Stories From Woodstock 1969
5:53:00 PM 12.14.09

A Woodstock Movie Review (For School)

Reaction Paper/Woodstock
Robert Marcus
Hudson County Community College
Spring 2009
Mus 101: Introduction to Music
Dr. Kaminski

This paper will be reporting on my response to the movie Woodstock (1970). This Warner Brothers release was directed by Michael Wadleigh and produced by Bob Maurice. Editing for this film is a cineastes dream, done by the team of Martin Scorsese, Thelma Schoonmaker, Stan Warnow, Yeu-Bun Lee, and Jere Huggins. This team was nominated for an Academy Award for film editing. The film received a nomination for best sound and won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. The original film featured the performances of twenty five performers ranging from protest folk singers to the progressive electric rock bands of the era. I would opine that the stars of this film are the five hundred thousand plus music aficionados in the crowd, myself included!
Since I attended the 1969 Woodstock Aquarian Exposition as a fifteen year old high school student my reaction comes with a personal perspective. I was an aspiring drummer myself, studying with Andrew Cyrille, and dividing my time at the Fillmore East, Club Corso, and the Village Vanguard. I was deeply entrenched in the counter culture movement of the tumultuous sixties. The music was revolutionizing society in the sixties. There was the free speech movement evolving at The University of California Berkeley campus, civil rights, and at the forefront of the movement in 1969 was the desire to end the military action of the United States in Viet-Nam. The promoters of this history making event, the artists, and the audience were all on the same page with regard to these controversial issues that were dividing the country.

As I was riding to the festival I had no idea that I would be witness to, and participate in this unique sociological phenomenon. As this remarkable development was transpiring, the eyes of the whole world were upon us. We were setting out to change the world, and we were quite an altruistic, enthusiastic crowd.
The onset of the film shows the crew putting up the stage, and dealing with various logistical issues in putting together this mammoth event. They showed the rain storm we endured, and how we changed a negative into a positive, frolicking in the mud! A reaction I have now is that despite the food shortages, overcrowded conditions, medical emergencies, and of course the mud, was that there was a serene aura of calm, and we made it through the three days, with no burning, looting, or crime. I was proud to say I attended, as the whole world watched us in awe.
At the beginning of the documentary folk singer and Woodstock resident Richie Havens performs his anti war song Handsome Johnny. Other folk artists performing were Joan Baez and Woody Guthrie’s son Arlo. This crowd was vehemently opposed to the Viet-Nam War. Also performing Country Joe and The Fish from San Francisco. Their I Feel Like I’m Fixing To Die Rag was an anti war anthem in the sixties. Other groups from the San Francisco bay area scene, which was my greatest love, was Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, The Santana Blues Band (as they were known as then), Janis Joplin, and former San Francisco Deejay and record producer for Autumn Records Sly with his Family Stone. From the New York City

Area, besides Richie Havens, there was John Sebastian and a 1950’s style oldies band named Sha Na Na. Hailing from Denver Colorado was the boogie- blues band Canned Heat featuring Bob the Bear Hite on lead vocals. The Who from Great Britain performed excerpts from their innovative rock opera Tommy. England additionally was represented by Joe Cocker and The Grease Band and Ten Years After featuring Alvin Lee on guitar.

Dealing with playing in such a huge venue proved, to be a problem for some groups, along with various chemicals floating around, and sound problems, but despite this there were many special moments in my opinion. One magical moment was watching Crosby, Stills ,Nash and Young perform. In David Crosby’s, own words “they were scared shitless!!”This was maybe the second time they had played out ever. Along with Blind Faith who did not play at Woodstock, but did indeed play at Hyde Park in London England around that time, they were the prototype “super group” which was an aggregation of players coming from other groups to play together. David Crosby was from the Los Angeles based group the Byrds. Steven Stills and Neil Young were from Los Angeles based group Buffalo Springfield, and hailing from the English group, the Hollies were Graham Nash. They settled in the hotbed of musical creativity, the San Francisco Bay Area, and are still playing together today.
I had seen every band at the festival, and closing was the late great Jimi Hendrix. Jimi was opting for a new sound with more of an emphasis on a funk- jazz

sound. His rendition of the Star Spangled Banner remains a legend today and is documented on the film. When I reflect on Jimi Hendrix, whom in my personal opinion, I mention in the same breath as Louis Armstrong, Igor Stravinsky, Frank Zappa, Edgar Varese, and Charles Yardbird Parker, I have the same thoughts of when I reviewed the movie Bird. Would Bird had expanded his horizons and played with Miles in his electric era? What if Jimi was alive today would all three collaborate? In fact Bird and Jimi have a common denominator in the person of Miles Davis. Jimi already was collaborating, with the late Newark born Blue Note recording artist, organist Larry Young. At this point in time, the ever innovative Miles Davis was embarking on a quest, changing his music to a funky electric sound. Miles and Jimi were going to get together as Miles respected Jimi’s musicianship. At a great loss to music and humanity, Jimi passed away too soon. I can only dream about, what lyrics Jimi also a great lyricist heavily influenced by Bob Dylan, would have wrote in this collaboration. Miles Davis, who did not attend many funerals, did indeed attend Jimi’s funeral. Miles then played with guitar virtuoso John McLaughlin who played with The Mahavishnu Orchestra, on the breakthrough masterpiece entitled Bitches Brew. There must be some great bands playing in heaven!!!

My final reaction to this film, that saved Warner Brothers from bankruptcy, is that this film depicted a special one of a kind special event in history. This event that occurred forty years ago this August will certainly never be replicated.

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