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Insights From Woodstock: A Movie Review

Movie Review

This really is not a movie review but rather a documentary review. I like documentaries. I also like the history coming out about the sixties these days. Being born in the middle of the sixties (’65), what I remember is scant. And I’m also sure the buffer provided by time has romanticised this era in my imagination. So with a critical but mostly subjective viewpoint, here we go.

The Film:Woodstock, Three Days That Defined A Generation. Available on Netflix.

The Gist: For the 50th anniversary of the legendary Woodstock festival, organizers and attendees reminisce about one of the defining moments of the 1960s.

3 Sentence Summary:


  • The 1969 music festival at Bethel, New York, known as Woodstock, was indeed a defining moment for an entire generation of baby boomers.
  • The organizational aspect of this festival was a complete disaster.
  • The lessons of Woodstock are still becoming apparent 50 years later.

I know this is not the most illuminating summary but you get the idea. Read on.


As mentioned above, what I knew of Woodstock was really just a bunch of images, some from television or magazines, and some probably from my imagination, which may or may not reflect reality. Images of a muddy mess, dope smoking, promiscuity, and some really great music were all tucked in some corner of my mind. And these images all happened to be true! But to bring some perspective to this truly amazing scene of apparent debauchery, the documentarians interviewed artists, attendees, and towns people who were present for this momentous event. What started out as a few young men, in their 20’s, trying to organize a music and arts festival along the lines of the Monterey Pop Festival of 1967, and hoping to make some cash, ended as no one could have predicted. These young men misjudged the magnitude of their task at every turn and ended up with a heck of an improvisational performance of their own to keep the thing alive and going. They had no contingencies. The logistics just never came together. This necessitated making many, many decisions on the fly. The weather did not cooperate, the supplies ran out early, about 375,000 extra participants showed up (they had anticipated 25K!), the toilets were insufficient, and the two-lane road coming and going to this sleepy town, was so littered with cars it became impassable. To top it off, the delays in building the stage prevented the construction of a fence, and so the whole thing became a free concert! And sort of a nightmare too. But the footage of Richie Havens is really priceless.

The middle aged moralizer inside of me felt very little sympathy. Hey, failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part. Right? Well something bigger and more generous and hospitable was in operation. The towns people, who had every right to wag the bony finger of indignation, did exactly the opposite. They cleaned out their pantries and they donated all the supplies they could get their hands on in gesture of unparalleled humanitarianism. The towns people took the high road. I couldn’t believe it. I expected something different like them hiding in their homes or putting up barriers around their property. They did not. They entered into the solution instead of entering into judgement. I really was dumbfounded. This was a great lesson for me about the choice, yes the choice, to be generous and hospitable.

Quit asking so many questions about who is responsible and why, and lend a hand! That is my lesson from Woodstock 50 years later.

I heartily encourage you to see this documentary.



2 Join the Conversation

  1. Cynthia G says
    Sep 21, 2019 at 3:54 AM

    A great takeaway, Doc Ken!

    • says
      Sep 23, 2019 at 1:04 PM

      Thanks for reading and glad you think so. Pretty eye-opening. Hope you saw it or see it.

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