This year's big event to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the most famous music festival in the world has died an ignominious death. As Variety wrote in a scathing “obituary” last month, "Woodstock 50 passed away today at the age of 7 months, following a brave and very, very long battle with cancel."
Not a few people have said good riddance. What could the tribute—to take place not in Woodstock but in Baltimore—have in common with its namesake, save a small handful of the still-living original performers? The use of “Woodstock” as a brand seems cynical, but then again, we’ve also grown leery of the legend of Woodstock 1. What was it about? Classic rock stars on a farm? Stoned, naked hippies flailing in the mud? What justifies the fifty years of hype?
Woodstock was about much more than druggy flower children shagging in bedraggled tents, yet this stereotype was propagated from the start. The festival “was a stridently antiwar spectacle,” online history project All About Woodstock explains. “Its message was diluted by the media. Rather than focus on the political statements made, mainstream cultural commentators talked about hippies, long hair, and nudity.” A belated wedding party, Woodstock symbolized “the merger and ambivalence of the counterculture and protest.”
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