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Musicians survive 48 years of Woodstock

Published : Oct 2, 2017, 1:26 am IST
Updated : Oct 2, 2017, 1:27 am IST

In what should have been a concert almost as memorable as the original ‘Woodstock’, the ‘48th Anniversary Reunion’ – scheduled on Aug. 18 & 19, 2017.

Carlos Santana playing the guitar at Woodstock.
 Carlos Santana playing the guitar at Woodstock.

The biggest shock for me while moving out of school in the ‘70s was that I had to attend college on Saturdays! No one had bothered to share this piece of news with me but, over a few weeks, I decided to take advantage of it.

My commerce college was located in Mumbai’s central business district then, Churchgate, where the biggest advantage was that cinema hall were a walking distance – Eros, Metro, New Excelsior, Regal, Metro—to name a few.  And, on Saturdays, several of them hosted what was dubbed as a ‘matinee’ show, at 12 noon which essentially catered to the college goers.

In that, I witnessed the documentary capturing the iconic music festival, ‘Woodstock’ – extremely poorly edited, I may add, as the film had to be packed into one and a half hours so that the following, mainstream show timings, did not get disturbed. While I was not aware of most of the musicians, the awareness created then has stood the test of time as this year, ‘The Woodstock Music & Art Fair’, as it was originally known and held near New York, celebrated 48 years in August.

In what should have been a concert almost as memorable as the original ‘Woodstock’, the ‘48th Anniversary Reunion’ – scheduled on August 18 and 19, 2017 – never took place as just two days prior to it, the organisers said, “it won’t take place due to unforeseen circumstances”.

It was very unfortunate as the line-up for the anniversary included many of the “original” performers, including folk singer-songwriter Arlo Guthrie, who sang Coming Into Los Angeles. Also as part of the reunion was Billy Cox who as the bassist with Jimi Hendrix, performed during the show, including Purple Haze, Leslie West, an American rock guitarist and founding member of Mountain and Melanie [Safka], who was another musician who still continues to perform at ‘Woodstock’. One of the two non-performers of the original ‘Woodstock’ was also scheduled to remain present at the 48th-anniversary reunion including Arthur Lawrence “Artie” Kornfeld, the promoter of 1969’s ‘Woodstock’!

Other surviving musicians who still continue to indulge in their musical passion – but was not a part of the reunion was folk legend Joan Baez who during the early ‘80s, dated Apple’s  co-founder, Steve Jobs. Then there are the surviving members of Creedence Clearwater Revival, mainly guitarist John Fogerty, who continues to perform and record, whereas estranged bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford tour as Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Crosby, Still, Nash & Young [C, S, N & Y] performed Suite: Judy Blue Eyes and Wooden Ships among other songs. Of course, the title track of the documentary on ‘Woodstock’ is one of their most identifiable tracks, but it was composed by Joni Mitchell, who wrote the song based on the description provided by then-boyfriend, Graham Nash, member of C, S, N & Y.

Two bands that still continue to tour the world include The Who — featuring surviving members, guitarist Pete Townshend and vocalist Roger Daltrey who recently ran through a rare, complete live performance of their classic Tommy album at the Royal Albert Hall in the spring of 2017. And, there is Carlos Santana who I managed to see live in 2008 in Dubai recent offering being last year’s Santana IV —featuring Woodstock-era members Gregg Rolie, Michael Shrieve, and Michael Carabello – who, by coincidence, are all songwriters of one of the songs that Santana performed at ‘Woodstock’ called Soul Sacrifice. In fact, I have been fortunate to meet one of them, Pandit Ravi Shankar, and have also seen the performance of another, Richie Havens, who showcased his popular track from ‘Woodstock’, Freedom (Motherless Child), when he opened for Wishbone Ash at Mumbai’s Khar Gymkhana during the mid-’80s.

While Rolling Stone magazine has correctly listed ‘Woodstock’ as one of the “50 Moments That Changed The History Of Rock And Roll” which made several, virtually no-name musicians to icons, one hopes that the efforts to reunite those survived “original” ‘Woodstock’ occurs soon enough before it becomes too late either for them.

The writer has been part of the media and entertainment business for over 23 years. He continues to pursue his hobby and earns an income out of it.

Tags: woodstock