AuthorSmith, Lance

"We are Stardust, we are golden, And we've got to get ourselves Back to the garden." --Joni Mitchell THE EVENT THAT DREW ALMOST half a million of my peers to a farm in upstate New York in August 1969 wasn't supposed to be a free concert. Rejected by several town boards, the four young promoters finally found a venue, a dairy farm in Bethel, New York. They didn't have the time or money to fence it all in.

It didn't matter.

Revolution was in the air. We'd taken it to the streets. We'd occupied buildings. Now nearly half a million young people headed for the hills--and the fences came down. The spirit of the times prevailed. The white dove that had been perched on the neck of a guitar on the iconic Woodstock Music and Art Fair poster took flight, descended on the crowd, and made history.

It didn't make money though. After the event that captured the heart of my generation, the promoters--and presumably the 450,000 folks who'd gone down to Max Yasgur's farm to set their souls free--ended up taking a bath.

The movie that was released the following spring etched Woodstock into the collective consciousness of a generation. What had been a mixed bag for those on the ground--and in the mud--became larger-than-life on the big screen. The spirit of the times that had transformed a disaster area into a peaceful community (where the head of security was a clown with a kazoo), now touched tens of millions of us. And, of course, a few folks made a bundle.

I didn't make it to Woodstock 1969. It didn't matter. The genie was out of the bottle. The word was on the streets. The following summer, I drove west in a Volkswagen Beetle and watched the heart and soul of my generation play out on screen, through a cloud of cannabis smoke, in a crowded theater in San Francisco.

With peace signs flashing, the leftist folk music of the early sixties danced onto the stage with the electrified blues and acid rock that had erupted on the left coast's hotbed of be-ins and a Summer of Love. Through a kaleidoscopic swirl of images and sounds, we long-haired hippies constructed a massive stage and drove tractors. We danced and did yoga amidst teepees and gaily painted school buses. We skinny dipped, then rolled up our sleeves to answer the call to, as Wavy Gravy famously put it, "serve breakfast in bed for 400,000."

It was a revival meeting. The spirit of the times danced with the timeless. In cinematic communion, we were living the dream.

In that dream, martyred union...

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