Saturday, August 15, 2009

Woodstock - 40 Years Ago

Forty years ago, LIFE's photographers and reporters were on the scene when half a million young people -- "lured by music, the country and some strange kind of magic" -- came together on a dairy farm in upstate New York.

From Aug. 15-18 of 1969, they created a colorful, amazingly functional community whose ideals would reverberate for much longer than those three days. To celebrate the anniversary of Woodstock, here are photos from the festival -- shots that evoke its spirit of peace, love, music, and mud.

The jammed road to Woodstock, wrote LIFE columnist Barry Farrell in a special edition of the magazine, was "like a Day-Glo Ganges cutting through the safe billiard green of Archie and Jughead's America." (Photo: Life Magazine)

Artist Paul Foster, a member of author Ken Kesey's psychedelic troupe, is quite a vision in his winged top hat, striped jacket, patchwork jumpsuit, and flip-flops. Walking behind him: the Grateful Dead's Jerry Garcia. (Photo: Bill Eppridge / Life Magazine)

The huge crowd, looking towards the large yellow tents, during the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. (Photo: John Dominis / Life Magazine)

Robin Hallock, stands leaning against cables wearing many different beaded necklaces. (Photo: Bill Eppridge / Life Magazine)

Unidentified man seated with two young boys in front of a wildly painted schoolbus, during the Woodstock Music Art Fest. (Photo: Life Magazine)

Among the legendary acts that rocked the crowd until dawn: The Who, the Band, Janis Joplin, and Sly and the Family Stone. "From the fringes of the crowd, the stage looked like a pearl at the bottom of a pond, a circle of light fired down from towers as big as missile gantries," wrote LIFE's Barry Farrell. (Photo: Life Magazine)

LINK: The LIFE Magazine photo archive on Google


Tom Degan's Daily Rant said...

The Woodstock Festival did not take place in Woodstock, New York but in the town of Bethel which is sixty-seven miles due west. The second day of that mythic, three-day concert coincided with my eleventh birthday (I am going to be fifty-one on Sunday. Yikes! Where did the time go?). I remember quite clearly my friend Tom Finkle and I riding our bikes up to the bridge on South Street that overlooks Route 17 - a four lane highway which snakes its way into Sullivan County where the great event took place. It looked like a long and narrow parking lot. The New York State Thruway had been shut down. To the best of my knowledge, that had never happened before and has not happened since.

To say that it was an exciting time to be alive almost sounds redundant. Less than four weeks earlier, two human beings had walked on the surface of the moon, a technological feat that will probably out shine every other event of the twentieth century in the history books that will be written a thousand years from now. As future decades unwind, it is a certainty that the photographic image of half a million kids, partying and dancing in the mud, will not continue to sustain the cultural significance that it does for us today. The years will pass by, the people who were lucky enough to be there will one day be no more, and the Woodstock Festival will be erased from living memory; a mere footnote to a very crowded century. But what a freaking party, baby!

"If I can't dance, I don't want to be part of your revolution."

Emma Goldman 1869-1940

"Dance with me, Emma!"

Tom Degan 1958-

Major Pepperidge said...

What an amazing time! That psychedelic bus is the famous "FURTHER", belonging to Ken Kesey. Incredible to see a color photo of it after reading about it in Tom Wolfe's "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test" (which is a great book about those crazy days).

Viewliner Ltd. said...

Thank you all for the great comments. I learned more than I knew this morning. Always good.

Keith said...

Great photos. I've always been fascinated by this event. I wasn't even born when it happened.

Anonymous said...

Rare photos of the Woodstock Music Festival 1969 have just recently been posted on
See for yourself!