracted college student could. I wasn’t going to get arrested for trespassing though, and so ‘we’ lost and Bethel Woods was built (though the bowl was never developed).

Long story short, I’m a huge Woodstock fan, and I feel as if that empowers me in one way or another … Ok ok, before I completely go off the charts with the sobbing clichés, let’s get something out of the way… Yes, I know I’m 27, and of course I was not there. But none of you reading this were there either, or anyone you know. Only four to five hundred thousand people were, but they did not include President Obama, or his parents.

Last weekend was the 40th anniversary, and I was up at Bethel Woods seeing the Heroes of Woodstock and DVR’d “Woodstock: Then and Now” documentary on the History Channel… mostly a great account of the event, but as a person who, per the above, considers himself rather knowledgeable and involved in the ‘spirit of Woodstock’ I was genuinely disappointed by the 5 minute cockamamie editorial ending comparing ‘my’ event to the Obama inauguration.

I don’t seem to be the only one to think this is absurd, and fully discredited the documentary and quite possibly the History Channel as a whole (check out this board discussion, twitter search and blogpost)… Even as an Obama supporter and voter, I fail to see how on earth Obama turned into Forrest Gump, in the sense that he’s become the cause for and the result of every possibly imaginable major event in recent past.

Obama was partly elected by the flower children but his inauguration was NOT a love in, it wasn’t really even a happening… so why did the History Channel fall into that trap, and why didn’t anyone stop them? How can a serious editorial and producing team connect the biggest counterculture, anti-establishment event ever to the biggest ever government orgy known as the presidential inauguration? The swearing in of the government’s top official, regardless of its size or social magnitude is still just that… a political event. Woodstock it was not.

This obsession to connect everything back to Obama, or his inauguration, or his ‘path’ (whatever that means) or his this or his that has me bonkers… he’s a man, he’s just a man, and you’ve known so many men before, in very many ways (aptly quoted from Jesus Christ Superstar). I think this type of crap takes away from Obama’s accomplishment, his drive, and frankly, from his responsibility and onus of the problems at hand… which are numerous.

Woodstock was a place where credit was disregarded, the focus wasn’t even on the music, promoters were screwed, the people were dirty and hungry, the bands were rushed on and off without schedule or fully working equipment… everyone suffered and everyone owned up to it, that’s the magic. A Presidential inauguration is the epitome of political soapbox chest thumping madness, and revolves around one person, on this one day (the king is dead, long live the king!).

Sure there were a lot of people on the national mall, but I don’t see much else.

To me the 40th anniversary show of Woodstock at Bethel Woods was closer in every way — see sepia image from last weekend below — We were surrounded by tie-dye shirts, some political slogans, my fellow man; plus Canned Heat, Ten Years After, Jefferson (Airplane) Starship, and Country Joe McDonald. And they ran out of food at the end…


Woodstock was nothing but a moment in time, and unfortunately it was gone as fast as it came to be. And if you ask its true alumni, they’d say no other major event will ever take its place, nor was anything major the direct result of those 3 days of fun and music, and nothing but fun and music.



11 Responses

  1. Obama is good, and Woodstock is Good, therefore Obama is Woodstock. What’s the issue? Ha!

    This all falls in line with what we’ve heard for nearly two years. Obama the myth is bigger than Obama the man.

    Well done.

  2. I’m inhibited from the start and there’s really only so much I can say in response, because as I sat here reading, I just nodded my head and said “totally!” and “he’s so right!” 🙂

    Why we connect everything back to Obama…Yes, he is simply, just a man. But his presidency is historic. I hate that we hark on it (let the man do the job we elected him to do). But in the end, it is.

    “How can a serious editorial and producing team connect the biggest counterculture, anti-establishment event ever to the biggest ever government orgy known as the presidential inauguration?”

    Perhaps the documentary team saw Obama’s inauguration as a “counterculture” act. Face it, we still have crazy racists, fanatics and severely unhinged Americans who despise Obama simply for who he is, where he came from and the color of his skin. These people are NOT the rule in our culture, but there are still a considerable amount of them. Perhaps the HC saw the inauguration as breaking new ground? Do I think the comparison should have been made though? Probably not.

    • I completely agree, and of course i see what they were TRYING to say… but again, i feel that people are diminishing the images of the historic event by continuously calling it that, and attaching it to everything relevant or not.

      The connection to Obama would be fine, if indeed… Woodstock wasn’t what it was… a stand against govt. and the status quo. However ‘different’ the Obama presidency and the inauguration… i was and forever will be, a full on govt. affair.

      Any majority elected person is not counterculture, after all those 400-500k kids on that field were in a stark minority.

      Thanks for the comment!

  3. Unfortunately I missed the specials…but am indeed still a bit mystified as to how a rational person would connect these two events.

    Heck, perhaps I’ll make it into the 50th Anniv. special 🙂

  4. The irony is that they don’t see how that in itself demonstrates the very failure of the idea of Woodstock in the first place. 40 years later they cheer on “The Man”… and never has there been anyone more deserving of that title in the White House, whether it is yet realized or not. They welcomed the filth of politics (not only politics, but Crook County/Chicago politics meets the love child of Saul Alinsky and Hugo Chavez) into a place that was supposed to dismiss that world. It’s really very sad. Great read Alex.

  5. oh, and 10,000 points on proper use of the word “cockamamie”… that’s just not used enough anymore… but I digress lol.

    • Haha you are too kind Pony, always a pleasure to get one of the greats tickled pink… bet the Forrest Gump comparison was right up your alley. Thanks for the comment brotha man!

  6. I want not approve on it. I regard as precise post. Expressly the title attracted me to study the sound story.

  7. I don’t have a site…I don’t blog…I’ve never before given a reply to anything before today, BUT I followed a Woodstock link to you & you are right on with what you say about the ending of the documentary. I love that “Now & Then” doc but the ending always brings me down..back from that accidental moment in time to the reality of today. By the way, love your PR world. It’s alien to me (I’m an engineer) but very refreshing to know other worlds exist like this, right under my nose.

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