Lehigh University, Class of 2003
May 2000

 [1]    Let’s play a little game of word association.  When I say “Woodstock” you say the first thing that comes to your mind.  Are you ready?  Here goes!  Woodstock!  Ahhh, don’t yell so loud.  Chances are, “music” is the word that came forth from your mouth.  After all, music was THE driving force behind Woodstock.  Forget the protests, forget the drugs, forget the family, and forget the sex.  Woodstock was about music, and using music to take a political stand.  How shall we remember the music of this innovative and glorious fest?  The rock and roll melodies spewed forth from the stage were defiant of the typical societal norms, aiming to arouse a political uprising.  However, there was more good than harm in these songs deemed malicious by society.  The documentary Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music portrays this counterculture noise in a positive light, aiming at changing society for the better.  The music demanded change, peace, and respect.  In addition to scenes of people gleefully singing along to amazing performances amidst an aura for cultural upheavals, the documentary allots more time for the performance of Crosby, Stills, and Nash.  The band gets time allotted for 4 songs in a row, and at the close of the documentary they receive even more time.  Why is considerable time given to this band in comparison to the others?  Hopefully, I’ll be able to explain…

 [2]    Before I can dive into an explanation, however, some background is first needed to understand the context.  Woodstock was not created because people felt the need to protest.  Nor was it created to invoke drastic political changes in society.  The simple truth of the matter is that Woodstock was created to raise money to build a state of the art recording studio in the area.  It first started out small but eventually exploded into what was then the biggest rock concert ever.  The top three major acts slated to perform were The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and The Jefferson Airplane.  Isn’t it ironic that the biggest bands booked didn’t get the longest segments in the documentary?  Not really, because the message from these bands wasn’t exactly what the director had in mind.  Granted, the classic The Who song “We’re not gonna take it” was in the video, but the only reason that was included is obvious in the song's title, calling for a protest.  All in all, Jefferson Airplane got two songs, The Who got two, but as for CCR, they got a little shortchanged for being a “major” act.   In fact, there isn’t even a single mention of CCR in the entire video, which sort of leaves me wondering…

[3]    What am I wondering?  How a major band can be overlooked.  Perhaps the director didn’t like the music, perhaps he didn’t have footage, or perhaps he just missed the recording of the performance when putting the documentary together.  Better yet, perhaps he “forgot” to add them to the documentary based on their lyrical content.  CCR was a band that wasn’t known as having such a dramatic stand as some of the others, and in order to present Woodstock as a concert aimed at political rebellion and war protest, the CCR footage simply wasn’t needed.  The director wanted to remember Woodstock as a great anti-war protest where peace and politics were the major themes.  The truth of the matter is that Woodstock was just a concert, but it was puffed up into something much more by the director of this misleading documentary.

[4]    The best way to get the director's hidden agenda across was to use the songs from the bands that said what he wanted to say.  The reason that Crosby, Stills, and Nash were used in such abundance was because they said what the director wanted to emanate from his video.  If someone would get something out of the video, it would be that Woodstock was definitely politically inspired, which as we know now is far from the truth.  It happened to be a coincidence that such a message was sent, but the director makes it out to be THE reason for the event.  Can this documentary be labeled good history when it attempts to conceal the facts and escort us into remembering the event in a certain way?  Most certainly not, and the inaccuracies in the portrayal of music in the festival need to be brought to light.  Again, Woodstock was just a concert, and not a musically political stand, contrary to what the director would like us to believe.

 [5]    Crosby, Stills, and Nash were known in 1969 as a band rooted in political and cultural upheavals.  Personally, I’m not too familiar with the music they play or the lyrics to their songs, but after a little bit of research I found that they discuss a lot of politics in their music.  The four songs that they played in the documentary were “Long Time Gone” at 1:47:25, "Wooden Ships" at 1:50:13, and a "Judy Blue Eyes" and "Cost of Freedom" medley at 1:52:47 (all on tape one).  The song “Long Time Gone” is political in that it talks about getting elected for President, but in order to do so a person must cut his hair because someone with long hair wouldn’t be acceptable in office.  “Wooden Ships” is a song about leaving in the midst of war (from what I can gather from the lyrics).  At the end of “Judy Blue Eyes,” Stills sings a few lines in Spanish, which when translated go something like “How happy it makes me to think of Cuba / the smiles of the Caribbean Sea / Sunny sky has no blood, and how sad / that I am not able to go.”  The blood is a reference to Vietnam and the rampant killing, and he is not able to go to Cuba because of political tensions between Cuba and the United states at that time (remember the Cuban Missile Crisis?).  Finally, the song “Cost of Freedom” is another song about the Vietnam War.  From these four songs, and the fact that CSN was again playing at the end of the video to emphasize the band even more, we can see why the director added them all in the video.  We get the general impression that Woodstock was a political protest demanding peace and change because the bulk of the music displayed in Woodstock was music designed to influence this opinion.

[6]    In conclusion, Woodstock was a concert aimed at raising funds for a record company, but through the use of creative media tactics it is often remembered as an event rooted in political protest and demands for peace.  I have shown that the director was biased in his selection of the music, giving the most time for music that leads us to form the wrong opinion about Woodstock.  Society remembers Crosby, Stills, and Nash as a very politically oriented band, and by emphasizing their performance in the video the director is saying that Woodstock was politically oriented.  In closing, however, remember that Woodstock was not as political as it was made out to be by the media.  It was merely a coincidence that the bands playing at the time wrote songs about politics, but Woodstock itself was set up as a fund raiser, contrary to popular belief of being set up to protest Vietnam.