Five Life Lessons from Woodstock 1969

I’m not admitting to actually being alive in 1969, or if I was, old enough to get there, or do anything that might or might not have been legal then. Right? But I do like to learn from the past, and there’s something very cool about semicentennials. Yes, that’s the word for 50th anniversary. You use it when you expect there to be a centennial. Which I do, because, as you well know, Rock and Roll is here to stay…

So what did we baby boomers learn from our collective experience of peace and music? Judging from the state of the world and cable TV news shows, not much on peace. But music and love and tie-dyes live on, and so does the playlist. So here, five life lessons. On love. Because while I do know a few things about music, I’ve never tie-dyed and love is pretty much what my career’s been based on.

  1. Bert Sommer was named Woodstock’s Forgotten Man by the Wall Street Journal ( but he played Things Are Going My Way on the first day, and that’s something to be remembered. It never hit #1 on any official scoreboard, but it’s a top lesson, at least on my list. That’s because it’s pretty simple – he’s a cool young guy (that was his hair on the Hair poster!) and things are going his way because he’s in love. And, even better, he recommends that if you want to feel as good as he does, that if you don’t have love, you just have to try harder. Sort of like teaming, with benefits.
  2. And speaking of those benefits, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Night Time Is The Right Time, which they played on day two, is another lesson. Not learned by all, but one thing I’ve taken to heart since Woodstock is that relationships of two are hard enough. Add in any more and you get often unbearable complications. So, take CCR’s advice and get into the same bed as your version of the one Bert Sommer was singing about and life will be much easier.
  3. Now don’t go thinking that once you find that one it’s all unicorns and rainbows. It isn’t. Because you’re two people, right? So you are never going to agree on everything, and if you think you are, you’re probably the one who’s not thinking. That lesson was covered nicely on day three by Ten Years After’s I May Be Wrong (But I Won’t Be Wrong Always.) So yes, talk about it. Tell each other what’s on your mind. Because that’s part of what you like about each other: that you have one.
  4. Even though Shakespeare did not want to admit impediments within the marriage of true minds, Johnny Winter did. (It’s Will’s Sonnet 116, and no, you didn’t miss him at Woodstock. If you thought for a moment you might have, you probably inhaled a teensy bit over limit.) On certain matters, including that amazing slide action, I’m going with Johnny over Willie anyway. I Stand Accused, Johnny’s contribution to day, should serve as your reminder that no matter how well you think you’re communicating, some days the other side is just not listening. And that’s not the time to communicate louder. It’s time to give their ears a rest.
  5. Finally, I have to go with day four… of the advertised three days of peace and music. Because the best laid plans of all of us don’t always work out as planned. Even Joel Rosenman and John Roberts planned their investment in Woodstock as a moneymaker, though in retrospect, they certainly had more impact than, say, if they’d invested in guns or butter. Still, as Paul Butterfield Blues Band sang, Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.

That might be the most important lesson of all, since it applies to just about everything. Think about it. If you were at Woodstock in 1969, did you ever think certain things would ever be legal? (Especially if you were unfortunate enough to be caught…) And did you ever think it would be possible that the Stones and so many others would still be playing? (Get well soon, Mick! We’re holding on to those tickets…) And, did you think you’d have someone to quote on the possibility of peace? Yes. Hope. It’s still alive, along with our collective memories of the summer of 1969.

See you at Woodstock 50!

PS: if you were actually at Woodstock or one of the anniversary events and would send me pictures and/or be willing to be interviewed for one of my pet projects, please contact me at Peace!



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