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Woodstock: 3 days of peace and music

By: Elizabeth Bassett

It was stated that rock music is the “incarnation of resistance, revolution, debauchery, sexuality, dissent, violence, mayhem, anarchism, and more.� As the Woodstock Music Festival has been noted as one of the largest gatherings for rock music of its time and possibly of all time, it brings to mind whether or not these descriptions actually apply. Throughout the scenes of the movie Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music, it is evident that many of these elements of the stereotypical hippie apply, while many were absent or unseen.
Encompassing the entire festival and ideals of its attendees, peace was the overriding theme throughout the three days of Woodstock. Rock songs played and sung at the festival spoke out against the Vietnam war and the need for a safe, peaceful world. This dream for peace led to resistance against the political opinions of the time as the government continued to send troops to Vietnam. Resistance against the government and majority also encompassed many elements of anarchism in its belief of freedom and cooperation among individuals. Dissent was also outrightly visible as many festival attendees disagreed with authority figures of the time. This was exhibited in the interview with a girl on the documentary when she spoke of her parents’ disapproval of her choice to live within a new family community of males and females and then attend Woodstock. Together, the elements of resistance and anarchism catapulted a revolutionized mindset. Instead of following after their parents, teenagers and young adults pushed against the highly structured norms of the 1950’s of corsets and the picture of the perfect, proper housewife. Instead, girls wore loose-fitting, revealing, and mismatched clothing as revealed in the documentary. Some men of the 60’s opted for a carefree lifestyle with multiple partners and no source of steady income instead of settling down and supporting a wife and family. Rock music was a revolution in itself as it led to new thought processes and spoke to the hearts of its listeners. The strong rhythms and drum beats spurred people forward and provided a way for individuals to bring messages of peace to others.
Other elements addressed in the quote above that were also visible in the movie were debauchery and sexuality. Nudity was often visible throughout the film as well as sexual promiscuity. Drugs and alcohol were also commonplace items in the movie that are often related to the term debauchery. This in mind, it may seem that they are related to rock music, but cause and effect of this type may be difficult to distinguish.
Although I enjoyed the entire film, the most memorable scene for me was at the end. The owner of the field where the festival was held stood in front of the 500,000 attendees and flashed the crowd the peace sign. He spoke of how half a million young people could come together in rather rough conditions with poor sanitation and an insufficient food supply, and yet no violence occurred. This was unheard of as many groups of that size would result in quarrels or fights. Looking at the Woodstock Music Festival as an example, I believe that rock music is not the incarnation of violence and mayhem, but rather a protest against these practices.