Woodstock Politics

[caption id="attachment_1575" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Country Joe McDonald by Jim Marshall"]Country Joe McDonald by Jim Marshall[/caption] David Fricke bemoans the lack of politics at the 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair in his Rolling Stone review of Woodstock - 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm, a six-CD attempt to document all 32 performances heard during that August weekend, in the order in which they were presented:

That exchange [when Who guitarist Pete Townshend demanded that activist Abbie Hoffman "Fuck off my fucking stage!"] underscores a dirty, overlooked truth of Woodstock. The biggest massed-youth moment of the decade was also the least political: straight-up capitalism (if you bought a ticket, like I did) and hip escapism. The most direct comment on the real state of the nation — Vietnam, urban riots, civil protest — only came on Monday morning, as most of the mob headed home: Jimi Hendrix's wrenching firefight guitar adaptation of "The Star-Spangled Banner." If it hadn't been in the movie, most of the Woodstock Nation would have missed it altogether.

The Woodstock set offers only a fraction of the music performed that weekend. And I'd argue that the weekend's robust hedonism made a strong political statement for the time in and of itself. But even a cursory glance at the set's contents reveals a relatively widespread artistic response to the Vietnam War, poverty, racism, and general bad political juju -- much more than anyone would ever hear at a similar contemporary gathering. (Let me know if you recall any incendiary political ditties from last weekend's All Points Wet festival, for example.)

Want politics with your music? In addition to Hendrix's "Star Spangled Banner," here's what else you might have heard that weekend:

Richie Havens: "Handsome Johnny" (first act, first song) – "Hey, look yonder, tell me what you see/ Marching to the fields of Vietnam?/ It looks like Handsome Johnny with an M15,/ Marching to the Vietnam war, hey marching to the Vietnam war."

Bert Sommers: "America"

Tim Hardin: "Simple Song of Freedom" – "Hey there, Mister Black Man can you hear me?/ I don't want your diamonds or your game/ I just want to be someone known to you as me/ And I will bet my life you want the same."

Joan Baez: "Joe Hill," "We Shall Overcome"

Creedence Clearwater Revival, "Bad Moon Rising"

Sly & the Family Stone: "Stand"

Jefferson Airplane: "Volunteers," "Uncle Sam's Blues"

Country Joe McDonald (solo) and Country Joe and the Fish: "The 'Fish' Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I'm Fixin'-To-Die Rag"

Crosby, Still, Nash & Young: "Long Time Gone," "Wooden Ships"