50th Anniversary of Woodstock

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50th Anniversary of Woodstock

Sullivan County, N.Y., is putting up 36 giant fiberglass doves around the county, so you know something is up.  It seems they are preparing for millions of visitors in 2019 because all these years later, people are still talking about something that happened there many years ago…

“Woodstock.”  Officially known as the Woodstock Music and Art Fair: An Aquarian Exposition, Woodstock took place August 15-18, 1969, at Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, N.Y., and became a world-famous cultural touchstone we are still talking about to this day.  2019 marks the 50th anniversary of Woodstock and countless events are scheduled to commemorate it this year, so you may want to read up on the significance of it yourself. DC Public Library has some excellent books on the subject:
 
Woodstock: The Summer of Our Lives by Jack Curry
A behind-the-scenes look at the machinations of the Woodstock Festival, including a look at some of the performers and why they were invited. Plus recollections of the event by many people who were there. If I could only read one book on Woodstock, this would be it. Other books may have more photos of the event, but this book has the best selection of photos to succinctly capture the feel of it all. The stories in the first third of the book serve to set the stage for Woodstock. Then we watch it all unfurl. We even see the aftermath. It’s a very nice picture of the entire event, before, during and after.
 
Taking Woodstock: A true story of a riot, a concert, and a life by Elliot Tiber with Tom Monte. This is a truly fascinating account of the behind-the-scenes action at the Woodstock festival.  Things you would never even have thought of wondering about.  The movie Taking Woodstock directed by Ang Lee was based on this book. Elliot Tiber was responsible for getting the festival to take place at Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, NY.   He gives us an entertaining story of Jewish immigrants to the US (you fall in love with both of his parents even though his mother was a real hellion) and of the early gay civil rights movement (he actually knew Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote in the 60s) which one wouldn’t expect to find in a book about Woodstock, but it’s so well-written, and hilarious, that any reader will find it worth reading. The true story of how it all came together is truth which is stranger than fiction. You will want to read all the details that brought it all together.
 
Back to the Garden: The Story of Woodstock by Pete Fornatale
Original interviews with Roger Daltrey, Joan Baez, David Crosby, Richie Havens, Joe Cocker, and dozens of headliners, organizers, and fans.  This book is comprised of a million tid-bits.  Tid-bits by countless different people so that it feels rather disorganized, but it does have priceless little tid-bits in it by people such as Max Yasgur, whose farm was used as the site of the festival, Jerry Garcia, who was unhappy about the whole experience, and David Crosby, who said it was probably the strangest thing that ever happened in the world… an “accidentally great thing where a lot of great music got played.” That sums it up quite nicely!
 
Witness to the Revolution: Radicals, Resisters, Vets, Hippies, and the Year America Lost Its Mind and Found Its Soul
by Clara Bingham
This well-researched book is almost an encyclopedia of everything you could want to know about the world in which Woodstock took place, the anti-war movement in particular.  It is organized in little vignettes by many different people who were there. Jane Fonda describes how she came to oppose the Vietnam War reading The Village of Ben Suc by Jonathan Schell. Country Joe McDonald describes the impact of Woodstock on like-minded young people around the world, who began to understand there were other people like them. Stephen Stills asks a German reporter if he knows the last time so many people were assembled in a place; the reporter says “Normandy?” Stills replies that even Normandy was fewer people. 1969 was a visionary time in our history. This book does a great job of taking us back there and showing us how much it changed our world.
 
Woodstock by Baron Wolman, Michael Lang, Carlos Santana and Dagon James.
This is the ultimate coffee table book of photos of Woodstock, though it  mostly captures the audience and behind-the-scenes workers rather than the performers.  The book is almost all photography, but there is a nice dialogue between Wolman (photographer for Rolling Stone), Lang (producer and co-creator of Woodstock) and James (art director and editor) at the end of the book. The photos are all by Baron Wolman. Carlos Santana provides a two-page foreword in which he describes his unintended mescaline use before he performed.
 
Frank & Charli: Woodstock, True Love and the Sixties by Frank Yandolino
Frank, the author, helped to put together the Woodstock festival. The “Charli” in the title of the book is his wife. This book is about how the Woodstock experience impacted their lives, trying to live by its “free bird” philosophy and staying true to himself, but it does also provide some interesting background on how Woodstock came to be in the early part of the book.