I’ve attached a short letter and photo that I sent to David Geffen on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock.
I never received a reply and I didn’t expect one.
The reason being is that people at that level of notoriety and success have one thing that is most valuable to them and that is their privacy.
I called an office of his and told an abbreviated version of my story to the lady who answered the phone and she gave me an email address to send this letter to.
The only way to verify this story is to ask David or Joni Mitchell and chances are good they’ll pass on acknowledging it for the above stated reason.
I wanted you to have this because it is a whimsical and romantic piece of that tapestry called the Woodstock experience.
Thank you for being there and creating this website,-David HatchHere’s the letter and it’s story…
My name is David Hatch and out of respect for your time I will get right to the point.
I believe I was the model for the character “A Child Of God” in the song “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell and I’m writing to you because you were the only other person who was there and would know that this story is true.
I’d thought to write to you several times over the years but it is this year, the 40th anniversary of the event that to me is the last anniversary that will mean anything as we, as a country and as a culture move full tilt toward a future that we can’t predict or imagine.
The TV show “Woodstock, Then and Now” has been playing for the past week and I felt that if I didn’t write now, it would be meaningless if I waited even one more day to do so.
So, if you’ll indulge me, here’s my story.
On that summer day in 1969 I was an eighteen-year-old boy hitchhiking up route 1 through Massachusetts hoping I would be a part of something monumental that was happening so near to where I lived and I didn’t want to miss it.
I remember everything so clearly.
I was wearing a red and white-stripped shirt and blue jeans, I was carrying a cheap electric guitar in its cardboard case and I had a backpack with a few belongings in it and I was on my way.
I was doing pretty good with the rides despite the fact I was on the scenic route where the traffic was light.
In those days, rental cars looked like something from a military motor pool and when one such car stopped to give me a ride, I got nervously in the back seat and said thanks to the driver and his lady passenger.
The car had one of those long bench seats and she turned around and rested her chin on her hands and looked at, and through me in a way that I have never been looked at before or since, I could not hold her gaze and I had to look away.
Her eyes were like comets and it was as if she regarded me with her entire being which filled the car and beyond, and into this most transcendental space, just like in the song, she asked me the simple questions of where was I going and what were my plans.
I told her that I had heard that Jeff Beck was going to be there and that I’d hoped if things were loose enough, I might be able to jam with him back stage.
I was naive and innocent and didn’t know how the world worked in regards to such things but it didn’t hurt anything to daydream.
I told her I was getting out of the city and away from the heat, the churning noise and the stink of cars and busses.
She was genuine and charming and she put me at my ease as we talked about this event and what it meant to us and to the world.
The driver would occasionally add observations and ask questions and the remainder of the ride was quite pleasant and relaxed.
I was dropped off outside of Boston because they had someplace else they had to go.
The truth is, I never made it to Woodstock either.
I had left a day too late.
I got as far as the Boston Commons where the word was that all the roads in were blocked solid with abandoned cars and it was being treated as an emergency situation and that it would have been a hike of untold miles to get to the concert grounds.
I weighed my options and changed my plans.
I had the money I saved from working 16 hour double shifts at the Wonder Bread factory so I asked around and ended up with a chunk of hashish the size, color and consistency of a stack of three Fig Newtons and took a train back to New Haven the next day.
I was in my first apartment and it was a high ceiling Victorian building on the corner of Chapel and Orchard Street in a somewhat uncomfortable part of the city.
Just talking about it now brings back whispers of it and who I was and how I felt then.
The rain that soaked the people at Woodstock fell outside my open windows as I sat snug and dry floating on “one toke” hash listening to Cinnamon Girl, Had to Cry Today and Medicated Goo on an excellent KLH stereo system…I can hear them now…
I dodged a lot of bullets since then, the drugs stopped by ’72 and I never really liked drinking, so alcohol never got its hooks into me and smoking cigarettes just made me feel sick.
I got drafted in ’70 and it took me four consecutive days of interrogation to convince the army psychiatrist I was insane so I literally dodged the bullet of Vietnam and all the nightmares that experience promised.
As I sit here writing this and in the process of reviewing my life just now, I realize I was born into it with the brakes on and never the gas.
To quote Tom Wingo in Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides “ I was waiting for my real life to begin”…I guess I still am…
There’s an epilog to this story that took twenty-eight years to occur.
In ’97 I was working at a restaurant called Louise’s Trattoria, which is on the corner of Ventura Boulevard and Laurel Canyon in Studio City, California and one day around four o’clock when the place was quiet, Joni and three people walked in and I thought I was going to have a heart attack when I recognized her.
The group walked in, looked around and walked back out and went to the Gaucho Grill next door where they were seated outside.
My heart was pounding because I knew I had to say something now because another chance like this would never come again.
I walked up to within ten feet of the table and introduced myself and apologized for my intrusion and told her what I’ve told you but in twenty words or less because what I was doing was in such bad taste and so rude an invasion but I was helpless to not do it.
She listened graciously, nodded and paused and said she didn’t remember and that it had been a very dark time for her.
I stood there squirming and gave a few more details hoping it would help and she repeated what she said so I apologized again and turned to flee when she asked, “what did the driver look like?” and I described you, David.
You wore your hair short so you could comb it back when you were dealing with the corporate world and comb it forward when you were out with your friends.
I used to do the same thing.
You’re probably wondering why I’ve written to you and it’s because my life came into contact with yours and Joni’s for that brief moment in what turned out to be, though we didn’t know it at the time, the beginning of the end of an era and its dream of Greatness.
I wish you the very best,
David M. Hatch
My favorite version of her song is on the Shadows and Light live album.
She sings it with such wistful, weary grace.