Sign of the Times

When we can’t even manage a Woodstock 50th Anniversary concert, you know peace and love are out with today’s generation.

It sounded like a fantastic idea in these times of protests, political attacks, talks of wars, racial tensions and cyber-bullying – a major concert event celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock. You know, the event that defined the era of peace and love; where, for a fleeting moment in time, we all seemed to get along, or at least tried to get along. In that moment, music united instead of divided us.

The impact of Woodstock is hard to overestimate. Not only was it a pivotal moment in music history, but Woodstock also helped define the counterculture generation, and it is still widely talked about today. The site of what has been called “3 days of peace and music” has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Joni Mitchell said it best while commenting on the festival, “Woodstock was a spark of beauty where half a million kids saw that they were part of a greater organism.”

It sure would be nice if we took a few lessons from Woodstock in our current environment. Today, with the help of politicians (including the President) and the press, we are accentuating what divides us to increase those divisions. Music was a unifying force in the sixties and that force attempted to spread love vs hate and togetherness vs tribalism.

Enter the original organizer of Woodstock, Michael Lang. Perhaps trying to catch lightning in a bottle twice, he set out with the goal of organizing a 50th Anniversary version of Woodstock.  What a wonderful idea it was. Unfortunately, the problems began almost immediately for the second go-round. The chief financier of the event pulled out quickly and even went so far as to announce that the concert was canceled. This was disputed by the organizers and of course, lawsuits followed.

Lang then tried multiple attempts to shift the venue and revive the concert, but, alas, no one seemed to want them. Lang still planned to hold the event at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Maryland. I know the venue well as it was a prime concert location for us Washington DC teenagers. Another issue was that all previously locked-in acts had been released from their contractual obligations, and there were no confirmed bands performing. In addition, the concert was then listed as being free – Deja vu. And now, the organizers have thrown in the towel and Woodstock is dead.

All in all, the 50th Anniversary of Woodstock’s failure is analogous of today’s political environment – worthy goals, not being achieved, because of in-fighting, divisiveness, lawsuits, and lack of true leadership. Perhaps in today’s environment, we are not only tired of too much “winning,” we are also tired of music, peace and love.

Maybe it’s not too late to save the day. I believe it is time for Michael Lang to call on our president to take a break from winning. Together, they just may be able to make Woodstock great again. I know what you’re thinking: what have I been smoking?

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