Lehigh University, Class of 2003
May 2000

Help a brotha out, man…

[1]    The weekend of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was one that left a lasting impact on the history of the nation and on the minds of everyone who learns about it.  It all started out as a simple idea to hold a rock concert to raise money for a sound production studio but ended up to be much, much more.  It turned out to be an icon of the 60’s, representing the ideas and ideals of a peaceful sub-culture whose morals were based on peace, love, and marijuana.  These “Hippies” were criticized by many for their lack of responsibility and constant use of drugs.  Those that were outside of “their world” saw them as a bunch of crazed-out teenagers indulging in all of life’s simple pleasures without taking any of the responsibility for them or worrying about their future.  They saw it as living life as it should be, just happy and relaxed, enjoying it to the fullest.  Hippies didn’t like the business world filled with commercialism and dishonest people.  They preferred a life of honesty and care for others, always looking out for each other.  It was this mindset that made the Hippie nation one that had something very unique and something very valuable.  This was a tight sense of community.  One scene that shows that is a clip of the mess call (14:04, side B, DVD).

 [2]    Community is the factor that allows Hippies to live the lives that they do.  They thought that instead of competing with each other for the same resources and struggling to get them, they should just share them.  This way everyone gets what they need and they can all be on friendly terms, living in peace and loving each other.  It sounds like a “far-out” idea, but one that was certainly not forgotten at Woodstock.  In fact, it’s what allowed the concert to go on.  Without it, chaos would have prevailed, and there would have been disastrous results to this history-making event.  In the movie, there is no better example of this human respect and harmony than in the scene in which food is being served to the thousands of hungry partiers.

 [3]    This scene (14:04, side B, DVD) opens with the shot of the back of a man carrying a huge white balloon.  He’s walking around the various set up tents of all colors and sizes and campsites of the concertgoers, so relaxed and just enjoying the peacefulness all around them. In the background you see some people just talking next to their tents and having fun just doing nothing right where they are.  Next, you see a shot of a homemade American flag, but it’s painted in bright pink and light blue and has a face of a hippie painted on it in place of the stars, which are few but which encircle the face and are painted gold.  In a way this flag represents the hippie sub-culture very well, showing how they took something American and made it their own.

[4]    In this example, it’s a flag, but in their lifestyles, it involves everything they do.  As a woman walks in front of the flag, dressed in a green dress that flows in the breeze, the screen splits and on the right there is now the face of the concert announcer.  He is starting to tell the thousands of people that they are going to be able to get a free and quality breakfast.   With the help of relief organizations and generous people, they have gathered enough food for everyone and had it carried into Woodstock by helicopters provided by the United States Army.  This is the community that people in the hippie lifestyle live.  When someone needs something more then you, and you have it, then give it to him or her and help them out.  It was clear that the government didn’t want the event to turn out badly.  Along with the food, they also sent in doctors and supplies to help assist those that were in need of medical attention.  “The Free Kitchen was created to feed the hundreds of people who would be outside the concert, just making the scene.  Organizers felt responsible for a horde of unprepared people, so they planned to feed them.”   As the emcee made his announcement, he was explaining who had helped out in order to get the food that they did.  In the end, he explained, “In fact it’s everybody.  We’re all feeding each other."  This is the sprit that runs deeply in their lives and is why they can live how they do -- so free and so happy.

[5]     After the announcement, one might think that the hungry people would rush to the food, creating a loud and violent storm of people charging towards one place.  It was hardly this.  In fact, people formed about 17 peaceful lines to the concession stands and received their portions of food and ate them.  The event staff would even try to bring food to the people out in the fields if it was possible.  This type of kindness and a feeling of being part of a close-knit community is long gone from the world today.  From there the screen splits and on the left side is footage of people sleeping and lying around on the grass.  They are so close to each other, sharing everything from clothing to blankets and tents.  The people in the street casually walk up and down without confusion despite the great numbers of them.  Even the lines at the food stands were relaxed, surely much more so than one at a present day fast food restaurant at dinnertime.  This simply shows how much respect people have lost for each other and how fast-paced and stressful their lives have become.

 [6]    As all of this is going on, there are thousands of people in the front of the stage listening to announcements.  Events staff and even children are throwing muffins and food out to them.  In the background personal announcements are being read so that family and friends know where to find each other.  Everyone is quiet and listens carefully so that everything can be heard.  At no other concert, especially with so many people, would people care enough to do that.  For someone to take out the time to read a 30 second message to one person and have hundreds of thousands listen is certainly one aspect of a group with high community values.  This shows a lot of respect for each other.

 [7]    The announcer yells out, “If you’ve got food, feed other people”.  Then the camera pans and you see a man attempting to feed a sheep that has been grazing on the grass in front of him.  Even though it’s only a pickle he offers, it shows how he cared for even the animals despite himself being hungry.  No one got angry or distressed since everyone was having a good time.  Hunger became more of an annoyance to the good times than anything else.  It was this mentality that allowed them to party on peacefully and help each other out.  These are the pieces that were so essential to the success of the concert.  When you have that many people with so few resources, it’s going to take a lot of sharing and care for the health and safety of one another to make it a success.  Not many other groups of people have been in the same situation; but then again they have never really been offered the opportunity.  Might this show us that we each could take something from the hippie life style?  After all, they did make the third largest city in the world function with ease for three days despite a lot of opposition by both the weather and the townspeople.  There has never been this deep a trust by promoters trust other groups before to allow something like this to go on.  There was a community, a community in the truest sense, and that’s why Woodstock was a success, not because of the organization, but by the willingness of the people.

 [8]    This scene is hardly the only part of the movie that shows the hippie community at Woodstock.  Other important places include the hospital tents where nurses and doctors would take care of the sick and injured.  There were also tents set up to help people come down from bad trips on drugs.  This is the ultimate in caring.  Not only to set up a place, but also for someone to give their time to help others who are having a bad time.  This goes back to the idea that if you have something someone else needs, or can help him or her out, you will.

[9]    There is another example of the amazing care towards other individuals as a man helps to deliver a baby.  “The motorcycle roared up to the El Monaco Hotel on Sunday afternoon.  Behind the handlebars was a bearded hippie.  On the back was a woman screaming that she was having a baby.  Resort owner Elliot Tiber raced in.  He said he was the only one on the lot who wasn’t stoned, and he relied on his instincts to help deliver the baby.  Then he watched as Army medical flew mother and child away in a helicopter.”   This is truly a humanitarian act.  It is almost like a brotherhood of sorts.  To distantly compare hippies to present day fraternities, there is the common ground of sealed friendship among both groups, which is what makes them so close and so successful.

[10]    The United States government contributed a lot to the cause as well as the Pranksters.  The first performer at Woodstock, Richie Havens, had this to say about the Army’s help.  “’If it wasn’t for the U.S. Army, Woodstock might not have happened.’  The U.S. Army saved the day for a crowd that was, for the most part, anti-war?  ‘We were never anti-soldier,’ said Havens.  ‘We were just against the war.’”

[11]    Each group gave a lot, but none as much as the monetary amounts that the four producers of the concert, Michael Lang, Artie Kornfield, Joel Rosenman, and John Roberts.  Without them and their constant struggles to get more money to support the event, it would have collapsed several times in not only the first few stages of development, but certainly several times during the show when traffic jams blocked routes for performers and food services to enter, vastly limiting needed resources.  These four men are really the ones to thank the most, for they were the leaders that contributed the most to their community on that weekend in August, 1969.  They’re the ones that made it all happen.

 [12]    Woodstock was a very controversial event.  The ideas that it promoted were controversial to begin with.  The idea of 500,000 people being there was something even tougher to imagine.  But once the show began to go on, the hippies and “reckless-teenagers” showed why they were really there, and why they should be.  They had a peaceful protest towards the war, and did it while having a lot of fun.  Some may feel it was a total disrespect to the American culture and all that it stands for.  Others thought it was a fitting climax to a decade of great change.  Either way, the 60’s will be remembered as a time of important social events that have forever changed not only the future of our nation but also the future of the world.  It was a time of excitement and great, new ideas.  People weren’t afraid to act as they felt and express their ideas freely.  The hippie culture definitely had a unique set of it’s own ideas that they followed, and it’s possible that we can learn something from them.  They didn’t live for so long with lifestyles that were too radical to work, so maybe there is something substantial to them.  At least, for now and forever on, the nation has Woodstock to look back upon as a reminder of the radical expression of ideas and a representation of important social change that our country went through not so long ago, and whose effects are still felt today.