Hundreds of AARP members sent along their memories of the concert, like this photo of Jimi Hendrix onstage. Here are some of our favorites.
PHOTO BY: Courtesy of Mary Sheehan
I was 18. My mother had died the previous January after a short illness, leaving me rudderless. I was at a crossroads — not part of the establishment, not yet a hippie. My cousins were visiting from Colorado, and we went to the local record shop and bought our three-day tickets for $18.
My memories are scattered, except for the music. For me, Santana; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; and Janis Joplin were the highlights. But there was the mud, the rain, the heat, the chill at night. And 12 years of Catholic school had not prepared me for the totally nonchalant naked couple next to us. We flew standby on Eastern Airlines back to Boston. I remember washing the mud off in the airport bathroom, unfazed by disgusted stares.... It wasn't life-changing. It was more of a portal into a life that could be more significant than what I had been imagining. I have no secrets to impart on how to “get ourselves back to the garden.” But if every generation has a responsibility to offer lessons for the future, it's ours to teach peace, love and — as Richie Havens sang at Woodstock — “Freedom"!
Mary Sheehan, Sparkill, New York
PHOTO BY: Courtesy of Denny Lynch
By Sunday night, I was wet, hungry and in need of a hot bath. I kept thinking about how good it would feel to sleep in a real bed, alone. But all that ceased once the extraordinary music began. The Band, CSNY, Blood Sweat & Tears …
Denny Lynch, Baltimore
PHOTO BY: Courtesy of Pat Patton-Williams
Who's Jimi Hendrix?
My dad drove one of those buses, and that's how I got in — I remember looking at the aftermath and thinking, What a mess. We arrived when Jimi Hendrix was performing. I didn't know who he was. I just remember a lot of noise! Later, I understood the significance of what I'd seen.
Pat Patton-Williams, Rochester, New York
PHOTO BY: Courtesy of Robert Miller
Inspired by Joe Cocker
I was an 18-year-old musician the summer of Woodstock, playing electric bass in the show band at the Olympic Hotel in Fallsburg, New York, about a 20-minute ride from the festival site. A few days before the concert, I drove to the site on a beautiful summer day and watched as they were building the stage. The setting was magnificent: a huge, slightly downward-sloping open field in a lovely area of the Catskill Mountains. I bought a concert ticket (I think for $3.50). My friends and I drove to the site at around 5:30 a.m. on Sunday morning. We knew all the back roads and were able to park within about a quarter-mile of the site. Tickets were unnecessary, as it had become a free, open festival. When we arrived, Joe had just taken the stage. I'll never forget his rendition of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.” He totally rearranged that song and made it his own, and to me it was the musical highlight of the festival.
Robert Miller, New York City
PHOTO BY: Courtesy of Julie Devine
Let it Rain
I was 19 when I went to Woodstock with members of the band Rain. My then-boyfriend was the lead singer. The drummer had a huge old car, and when we hit the gridlocked highways, he began driving on dirt roads and across fields. I did not smoke or drink, so the experience was totally conscious for me. Memories: Army helicopters dropping daisies; a jet making a huge peace sign in the sky; another helicopter dropping ice cream sandwiches. The mud was amazing. When Crosby Stills, Nash, and Neil Young came out, they said they were scared s---less!
PHOTO BY: Courtesy of Bill Balling
Manning the Mudslide
Because I was familiar with the back roads, we drove my old VW bus to within three miles of the festival site before hitting traffic. There were three of us, and we pretty much held the same spot near the “mudslide “ for three days. I worked as a New York state certified EMT at both the 25th and 30th reunion festivals in Saugerties and Rome, N.Y.
PHOTO BY: Courtesy of Harvey Schwartz
Becoming a Hippie
At Woodstock I decided to open my life to a more vibrant and uncertain future than being a dentist — the direction I was going. Instead, I joined a hippie commune, hitchhiked out West (never returning East), taught on the Yakama Indian Reservation, did a fire walk and pitched a tepee in the San Juan Islands in a vision quest — all of which led me to a 25-year career as a chiropractor.
Harvey Schwartz, Bellingham, Washington
PHOTO BY: Tony Alise
3 Days of Peace and Music
My friends arrived early to get a good camping site. Another friend of ours couldn't arrive until later. We told him we would meet him at the front gate after the Friday concert to lead him to our campsite. The front gate? Where the heck was that? After the concert we went down to a location we thought might be a logical front gate and started calling his name. Believe it or not, we did find him. Not only did I not see one fight, I never saw so much as an argument. It truly was three days of peace and music.
PHOTO BY: Jeff Charatz
I was working at a summer camp in Barryville, New York, that summer. It was about five miles away from the festival, so I was able to take a day off and go with some friends. It was fantastic!