The rock and roll festival held on Max Yougar's dairy farm in August 1969 that left behind a trail of social, cultural, and political fallout.
Love, drugs, sex and rock and roll. These are usually what come to mind when the 1960s American hippie is mentioned. One of the largest and most well-known gatherings of the hippies was the Woodstock festival in upstate New York in 1969, held on Max Yougar’s dairy farm. It is estimated that anywhere from 250,000 to 750,000 attended, soon receiving the title of “three days of peace and music” with performances by artists such as Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, and Blood, Sweat, and Tears. Accommodations for the festival goers were dirty and overcrowded. Woodstock exemplified the hippie movements through the social, cultural, and political fallout left behind from its presence. These “flower children” soon became emblems of the 1960s, justifying change within society with ideas surrounded by love, peace, and unity.
The fallout from this festival within its music, symbols, art, values, and norms all reflected how as how a generation was defined. “Patriotism, religious faith, consumer products, and prosperity were the highest ideals. Those who did not exhibit such values were suspect, shady, and un-American. Premarital sex, homosexuality, and marijuana were immoral, gender roles were sharply defined. “By the end of the 1960s millions of baby boomers, through politics, lifestyle, and relationships, changed all of these assumptions”. 1 Woodstock brought the counterculture into the main culture by influencing attitudes and beliefs, music, art, fashion, and the aesthetic of the hippie.
Mindset changes of this new generation, combined with their defiant, free spirit, hippies became part of a mass social movement within their active protests of the Vietnam War, rejection of materialistic culture, and radical beliefs. Woodstock altered their behaviors and perspective of much of America’s youth, changing social norms, or perhaps, provoking a moral panic among this rebellious generation’s parents. Singrid Nunez recalls that she “went to Woodstock on the back of a motorcycle driven by a Vietnam vet who was on acid”. 2
As rock and roll evolved, viewed as rebellious during this time, this genre took off in 1960’s America, as did the fame of the artists who performed. Artists at Woodstock featured messages, fashion, and radical ideologies, all inspired by the hippie movement. Other bands, such as the Beatles, John Lennon, and The Monkees featured hippie-inspired messages. Lennon’s song, Imagine, states, “You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will be as one”. Written during the Vietnam War, promoting the message of unity and peace. Likewise, The Monkees, another popular band featured the lyric “love is the ultimate trip”.
Woodstock, while promoting hippie culture, generated one of the most influential fashion reforms of all time. Within the internal disorganization of fashion, hippies wore up-cycled clothes with mixed patterns and fabrics. Funky and fun, hippie fashion left its mark- bellbottoms, fringe, halter tops, miniskirts, and long dresses were among some of the most popular fashion trends with patters such as tie-dye, florals, stripes, paisley, and psychedelic designs. Patches, pendant necklaces, ankle bracelets, and bangles adorned hippies. Similar to the hippies unique clothing style, artwork typically featured floral patterns, unique swirls, and a distinct ‘hippie font’ combined with the influence of psychedelic drugs.
Hippies became part of a mass social movement within their active protests of the Vietnam War, rejection of materialistic culture, and the acceptance of radical beliefs, such as drugs, sexual liberation, and Civil Rights movements. Jimi Hendrix, an African American musician, featured his rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner at Woodstock. 3 Hendrix executed this performance wearing a red bandana, a white fringe jacket, and blue jeans. While playing his electric guitar, Hendrix mimicked the sounds of guns, bombs, and screaming to project the violence carried out in the war. This was a powerful statement of patriotism without ever saying a word.
Despite Hendrix’s iconic performance, perhaps, one of the best-known symbols of the hippies lies within the anti-war slogan “make love, not war”. The meaning behind this idiom is that people die from war, no one has ever died from love. Despite the connotations of a peaceful atmosphere, Woodstock left behind a trail of political fallout, while symbolizing the free spirit at the troubled heart of the anti-war movement.
Despite being short-lived, Woodstock was a once-in-a-lifetime event, soon becoming political, cultural, and social touchstones that would define a generation. “Woodstock and the music that was part of it helped keep the country together at a time when many thought that it could fall apart at any moment.” 4As fast as it came, the hippie movement disappeared, yet the ideas and beliefs, music, and fashion would all be qualities of this era that would be nostalgic and romanticized pieces of history that would in turn, change society for the future of American youth.