August 15

This Day in History

Vietnam War

Aug 15, 1969:

Woodstock begins in upstate New York

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair, "An Aquarian Exposition," opens at Max Yasgur's dairy farm in upstate New York. Promoters expected the music festival, modeled after the famous Monterey Pop Festival, to attract up to 200,000 for the weekend, but nearly a half a million people converged on the concert site. Promoters soon realized that they could not control access to the site and opened it up to all comers free of charge. Because of the unexpected size of the audience, volunteers were needed to help alleviate many of the logistics problems, while helicopters were used to fly in food, doctors, and medical supplies, as well as many of the musical acts that performed during the three-day festival. Despite rain and mud, the audience enjoyed non-stop performances by singers like Richie Havens, Janis Joplin, Arlo Guthrie, Joe Cocker, and Joan Baez, as well as the bands Creedence Clearwater Revival; The Grateful Dead; The Jefferson Airplane; Sly and the Family Stone; and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Although many different types of people attended the festival, many were members of the counterculture, often referred to as "hippies," who rejected materialism and authority, experimented with illicit drugs, and actively protested against the Vietnam War. Much of the music had a decided anti-war flavor. Representative of this genre was the "Fixin' to Die Rag" by Country Joe and the Fish. This song and its chorus ("And it's one, two, three, what are we fighting for... Don't ask me, I don't give a damn, next stop is Vietnam...And it's five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates... There ain't no time to wonder why... Whoopie, we're all gonna die!") became an anti-war classic. Jimi Hendrix closed the concert with a freeform solo guitar performance of "The Star Spangled Banner." Woodstock became a symbol of the 1960s American counterculture and a milestone in the history of rock music.

On Aug. 12, 1994, the much-publicized Woodstock II music festival takes place in Saugerties, New York, near the site of the legendary Woodstock concert of 1969. An estimated 300,000 people attended the event, marked—as was the original—by bad weather and pervasive mud. Some 50 bands and singers performed, including the Neville Brothers, Nine Inch Nails, Bob Dylan, Green Day, Jimmy Cliff, and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

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