Woodstock – 50 Years Later

Woodstock, August 1969, the world’s most iconic festival – remembered for its cultural significance, great music and message of 'love and unity'. A look into its history, however, will also reveal some less flattering sides. Woodstock’s later reincarnations had their shortcomings and 'Woodstock 50' never saw the light of day.


So what about the ‘Three days of nothing but Peace & Love’?

If you look at it on paper, one could say that the festival certainly had its … issues. Woodstock lacked in basic food and water supplies, sanitary facilities and medical resources, transportation logistics and many other areas of organisation.

They had one toilet for every 833 people with people opting to take their business wherever they saw fit. No blue portable loos, no food trucks selling gluten free Halloumi fries, “Glamping” tents or V.I.P passes … Instead, lots of mud, spiked drinks and tripping teenagers.

According to one nurse, burned eyeballs were actually a thing at the festival. They appeared to have resulted from kids on LSD who would lie down on their backs and just stare at the sun.

Not even the artists and stage staff had a particularly easy job to keep the show running. Delays due to bad weather and a plethora of technical problems caused some artists like the Grateful Dead to call their show the worst performance they ever delivered. 

If things like that happened today you could expect „money back“ claims, lawsuits and calls for health and safety galore. Not to mention all the cases of, should we say, public indecency.

Then there is the fact that Woodstock certainly wasn’t the first, the only or even the biggest festival of its kind. Bob Dylan left the States only a day before Woodstock to play the Isle of Wight festival, which had an estimated 600 000 visitors, surpassing the attendance of Woodstock by 200 000.

Last but not least, the artist line up, while excellent, lacked the most popular acts of that time, like the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin or Dylan.

Then why is Woodstock viewed as the “Most important Music Festival of All Time”? 

Well, we haven’t been there, weren’t even born back then. All we have is second-hand information – from reading stories and interviews, from listening to its music and watching the documentary, and from talking to people who experienced this event from their personal viewpoint. 

There is no denying that there was something special happening between the artists and the audience. A kind of „we’re in this together“ thing. People seemed to view it as a manifest of “their” cultural movement.

Considering all that, it looks to us like a victory of imagination over reality. 

Obviously, enough people wanted Woodstock to be an example of love, understanding and peaceful togetherness, so it became one. Despite all the problems, or maybe just because of them. 

It was an adventure. There had been obstacles to overcome, problems to solve and statements to make … “Woodstock” as a whole became the statement. Against the Vietnam War, the establishment, intolerance, … and for “peace and love” (we only mention the constructive ones here). In that case, less seemed to be more. A lack of organisation led to people organising themselves and even having a good time doing so.

When we wrote Once Upon A Time we took all the positive and inspiring aspects we feel about that time, or even just shamelessly implied them, as did many others before us. We are in good company there.

If Woodstock wasn’t about honest music, brotherhood, peace & love, it at least could or maybe even should have been so.

What do you think? Did you attend, do you know people who did … or have you experienced it as a contemporary witness from somewhere else in the world?
Are people just romanticising a failed social experiment or has it been this example of peace and solidarity we should all learn from? How did you see it back then and how do you view it now?
And lastly, we are curious about what people of our generation think about the Woodstock phenomenon.
We’re looking forward to reading from all of you in the comments below!


64 Comments
  1. Robby Breighner 1 year ago

    I was 15.TV was bringing the hippy culture into my life.I wasn’t quite tuned in enuf to want to go.probly didn’t hear about it till it was aired on the nightly news but it (the TV stuff,the album) brought the music,the culture,the ideology,the whole package much closer to a rural kid who grew up to believe there is still a chance for Peace and Love in this poor old World! I think it is cool that you guys actually know (and have made music with) John Sebastian. He really was an integral part of everything I just told you.

  2. Rick Ross 1 year ago

    Hello Ladies,
    A lot of what you wrote is more correct than you know.
    I was greatly sheltered when I was young so I didn’t get to experience much in music unless it was approved by my parents.
    Which meant the Beatles were out. 😱 Yes, I know.
    In 1969, I lived in Memphis and lived about 3 blocks from Elvis. He had not gone back on tour at that time, so it was not uncommon to see him at the Mall (shopping).
    But back to your question.
    What I know of Woodstock came from News stories (which my parents found disgusting) I found interesting.
    I heard names of Jimmie Hendrix, John Sebastian (kept thinking Loving Spoonful was with him.) The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Greatful Dead, and others I can’t remember.
    Your Fantastical, Mesmerizing, original song Once Upon A Time, and following cover Starman captures everything about a time of innocence and secureness.
    Thank you both for your research and your continuing influence in the music world. The 60’s are alive and well with The MonaLisa Twins. 💛❤

  3. Michael 1 year ago

    I love the video you did with John Sebastian. John an I have a mutual friend Artie Kornfeld sole creator of Woodstock 1969.

  4. Howard Bedwell 1 year ago

    I was in my last year of High School at the time so all I knew was via the media and later from the soundtrack triple album and 1970 film. I enjoyed the film and playing the record and thought how cool it would have been to be there.

    However, I’m probably lucky I wasn’t present. In hindsight, I don’t think it would have been too pleasant with the number of people, lack of food and facilities and all that rain.

  5. Lenny Zarcone 1 year ago

    Hi Mona and Lisa,
    I’m looking forward to hearing your new song. I was 16 when Woodstock happened. I didn’t go, but I knew some people that did. It was maybe about a 3 Hour drive from my house in Rocchester New York 🙂
    It’s always so nice to hear from you.
    Best wishes to you all,
    Lenny

  6. Gary V 1 year ago

    I was 17, just graduated from High School that June. I was working in the Catskill Mountains as a waiter at a small hotel in Parksville, a few miles north of Monticello and White Lake where the festival happened. I saw a poster for The Woodstock Music and Arts Festival at a local pub, and seeing The Who playing so close I went back to my boss and asked for the weekend off to go see the band. He said “no”, so I quit. Actually got a job working for the food concessions in the ice cream stand, was paid $64 for the weekend by a company called Food For Love (still have my pay stub!). There was no cash, you had to buy tickets at a booth and then use those tickets to pay for the food items. After one day we started just giving it a way. I ate at the Hog Farm, saw who I to this day believe was The Greatful Dead playing on a 2nd stage at the Hog Farm, and did actually see The Who and The Jefferson Airplane on the main stage. That’s all the music I recall really seeing. It was muddy, it was dirty, if was fun. We were all young.

  7. Lenny Zarcone 1 year ago

    Hi Mona and Lisa, I was 15 when Woodstock happened… I didn’t go but I knew some people who did. I’m looking forward to hearing your song in a minute or so, Once Upon A Time.
    Lenny

  8. Charlie 1 year ago

    Hi twins, gorgeous and oh so hot! Good now that that’s out I can start. You know you two gals are great. It’s nice to see young people far removed from those times taking the best that they gave and keeping it going. I mean the music was incredible. Something was happening, and it was awesome. Maybe because as baby boomers, there were so many of our generation. And we had money. The generation before us, in the fifties, the beatnick’s, the folk singers, it all began moving. Elvis and rock n roll. Yea it just started to roll and got faster. I felt that the Mersey beat started the 60’s going. Eventually the British invasion started that whole rock thing. I really viewed it as very English. Just look at all those British groups. Yea OK, a lot of it is pop, but define good rock and you’re gonna get some mighty good pop. By the way I owned and started one of the best private radio stations in the Czech Republic, “Radio Beat”. It’s a “Classic Rock” station. So if you’re ever in Prague let me know. But back to WDSTK. I was 19, and I wasn’t there. I was moved far more by the political message of the late sixties. Vietnam, the bullshit American-Soviet thing, the geo-politics. The drugs, and love thing was not something I was comfortable with. For one thing, at that age and those times, especially in NA (North America) sex was something that could get a young man a bit up tight. And drugs as well. I lived in the “heartland” and although I was not a red neck, I was not a hippie. Many of my friends could have been thought of as hippies, but I can’t recall any of my friends being red necks. But I didn’t like drug abuse. And to me that whole WDSTK thing was one big overdose. Not that I would want to criticise anyone, but it seemed that the whole thing was one big “high”. So mabe that’s why nothing worked, nothing could work, and nothing should work. And it did. Or didn’t . Getting high was a bit like opting out, a type of psychadelic get away, and in its’ wake, a social anarchy. And that’s the reason of why it worked and didn’the work. It was as the times. When we watched the shots of what was happening there, it was hard for me to cheer . And yet I was a bit in awe. Like seeing the after effects of a tornado, except instead of destroyed buildings and garbage all over the place, you saw all these young people and garbage all over the place; for me people of my age, some naked, some half clothed, some making love, all stoned. I don’ the think they were destroyed like those buildings, but they looked beat. They looked like they had begun a journey, and we all hoped that now the direction would be only up. I think you probably will think this is just a bunch of rambling words. But I tell you what. You come to Prague. You know we Czechs are your brothers and sisters. Get in touch, we’ ll go to see the radio station, do an interview and chat about ALL this in person, OK? Looking forward to meeting you. Grus. Charlie.

  9. Stephen Clark 1 year ago

    Love the song and the video. You asked about Woodstock experiences. I was 14 years old, living in Mississippi. I had an older friend who was 17, and we wanted to take a road trip, so we told our parents that we were going to go camping for the weekend. But what we were really up to, was going to Ft Knox to see the gold. Now we didn’t know anything about Woodstock, we just wanted to see the gold, so we headed out with a couple more friends. We got to Ft. Knox and discovered that it was not possible to get into it to see the gold. So our dream was dashed. But on the way to Kentucky, we were hearing about this rock festival in New York state. So we said let’s go. Well, we were not big on planning or paying attention to details, like just how far away New York was, and how much gas it would take, and how much (little) money we had. So we got half way up there and ran out of money. Awkwardly, we had to call our parents and admit what was going on, so they could wire us money to return back home. So we never made it to Woodstock. But like when JFK died; and then the Beatles came to America; and then Neil Armstrong walked on the moon; and students were protesting the Vietnam War, which was on our tv’s every evening on the news; we knew our world was changing, and that there was something bigger than us happening. Woodstock was part of all that air of change. It was us, our generation coming into our own, with our own ideas, and we felt empowered and were awed by the sense of discovery. Woodstock, like all those other events mentioned, was the marking of our time on earth. Peace and love, whether from the lips of John Lennon, or from the mass of half naked bodies at Woodstock, seemed possible. It seemed like we could make it happen. And that is why Woodstock is important, because it was one of a series of events that shaped our generation. Post Note: Unfortunately, Woodstock marked the end of the Summer of Love, and things got a lot worse for a while after 1969. Peace and love gave way to craziness and the message got diluted and almost forgotten. Now my generation has to admit that we failed in some ways. We became our parents and everything that we initially rebelled against. But some of us still have that spark of peace and love within us, and have attempted to make a difference. So nostalgia takes us back to an idealized time. And since we taught that ideal to our kids, and they to their kids, the spirit of Woodstock lives on as an ideal. A time when 450,000 people came together in the spirit of love and peace, and listened to the music of our generation. We walked on the moon of our making that weekend in 1969, and we soared high (with a little help from our friends & “stuff”). Love you MLT. Wish I could write a song with you. Be safe and happy and keep making music.

  10. Patrick 1 year ago

    I was 20 years old and I remember very well the film that I saw in France, it was an era of total and sexual freedom, the young people that we were seriously started to take care of politics, that of our parents did not suit us, we were the generation of post-war, revolt and rock & roll…

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