Remembering the Summer of 1969: Part 1 – Woodstock

I grew up during the turbulent 1960s and I can remember that decade very well. Just about every day, there seemed to be something in the news about the Civil Rights movement, the war in Vietnam, or the burgeoning youth/counter culture movement.

Towards the end of the decade, young people had the optimistic hope that the old institutions were crumbling and that we were all heading into a new and marvelous era of peace, love, and universal brotherhood. In books, films, and music, especially music, writers and artists were anticipating this coming Age of Aquarius.

“But the age of truth will soon appear, Aquarius arrives…”
– from “Right Between the Eyes” by Graham Nash, written in 1968

A pop song, “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” caught the imagination of the entire country just prior to the summer of 1969:

“When the moon is in the Seventh House
And Jupiter aligns with Mars
Then peace will guide the planets
And love will steer the stars
This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius
The Age of Aquarius
Aquarius! Aquarius!
Harmony and understanding
Sympathy and trust abounding
No more falsehoods or derisions
Golden living dreams of visions
Mystic crystal revelation
And the mind’s true liberation
Aquarius! Aquarius!

Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” was originally written by Rado, Ragni, and MacDermot for the 1967 Broadway musical, “Hair,” but The 5th Dimension’s rendition caught the imagination of young people across America. The single was released in March 1969 and reached the #1 position on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart where it stayed for six weeks in April and May.

I had just turned thirteen in the summer of 1969 and I was somewhat aware of the Woodstock music festival in Bethel, New York, about 230 miles southeast of Rochester, which was fully-billed as the “Woodstock Music and Art Fair – an Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music.” The festival ran from August 15 to 18, and back in Rochester we heard daily reports on the television news that weekend about the New York State Thruway being shut down by the logjam of cars belonging to the festival goers.

When I returned to my Catholic grammar school in September, our resident eighth-grade hippie classmate, Bill DeFraine (d. 2016), was exuberant about the Woodstock “happening,” but was short on details. Those would come later with the release of the documentary film, “Woodstock” on March 26, 1970 and the triple-album, “Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More” on May 11, 1970.

There’s no need to get into the nitty-gritty details of the festival for our purposes except to note that thirty-two music acts had performed during the weekend in front of almost half-a-million concertgoers. Crosby, Stills, and Nash (and sometimes Young) would leverage their Woodstock appearance into becoming the “voice of a generation.”

“We are stardust, we are golden,
We are billion year old carbon,
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden.”
– from “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell and popularized by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young* with their single version, released in March, 1970, which peaked at #11 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart.

There was no sign of the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the festival. It goes without saying that few of the 400,000+ attendees (or the musical performers for that matter) were actually full-bore, new-age Aquarian astrologists, but most readily supported the festival’s faux-spirituality of “wine, women, and song,” including the nebulous notion of “universal brotherhood.”

Woodstock is now just a 50-year-old memory and many of the young people who attended the event subsequently became part of the very “establishment” they had previously claimed to abhor. The natural man is constantly searching and flailing about for some type of meaning to life and the universe, and the faux Age of Aquarius and the Woodstock Nation were just two more false hopes among countless others.

Jesus Christ is the ONLY Salvation and Hope. Learn about Him and trust in Him as your Savior. He doesn’t go out of style. He’s the eternal Rock Who never fails.

How can I be saved?

Woodstock symbolized the idealistic hope of young people in 1969-70 and was widely believed to be part of the dawning of a new era of peace, love, and universal brotherhood. But the highly anticipated Age of Aquarius wasn’t to be. A few other events in August, 1969 took a lot of the luster off of the idealism of the “Woodstock Nation” that we’ll discuss on Friday.

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” – 1 Corinthians 2:14

Above: Woodstock’s official poster, advertising the event as an Aquarian exposition

*Quite revealingly, Crosby, Stills, and Nash, who had harmonized about peace, love, and brotherhood at Woodstock in 1969, did not reunite for their 50th anniversary this year because, basically, they can’t stand to even be in the same room together.

20 thoughts on “Remembering the Summer of 1969: Part 1 – Woodstock

  1. Wow, this is fascinating, brother! I’m looking forward to the further discussions regarding this time period. I don’t know a lot about Woodstock, although I grew up hearing it referenced a lot. It was never in a positive light.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, sister! The media is currently having a field day commemorating the 50th anniversary of Woodstock. So many baby boomers are nostalgic about that event even though it turned out to be an empty promise. It was such a HUGE deal in the minds of young people at that time and its difficult to fully explain what it meant to that generation. As I mentioned, many saw it as the beginning of a new era.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Just got back from a morning pastoral visitation and also taking our girls for a bike ride and taught one of them to try to ride bike without training wheels, I’m swiped but something went wrong with my device measuring steps today since my wife’s counter shows there’s something wrong with mine…anyone back home to have a late lunch and plan to read this post in a bit!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sounds like a busy day. It’s fun to teach kids how to ride a bike! Hope you get your step counter figured out. I got 8600 so far so I should get 10K easy before the day’s over. Finally started working on filing an insurance claim for the plane tickets for our cancelled trip to Germany so my head is spinning from all the red tape but I’m happy I finally got going on it. It was hanging over my head. My wife is currently out of work on short-term disability because of her condition and may go to long-term when she is reevaluated in 3 weeks. Oh, and we made our last mortgage payment yesterday. I needed to send a bank check, so that took some running around. Got a few irons in the fire lately. Could be fodder for a post! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wow so much going on! I’m glad you finished the mortgage! What an accomplishment! Was encouraged to hear you were listening to that sermon and in the rain of all things!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Your sermon was a blessing! I love hearing new details about the Book of Ruth.
        RE: mortgage

        Thanks! The mortgage was a bear because, due to our circumstances, it was a 15-year mortgage rather than 30-year.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Wow is it 50 years ago? Crazy you lived during that time and was in NY when this was going on. All I know of Woodstock was for it being a time of debauchery and that the actual location wasn’t technically at Woodstock…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Woodstock was such a HUGE deal for baby boomers. People of my generation really did see it as part of the dawning of a new era, which of course didn’t pan out. On Friday, I’ll be posting about another event in 1969 that was a hard slap of reality.

      Liked by 1 person

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