Brother Jim sez, America has become so corporative that cooperation is mandatory. You can’t have a radical opinion without risking your life. Don’t say that word (whatever it is)! You may land in jail for speaking the truth.
But it has always been that way, I guess. I was reminded of this as the 40th anniversary of Woodstock is being commemorated on TV and in newspapers, which become less relevant by the minute.
Bob Dylan said that his generation (i.e., the Woodstock generation) didn’t experience a real Depression so it created one of its own. It was carved out of high ideals and political naivete. It wore plain clothes and expressed itself colorfully. And it’s still out there, searching for some kind of accommodation.
Its shadow shows up in the details. Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme is released from prison. Woodstock is celebrated all over again. Elvis’ 1969 albums are reissued. Someone mentions “Purple Haze.” Bob Dylan releases a new collection of songs … and it’s a good one.
But everything is ranked according to its economic value. We’re a money-driven society now. There’s no more peace, love and music being sold wholesale. The Woodstock Generation (if it ever existed) has been replicated by brick streets and luxurious sharecroppers’ cabins for rent … If you can afford it, you can buy the experience, except the real sharecroppers didn’t have air conditioning, gourmet kitchens or even indoor plumbing.
No, the Woodstock generation’s depression that Dylan referred to was an authentic occurrence. A lot of people just decided to slob out. Go with the flow. Flabbergast their enemies. (“Love your enemies and drive ‘em nuts,” said humorist Brother Dave Gardner.)
It was a good time to be alive, be you young or old. But the media laugh at it when they report about it (which they seldom do). Almost everybody’s richer now. Everything has an inflated dollar value, even nostalgia. Woodstock didn’t really change anything. It just opened promoters’ eyes to vast potential profits they hadn’t known were there before.
It led us in the path of Reagan unto Gates and Bernie Madoff. If Woodstock were held today, tickets would cost at least $1,000 per day. Jimi Hendrix would play “There‘s a Star-Spangled Banner Waving Somewhere“ instead of the National Anthem. Farmer Max Yasgur would sue the promoters for trashing his property. That‘d be worth a quick buck.
But Woodstock is an idea that is as valiant today as it was 40 years ago. Who doesn‘t want three days of peace, love and music in a place where money doesn‘t mean anything? I sure do. I want that and heaven, too. Heaven the moreso. However, I’ll believe it when I see it. Until then, there’s life down here on earth with all its smarmy vitality, banality and corruptibility.
When Woodstock was in flower, most of us were stoned. It was great fun (being stoned), even for Charlie Manson. But Woodstock didn’t change the world the way the atomic bomb did.
Woodstock simply changed the way we interpret entertainment. That’s no small thing and, rest assured, it cuts very deeply into a society as self-conscious as ours has become. Someone could write a book about it and call it “Mirror, Mirror.”
You get the picture. Before and after are two radically different things. If you don’t believe that, take a good look at your old high school yearbook. It’ll tell you, at least, where Woodstock came from. It came from too much conformity, too many constraints, too much lockstep and not enough fun.
For every sour businessman who once romped in the mud at Woodstock there’s a corporate stud who helped organize the senior prom. Nothing much has changed.
Good times occur when you least expect them. So don’t plan on this being a banner year for remembering Woodstock or for the spirit of Woodstock to reinstill in you that youthfulness so treasured among us. Woodstock happened 40 grievous years ago.