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When speaking about 1960-70s, many people think of the times of freedom, love and peace. Of course, it is important to note that people longed for freedom, love and peace, but there were wars, hatred and restricted rights for many people across the world. Therefore, it is possible to claim that 1960-1970s were the times of “protest and rebellion” (qtd. in Evans & Kingsbury 14). As for Americans, they were tired of the war in Vietnam as well as they were tired of hatred within the society.
Millions of people, called hippies, were promulgating principles of love and peace, and Rock n’ Roll. There was one consequential event which united all those people. That was a music festival which grew in a great sociocultural movement. It was the first Woodstock Festival held in 1969. This music event became a manifestation of all principles and ideas which were in the air. Three concepts ‘reigned’ over the festival: peace, love and Rock ’n Roll.
They opted for peace
Admittedly, the war in Vietnam was one of the most disputable issues at that period. It is important to take into account that during 1960s many people were living in a constant fear of atomic war. The assassination of the President Kennedy and the Cold War contributed greatly to the rise of people’s concerns. Of course, the involvement of the country in the war in Vietnam was criticized by the majority of Americans. They did not want to put up with the fact that young Americans were killed for nothing as no one ‘understood’ this war.
The United States participated in the war to ‘help’ French people fight against the spread of Communism in South Asia. Of course, anti-Communist ideas prevailed in the American society of that time. However, people still believed it “to be unjust, undeclared war” (qtd. in Fornatale 41).
Basically, this war divided the country “in a way it hadn’t been since the Civil War” (Fornatale 40). The majority of people did not understand the reasons for this unjust and cruel war. It is also important to add that people were bombarded by news and photos from Vietnam. Not only soldiers witnessed the horrors of that war, civilians could also see those horrors due to reportages of journalists. Notably, those reportages made Americans understand that the war was a real catastrophe which took away lives of young Americans.
Young people protested against policies of the old generation. Young people did not want to die because of some politicians’ corruption. It goes without saying that these ideas were articulated in numerous songs which Bob Dylan called “finger-pointing songs” (qtd. in Fornatale 40). These songs became hymns of millions of young people who were protesting the old rules. Those songs were about peace and brotherhood. This was what young people wanted most of all.
They opted for love and equality
However, the war in Vietnam was not the only burning issue in 1960-1970s. Civil rights were another concern of Americans. After the assassination of Martin Luther King and the death of Malcolm X numerous riots took place.
Many people came into the streets to protest. One of the most famous and crucial events of this kind was, undoubtedly, the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago (Evans & Kingsbury 14). Hundreds of demonstrators were arrested and beaten by policemen and even military people (US Army troops were also involved in that conflict).
Admittedly, those events signified that crucial changes were taking place. It is important to state that the war in Vietnam contributed greatly to raising consciousness. African Americans were called to serve their country (i.e. to go to Vietnam) but no one could say whether the country was theirs (Bennett 23). African Americans continued their struggle for their rights.
Of course, those riots and conflicts as well as the war in Vietnam made people tired of fighting. Young people opted for peace, love and brotherhood. Young people, the new generation, supported African Americans. Remarkably, African Americans used any opportunity to shed light upon the situation in the American society.
Hippies also promulgated principles of love. They claimed that there was no point in fighting as all people had to respect and love each other. Of course, song poets and singers shared the same standpoints. They were singing about love and peace, brotherhood and equality.
They opted for Rock n’ Roll
In fact, music has always been one of the most potent tools of putting some issues to the fore. It is but natural that Rock n’ Roll music was the tool used by people who lived in the 1960-1970s. This music “reached its first stages of maturity” at that period (Daley 52). Rock n’ Roll became quite a commercialized music which attracted lots of people. It was the music for masses. Ironically, such a commercialized music was chosen by people who were against consumerism of the society.
Nevertheless, Rock n’ Roll can be regarded as a kind of embodiment of the major principles of that period: freedom and rebel. This is why it became even more popular. For instance, performers were not afraid of improvising and trying new things. Rock n’ Roll was also a kind of rebel against conventions in music.
Apart from this, singers could not remain ignorant to issues which divided the society into two camps. They were singing about things they saw and people responded to their ideas: “The Beats had already cracked the façade and we, the next generation, broke through it” (qtd. in Evans & Kingsbury 15). Admittedly, the Beatles promoted Rock n’ Roll. This band contributed greatly to the spread of this kind of music all over the world.
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It is important to note that it was not only about the rhythms which became that popular. Rock n’ Roll was the way to express one’s opinion. It became the music of freedom. For instance, such songs as ‘Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud’ by James Brown promoted “black pride, black unity and self-empowerment” (Bennett 22).
Of course, Jimi Hendrix’s famous ‘Machine Gun’ and ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ could be regarded as anthems of that period (Bennett 25). Therefore, it was just the right music to accompany hippies in their chase for freedom, love and peace.
The mystery of Woodstock
Interestingly, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was initially aimed at promoting a new recording studio. This rock festival was thought to help to raise funds for the recording studio (Perone 23). It was expected that about 50,000-100,000 fans would attend this festival which was to last for two days. However, the organizers could not predict that this festival would become a significant part of an important sociocultural movement. More so, researchers, organizers or participants still cannot give a definite answer to the question why this festival became so meaningful for millions.
Nonetheless, it is possible to assume that it was simply the event which happened in the right time and in the right place. Admittedly, the issues mentioned above made young people highly strung.
They were already looking for those who shared their views. They wanted to shout about their views to the rest of the world. The rock festival became that great opportunity to share views and make people aware of the major principles of young people. Those young people were tired of riots and rebels. They opted for peaceful demonstration of their views. The rock festival was the best option.
Notably, the Woodstock was ‘spoiled’ by the bad weather, poor food supplies and insufficient medical service (Perone 23). Nevertheless, people did not pay attention to those inconveniences. They only memorized the atmosphere of the festival or rather its spiritual constituent.
They were thinking of ideas of freedom, peace, love and Rock n’ Roll. It is possible to illustrate the impact of the festival with the words of one of the witnesses at the Chicago Eight trial which took place in 1969-1970. The witness claimed he lived in a “Woodstock Nation” (Fornatale xvii). The witness explained that this was “a nation of alienated young people” which they carry around with them as a “state of mind” (qtd. in Fornatale xvii). The witness went on:
It is a nation dedicated to cooperation versus competition, to the idea that people should have better means of exchange than property or more money, that there should be some other basis for human interaction. (qtd. in Fornatale xvii)
Admittedly, such words signify that many people considered the festival to be the beginning of a new society, the society which promulgated the ideas of peace and love. Woodstock can be regarded as a climax of the period of changes which took place in the American society in the 1960-1970. It was a symbol of peaceful struggle for freedom.
On balance, it is necessary to state that Woodstock was, indeed, one of the most meaningful events in sociocultural life of the USA. This festival became a symbolic motherland for millions of young people who were against wars and injustice. Of course, this was a culmination of two decades of struggle and violence. It is possible to single out three major causes of Woodstock. These are peace, love and Rock n’ Roll.
People were against the unjust war in Vietnam. They wanted peace. Americans were tired of hatred within the country. They promulgated ideas of equality and love. People wanted to find peaceful ways of building a new and better society. Of course, only Rock n’ Roll could help people of sixties in their struggle. This music was extremely popular due to its nature. Rock n’ Roll was a rebel against rules in music. Of course, it could be regarded as revolutionary music, as music of young and active people.
Therefore, it is possible to note that the motto of the festival “3 Days of Peace and Music” revealed the essence of this festival. Admittedly, organizers did not think of any causes but they mentioned the causes of a great sociocultural movement in their motto as well: peace stood for love and peace, and music stood for the great power of Rock n’ Roll.
Bennett, Andy. Remembering Woodstock. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2004.
Daley, Mike. “Land of the Free Jimi Hedrix: Woodstock Festival, August 18, 1969.” Ed. Ian Inglis. Performance and Popular Music: History, Place and Time. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2006. 52-58.
Evans, Mike and Paul Kingsbury. Woodstock: Three Days That Rocked the World. New York, NY: Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2009.
Fornatale, Pete. Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster, 2009.
Perone, James E. Woodstock: An Encyclopedia of the Music and Art Fair. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2005.