From August 15th thru 18th, 1969… while festival goers were reveling within their newly established Bethel, NY, Woodstock Nation… I was stuck at home… back in Michigan… stuck in my early teens, too. The only way I could’ve ever counted myself amongst Woodstock’s estimated 500,000 souls, would’ve been to run away from home, hitchhike and… upon my eventual return… REALLY face the music… a.k.a. parental repercussions / getting “grounded for life”. Bummer! <—Now, there’s a word in desperate need of carbon dating!
Mom and dad’s (understandable) protectionism… in a sense… had already been grounding me… and for doing nothing wrong, too. Over the past half century… just for fleeting moments… I’ve oft wondered. What would I have had to lose had I flown the coup for about a week? Well, here’s what I actually did lose by nearly always being the obedient son: The ability to treasure the lifelong memories of having actually been there.
Of course, even from afar, I did manage to catch this monumental music event’s sense of belonging, anyway. Funny how that sort of “buzz” was fully capable of bridging that 1000km gap. How so?
The Woodstock Nation-State was just as much
a state of mind. And in my mind, it still is.
The Woodstock state of mind does transcend the music, too. From my perspective, it is to believe in enriching society with essential liberty, peace, love, tolerance, equality, inclusiveness, diversity, ecological sensitivity and fiscal sobriety.
But, to transition back to the music… ultimately… I did finally get to hear a portion of what I had missed, thanks to  the tireless, audio engineers, who had kept the onsite tape recorders rolling,  Cotillion / Atlantic Records for releasing these performances as a 139 minute duration, vinyl triple album on May 11, 1970, and  the progressive rock, FM radio DJs, who kept on playing these LPs in heavy rotation. BTW, as a young teen, my parents would not permit me view the R-rated Woodstock motion picture so, to me, this festival had remained heard but not seen.
Eventually, in a manner of speaking, I did get to “time travel” for a virtual visit to Bethel, too! This was courtesy of a local band performing at one of my high school’s Friday night dances. These four musicians covered… no it was much more than that… these showmen had all faithfully recreated Sly & The Family Stone’s Woodstock performance of I Want To Take You Higher. Their frontman’s spirited pep-talk adeptly mimicked / echoed Sly Stone’s style / sentiments. And that energized / encouraged us to shed our inhibitions… to participate in a hip, sing-along where we repeatedly sang / chanted “I want to take you higher”, while enthusiastically, joyously, rhythmically waving our peace sign, gesturing hands high in the air!
Oh, how both the times and crowd mentality have changed these past fifty years. How so?
• Instead of upraised arms to revel in our freedom, lately, within the political arena, we’ve been witnessing arms upraised in thinly veiled salutes to fascism.
• Instead of the index and middle fingered gesture of benevolence / peace… lately, nearly everywhere we look… absent the index finger… this becomes the gesture of malevolence / hatred. And, far worse, within ubiquitous pop up war zones, the index fingers too frequently get routinely repurposed as trigger fingers.
• Instead of chants that take us to a higher plane of existence, currently, rallies become the venue for rowdy crowds to chant “campaign slogans” such as “Send them back!”, “Send her back!” and “Lock her up!”
But… it’d be a bummer to end this post on such a sad note… especially on the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock.
“I want to take you higher” was / still is Sly Stone’s goal… and mine too…