Jimi Hendrix left an
To see if Woodstock bears
any relevance to generations
other than mine, I asked
my 26-year-old daughter to
watch the movie with me.
Here’s her assessment.
I’VE ALWAYS BEEN envious
of my father for attending
what is arguably the most
epic concert festival ever,
and being part of history.
After watching the movie, I
feel like I experienced a little
bit of what he did, and
realized that Woodstock did
something great for my generation: It opened a gateway
to a world of music, politics,
free speech and peaceful
gathering. I also realized that
our generations are not so
different. I loved watching
his excitement while he
sang along with Jefferson
Airplane and The Who. It
was the same excitement I
get when I go to a concert.
Woodstock opened the door
to an era of festival-going
music lovers who, much like
their baby-boomer parental
counterparts, are looking for
a good time. So from one
generation to another, thank
you, Woodstock, for blazing
a path we have so diligently
By Steve Fisher
I N EARLY SUMMER 1969, I gradu-a ted from high school in Queens, New
York, and prepared to go off to college
i n September. But first, in mid-August,
I headed upstate for the experience of a headed upstate for the experience of a
lifetime. Rock festivals were not a new
c oncept, but this one, called the
Woodstock Music and Art Fair, was
destined to be historic.
There was so much going on at
once: The mass of free-spirited humanity, the music, the art, the fresh air with
that sweet, pungent aroma. The pretzel
sticks and Jack Daniel’s for sustenance.
Rain. Lightning. Mud. Naked people
cavorting. Trying to sleep sitting up in
an old Chevy with five teenage friends.
The experience would have faded
quietly into the memories of the participants, as other festivals do, were it
not for some heroism on the part of a promoter, a
studio exec and a director.
A year later, when Woodstock, Three Days of Peace
and Music hit movie theaters, I was actually able to
see the whole event. From Richie Havens’ spirited
improvisation of “Freedom” to Jimi Hendrix’s evocative rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” to
Country Joe and the Fish’s politically inspiring antiwar anthem “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag,” and
the bizarre public address announcements, it was
just like being back on Max Yasgur’s farm in very
rural Bethel, New York.
How the film came about was no simple task.
Making the movie
Costco member Fred Weintraub, a film producer and then vice president for Warner Bros.,
remembers a frantic call from Artie Kornfeld, a
Woodstock creator and promoter. “Artie came to
me two days before [the festival] and said, ‘Fred,
we’re desperate. We’ve been everywhere and nobody
wants the film.’ ”
Kornfeld, also a Costco member, says he pleaded
with Weintraub, an old friend. “We needed $100,000
for the film. ‘The worst that’ll happen,” Kornfeld
The Costco Connection
Woodstock, Three Days of Peace and Music, the
40th-anniversary edition, is available in Costco
warehouses and on Costco.com. The film, rated R,
contains nudity, sexuality and raw language.
©1970 BARR Y Z LEVINE COURTESY WARNER HOME VIDEO
recalls telling Weintraub, “is we’ll have the greatest
disaster film of all time, and disaster films do great.’ ”
Weintraub committed to the money, but upper
management wasn’t convinced. “They said,
‘Documentaries don’t make money,’ ” he recalls. He
threatened to quit if they didn’t green-light the
film, and the deal was done.
Director Michael Wadleigh had his team ready
to go. Following the concert, “we had nearly 200
hours of film,” he says. “We edited from August of
that year until March [or] April of the following
year, pretty much round the clock.”
A place in history
Woodstock, the movie, became an event unto
itself. Wadleigh says, “We designed the film so that it
would promote people getting up [in the theater]
and participating and feeling like they’d been there.”
Their efforts paid off. The film, originally
released in 1970, is the highest-grossing documentary of all time, won an Academy Award for best
documentary, and spawned a director’s cut in 1994.
A new DVD release this month has two additional
discs with performances not in previous editions.
Does the film still work? Will people find the
event relevant 40 years later? Wadleigh says he
wouldn’t be surprised if people are still watching it
a thousand years from now.
“The ’60s have this magical blend of genuine
originality in terms of the music and social, political and cultural events,” he says. “It was a really
inventive era.” C