When 500,000 young people 1 969, gathered for three days of peace and music on an August weekend in the state of New York, nobody expected us to talk about it 50 years later. Mike Greenblatt, 68, sat in front and in the middle in Woodstock and drove by New Jersey. He took the brown acid and slept on the floor without a tent or sleeping bag. Greenblatt, a music writer for over five decades, brings encyclopedic knowledge into his first book, "Woodstock 50 ] th Anniversary: Back to Yasgur's Court" (Krause Publications). Every nude and set is analyzed and the book is packed with photos.
In this personal and definitive account, Greenblatt reveals what happened before, during and after the legendary concert.
SP: What is it like to publish your first book at 68?
Greenblatt: I'm thrilled. I'm ready for my 1
SP: How long did writing and research take?
Greenblatt: Just over a year
SP: What about writing music at the age of 68?
Greenblatt: Since 1974, as a publicist or journalist, I only write about music or tell people about it. Music is my muse and my salvation. One of the themes of my Woodstock book is music as salvation.
SP: Why is Woodstock the most important concert of the time? And that's not just important to baby boomers. Younger people are very impressed that I was there. it gives status.
Greenblatt: It was the only time in history that 500,000 people gathered in one place at a time, without enough food or water or bathrooms and no police forces. At this time, it was the second largest city in the state. Not a single incident of violence was reported. The peace and love mantra the hippies embraced from the first day on – we proved it in Woodstock. We fed ourselves, holding each other up, warming ourselves and laughing. The actual show was not on stage – it was us.
SP: What do you think of the best performances?
Greenblatt: Sly and The Family Stone rocked my world. I loved the band, Johnny Winter and Mountain. Of course Santana has made her legend there. And Country Joe, who led the FISH jubilation, embodied freedom – the epitome of unrestrained freedom. I liked the vocals and harmonies of the band and they kept changing the instruments.
SP: How did you remember something so well? Did you take notes right after the concert? Concert? I was there and can not remember as many details as you.
Green leaf: No notes. I was not a journalist at the time. Certain things stand out as if they happened yesterday. Sunday is the most remembered.
SP: Woodstock could have been a disaster. What explains the fact that everyone understood
to help each other – and no violence?
Greenblatt: It was a cosmic accident, completely inexplicable. I can not explain why everyone stayed calm. But part of the reason was the constant presence of John Morris (from the Fillmore East) on stage. He was the adult in the room. He was so good, so responsible, with a constant stream of words. He kept reminding us that the whole world is watching.
SP: Did you discover something interesting while researching the book that you did not know before? I loved the detail that the ashes of Richie Haven were scattered around the grounds.
Greenblatt: I did not know that Governor Rockefeller wanted to send in the troops, and John Morris convinced him. Can you imagine what could have happened? I also did not realize that underground cables led to the stage. By Sunday, so much earth had been washed away by the monsoon that the wires were dangerously close to where we were sitting. The organizers feared that people could be electrocuted. The long break was not just because of the rain. They had to reconfigure the power supply and transfer it to other cables.
SP: How would you say the Woodstock generation is aging, especially the musicians?
Greenblatt: It's a different story for every person. We started on the left, against the war, but
some went to the dark side. Others have maintained the ideals that Joan Baez so eloquently communicated the first night. The musicians themselves are bound to this era, it's part of their DNA. There is definitely a thread from August 1969 to today.
SP: What does aging mean with attitude to you?
Greenblatt: I may be 68 years old, but my wife says I'm still 18. I'm the same rebellious smoker hippie as then.
Photo: Courtesy Getty Images
Were you at Woodstock? Let us know your favorite band and the moment in the comments!
Kate Walter is a NYC-based freelance author.