Woodstock's Symbolic Irony: Peace, Love, and Cash

Who could forget the sitar-like harmonies of Crosby, Stills and Nash, the “better living through chemistry” pulsations of Sly and the Family Stone, the chanting of Country Joe and the Fish, and the wonderfully wacky, Wavy Gravy? Woodstock–a place where half a million people gathered for peace, love, and music. The event represented a generation of youth. Well not quite. The boys (and girls) of Woodstock were not such an inclusive group. One of the myths about Woodstock is that it was some altruistic event. Woodstock was all about money. John Roberts, the Ivy League heir to the Polident fortune, financed it. He and his partners were in it for profit. They never stated otherwise. Max Yasgur, whose farm was the site of the event and whose name was immortalized in song, was anything but a simple dairy farmer. He was an NYU graduate and one of the wealthiest farmers in the area. He also walked away with $75,000 or about $300,000 in current dollars. Not bad for the three-day rental of 600 idle acres. The Who was paid the then-unheard-of sum of $12,000. Three groups refused to go on until they got cash first. The promoters had to get an advance from a local banker on a Saturday night in order to prevent a riot. Woodstock was not for the poor. A ticket was approximately 18 bucks. In an era when the minimum wage was a $1.60, a ticket was two days pay. That does not count lost wages for taking off from work, travel expenses, and of course, the drugs. Total it all up and it was at least a week’s pay. “I remember building a fire one morning for breakfast. All we had was hot dogs and spaghetti,” a Woodstock alumnus waxed nostalgically in a magazine article. A few hundred miles away from the concert lived people who would have loved to have had hot dogs and spaghetti for breakfast. They would have loved to have had breakfast. Over $2 million was spent staging Woodstock ($10 million in current dollars.) $10 million buys many a breakfast in Appalachia. If there is any significance about Woodstock it is the symbolic irony of it. The Woodstock audience was composed of enlightened and compassionate liberals–at least that is what they thought of themselves. These were people who wanted to feed the poor and help the helpless. These people are now part of the governmental social-welfare complex and are now college professors who preach social justice to their students. Yet, the Woodstock audience could not feed themselves let alone the poor. The Woodstock crowd needed to rely on the very people they spurned–the establishment–to feed them. Specifically they needed those warmongering, baby-killing, murdering monsters of the military establishment who dropped food from helicopters to feed them. They depended on the National Guard for food! The same National Guard that is now derided by liberal Democrats as being ‘Chickenhawks.’ It is absolutely hilarious that some critics of President George W. Bush’s National Guard service were probably those who were saved from starvation by his fellow servicemen in the Guards. Not only were the audience of Woodstock incapable of feeding themselves the leaders of this event were just as incompetent. The very same people who are now liberal Democrats, Naderites, and Communists, the very same people who want to plan every aspect of the economy and society could not even plan a rock concert. The myth is that Woodstock became a free concert by the beneficent act of the producers of the concert. Although it was good PR, it was not true. No, the promoters had to make it a free concert. The Woodstock generation wants what they want–and they want it free. They wanted to go to the concert so they crashed the gate. It was the promoters’ own fault. In order to get local approval the promoters purposely furnished low attendance figures. However, they did not realize how effective their marketing would be. Twice as many people came as they expected–10 times the number they had told the locals. Good intentions did not make Woodstock a free concert, poor business planning did. Woodstock exposed the hypocrisy of the left. A half million people either spent money that could have been donated to charity or took food. They usurped resources from the government that could have gone to the poor. Why? So they could have a good time. Moreover, the performers weren’t a collection of Mother Theresas either. They earned substantial sums for their appearances. The only money donated was to Abbie Hoffman’s fanatics and only because he extorted it by stating he would disrupt the concert. They did all of this while inveighing against the capitalist system. The boys (and girls) from the Wood’ proclaim themselves “veterans.” In their characteristic hubris, they want to erect a monument to Woodstock. In Washington, D.C., there is a wall there with some 50,000 names on it. The Vietnam Memorial lists the names of real veterans–of kids who did their duty. They were the real altruists. Their concerts were in places like Bien Hoa and Ia Drang. They were the ones who should define the generation. Country Joe’s lyrical lamentation asked why we were in Vietnam. His answer was found during the ’70s–in the re-education programs of Communist Vietnam; in the “boat people” who fled Vietnam on anything that could float; in the killing fields of Cambodia. The kids whose names are on the wall tried to prevent that from occurring. In 1999, some people wanted to erect a monument to Woodstock. What is there to venerate? Woodstock was nothing more than kids with no responsibilities acting irresponsibly. Remember this during the election: The Woodstock veterans are the “veterans” advocating the election of John Kerry.