August 14th, 2009
11:50 PM ET

Getting to know Woodstock

A few weeks ago, I was out shopping and came across an awesome graphic shirt with the words “Woodstock 69.”  I headed toward the register when it dawned on me … do I even know what Woodstock is? Would I become a poser?  I’m 23. The only thing Woodstock and I have in common is that we were both born in August –my birth taking place almost two decades later. So, the shirt went back to its rack and I went home empty handed.


The summer of 1969 held many historical events, like the moon landing, the Manson murders, and of course… Woodstock. The moon landing was taught in history class and the Manson murders have often been in the headlines, but Woodstock was left out.  I had a vague idea of what it was – some type of music festival, like Coachella – but it was never intriguing enough for me to Google.

With the festival’s 40th anniversary at hand, I thought what better time than now to really find out about Woodstock and if it is still relevant to us. I went out to ask fellow members of the “millennial” generation, how much they knew about Woodstock. Most of the responses I got were not surprising to me at all. “Um, I’ve never heard of that actually. Oh, I remember! It was like, wasn’t it really old and like there was a bunch of hippies.” One person actually started talking about accounting and stocks when I asked them if they knew about Woodstock.

While some might cringe and wonder if this is our future, I can relate to my “young” generation.  It’s not because we're too involved with “who’s wearing what and who’s dating who.” It’s because some historical events are just that to most of us - history. We know it definitely changed a part of culture, but it’s also something of the past.

Knowing the facts would not be enough. One would need to know about the emotions which filled that year, and led up to that great music festival. Those that lived through the music extravaganza understood the significance of everyone getting together; the peace, love and value of unity that came at the end of turmoil and excitement of that year.

In 1969, many of the issues that generation fought for are no longer issues to us. In 1920, a woman voted for the first time in history, but today when we decide to or not decide to cast that ballot we don’t think about what our fellow women had to go through in order to fight for their rights.  While we celebrate our first African American president in 2009, forty years from now, young people might not know the significance it had on us.

Michael Jackson is an icon of our time and was considered the King of Pop. His sudden passing shocked the world. Though millions of fans watched his memorial service, it will be a moment remembered in history, but not taught in history class. Perhaps forty years from now, our children’s children will wonder what the big deal was about – maybe we’ll even hear “Michael Jackson… was he, like, a singer?”

After “getting to know Woodstock,” I’ve come to the conclusion that you just had to be there … be there in that moment of time. I might read the books and watch the movies, but I will never truly know what Woodstock is. I’ve realized, though, that it’s okay, because my generation too can say we’ve lived through historical events that some might not understand in the near future.

As for that shirt, I don’t think I’ll go back to get it, but next time I see a shirt with “Woodstock ‘69” on it, I definitely won’t feel like a poser.

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soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Sissy

    Bud, coincidently I used the same words "perfect storm" to describe Woodstock. People's mindset, the war, the politics etc. created the moment. And, Randy, one event may not define you, but everything you experience in life has some impact on who you are, no matter how big or small it may be.

    I was slightly underage to experience Woodstock first hand, but the impact was still enormous. My much younger sister still calls me a flower child.

    August 18, 2009 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Randy

    "History" or not, no one artist, event or ideology sums up an entire generation. This concept of three days defining my life, my generation and the sum of 60's zeitgeist is media nonsense. Hopefully, none of us– old people or young people– are "defined" by an event that 99-plus% of the world didn't attend and didn't feel obliged to attend. I am not defined by the Viet Nam War, I am not defined by other people's music nor their experiences; I am one voice in history just as we all are. I was 17 during Woodstock; I'd already been to previous rock festivals and standing in more lines being dirty and hungry was no longer appealing to me. If one lousy event defines your existence, I can't relate. I'd guess most hippies are now materialistic pigs like the rest of us, so Woodstock was not a major societal transition for anybody; it was three days of partying. Young People of 2009– Do your OWN thing. That's the true spirit of the 60's.

    August 17, 2009 at 1:45 pm | Report abuse |
  3. annmarie

    i attended the original woodstock111it certainly was a different time...............but it was a great fun event that cannot be reinacted it was something of the past. we are all older and maybe a little bit wiser now. the problems are still here but different and i think we were a little naieve back then.

    August 16, 2009 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Chris

    I believe that Woodstock was an expression or maybe symbol of that summer. Several of my friends and I were working for the summer and lived in upstate N.Y.. We were 22, 23, or 24 years old, were recently discharged from the military and had made it back from 'Nam in one piece. We were going to be going to the same college that fall. It was a wonderful time to be alive. As a friend of mine who is no longer with us said much later, " Boy we had it good". We truly did.

    August 16, 2009 at 1:36 pm | Report abuse |
  5. KDC

    How could one in their 20's not know about Woodstock? I am in my mid 20's and know about Woodstock. I am a music enthusiast and love hearing stories about my idols. I also love hearing the stories about people's experiences at Woodstock. I'm saddened that in my day and age there will never be an event like this again. I envy those who took part of Woodstock and witnessed such a historical musical event.

    August 16, 2009 at 3:08 am | Report abuse |
  6. dj

    I was born right after woodstock. So no, I dont know about woodstock. What I do know, or remember is how my parent's friends talked about going there. My mother talking about how pregnant she was and going there was NOT going to happen, but a few friends went. There were alot of music festivals that year, hell there are alot every year. But like the poster put it, every generation has a woodstock or tragic event that puts them together. The 25th anniversary was a joke, not because of the people that wanted to re-live it, but the generation x'ers that thought it would be fun to start a riot. my generation sucks, we are angry cause we have selfish parents (hippies) and children that are wiser than we are. No wars to define our character, unlike vietnam or iraq. But we have crappy 80's music.

    August 16, 2009 at 2:05 am | Report abuse |
  7. Carl

    You didn't have to be there to understand the impact of Woodstock. I grew up on the West Coast and wasn't about to jump in a car and drive to NY for the event. However, we listened to the album, saw the movie, and vicariously shared the experience with the attendees.

    This blog post demonstrates a typical response of people in their 20's to historical events. "It was before my time, I wasn't even born yet, how should I know about it?"

    August 15, 2009 at 11:04 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bud

    When I see an article that starts with something stupid like "What was Woodstock all about?", I quit reading and move on. Why? Automatically, you realize that the writer "wasn't there, wasn't around." So, what are they writing about?

    I remember the day before Day One when I handed my ticket to the guy at the gate. I didn't know then that the rest of the tickets would become unusable. And the crowd! Made a lot of new friends over those 4 days.

    Try as they might or have, they will always be unable to duplicate Woodstock. For Woodstock wasn't just about the music and the kids. One has to look at the whole of what was going on in the USA at that moment in time. It's was our "perfect storm." I don't see that all coming together anytime soon again.

    After all, there is only ONE "dawning of Aquarius." And I got to see the dawn.

    August 15, 2009 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. John Cheng

    As much as Woodstock was such a meaningful experience, a lot of people who were in the "moment," as this post describes it, are disappointed by what they see as the disappearance of the whole spirit that brought them together in 1969. That is, the balkanization of music genres by corporate marketers to appeal to specific racial and ethnic groups is preventing multiracial audiences from enjoying a wide variety of music the way the Woodstock generation did.

    August 15, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Grace Chang

    Loved the post! And like you mentioned, you really just have to be "there" to experience and understand the true essence of those timely moments that were some how able to transcend the test of time. However, the great thing about history is that it gives our generation a peek into the lives of those before us and creates a bridge connecting us to those great moments!!

    August 15, 2009 at 2:29 am | Report abuse |

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