Great Moments of Woodstock 1969

August 07, 2019

Photo of musician Jimi Hendrix playing guitar with crowd in background Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock

Music professor Dyne Eifertsen teaches "The History of Rock and Roll" at ARC. Eifertsen here shares his thoughts on the top five moments from the original Woodstock in 1969 - 50 years ago!  

Jimi Hendrix – The Star Spangled Banner
Hendrix’s memorable performance of the Star Spangled Banner was in the closing set of Woodstock on Sunday morning. He performed with the short-lived band Gypsy Suns and Rainbows with long-time members Mitch Mitchell on drums and bassist Billy Cox (with a second guitarist and two percussionists). The crowd had dwindled from 400,000 to a mere (and fortunate) 50,000. Used as a protest against the war, the performance renders hints of battle scenes with bombs and jets screaming overhead. The filming of Hendrix is unique as much of the focus is on Jimi’s face and not his guitar, framing the mouthing of the sounds he produces from his guitar.

Carlos Santana: Soul Sacrifice
Santana ignored the public address to “not take the brown acid” and had quite the trip during this iconic performance of Soul Sacrifice, with hallucinations of his guitar turning into a snake and spiders crawling on his arms. Relatively unknown at the time, particularly on the East Coast, this West Coast band was under the management of concert promoter Bill Graham. The drum solo by the youngest musician at Woodstock, Michael Shrieve (20), was a stand-out performance.

Richie Havens: Handsome Johnny/Freedom
Woodstock was at a standstill and with 80 square miles blocked with parked cars, many bands had to be flown in by helicopter and arrived late. Since Richie Havens was there with his guitar in hand, they asked him to open the festival. His mesmerizing and percussive guitar strumming  and gritty stories grabbed the audience and set them off on their three-day journey.

Sly and the Family Stone: I Want to Take You Higher
At 3:30 AM, Sunday morning, Sly and the Family Stone took the stage to get funky with the sleepy-eyed and drenched audience.  “I Want to Take You Higher” was the peak of their set. I used to have their tenor saxophonist Jerry Martini out to talk to my Rock & Roll history class and he would say that when looking out at the audience, there were so many bodies in the moonlight moving up and down, it looked like the ocean swirling and bands would often feel seasick on stage.

Canned Heat: Going Up the Country
Canned Heat’s “Going Up the Country” has become synonymous with Woodstock. The high-tenor vocals and folk-blues style are a highlight of the festival and became the “rural hippie anthem” of the times.

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