Woodstock – Did the 1960s Change the World?

As the next three days unfold, the news will have accounts of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair of 1969. Forty years have passed since the original. As history looks back at the event, one has to wonder – what did it all mean? Did the 1960s change the world? Are there hippies in our midst?

I was just about to enter kindergarten when the first Woodstock rolled around. I do remember the clothes, the music, the news, but not much else. There were a few cool older kids who wore hippie style clothes. But in the small town of Polo, Illinois, not much ever came of the hippie movement. It did not change our little town nor did it change many small towns through out the United States. There is no great hippie monument, no great piece of literature (I don’t think The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test qualifies), but there is some art, some music, some fashion, and surprisingly, an ethos on the environment that is beginning to take hold.

Peace and Love. This mantra still defines the 1960s but not much else. Looking at our modern world, not much remains in from the time. August 15, 16, and 17, 1969 saw the Hippie Nation at its height at Woodstock. The event itself was a financial failure until the movie and soundtrack came out. Then and only then did it turn a profit. David Crosby said

, “Describing Woodstock as the “big bang,” I think that’s a great way to describe it, because the important thing about it wasn’t how many people were there but that a lot of truly wonderful music that got played.”

Unfortunately, few long lasting effects happened at all from the Hippie Movement. As a young child, we (my generation) all thought the Hippie Movement was going to revolutionize the world. Then we grew up and had to get jobs.

I still listen to the music of the period almost every day (Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Cream). But a lot of the music of today is not derived from 60s music. Throughout the 70s and 80s, there was no doubt about the influence the music of the 60s on the music of that era. But once rap got here, the influence of the 60s on modern music waned heavily.

As far as fashion goes, tie dye shirts are still around. Fringe jackets have long since passed. But as a teacher, I do see the occasional blue jean jacket. It seems that when historians look back at the 60s, the Hippie movement and its soundtrack will get some press but most of the press will, and should, go to the Civil Rights Movement and the influence of JFK on public service and the space program. Why? Why is it the Hippies did not change the world? There is only one reason – money. There was no money to be made on the political side of the movement because America at is core is a money making machine. The pure unadulterated capitalism of America is the antithesis to the tenets of the Hippie movement.

In government, most politicians in the halls of Congress are not there to fulfill a prophecy or to uphold some 60s notion of helping to change the world. However, at the local level, the Hippie Movement is still alive and very much so in many small towns and communities across the country. It is still alive on college campuses across the country as many educators in higher learning descend from the movement.

In fact, the movement is making a comeback through environmental issues. It is those hippies, and their descendants, who are at the forefront of the environmental movement. In the next twenty years as more and more “green” issues fill the consciousness of the American political palette, the more and more you will see the ethos of the movement in full effect. The book on the movement is not quite over.

From public service to causes to the environment, the movement rears its ethos from time to time. In little corners of America, small communities have sprung up based on the movement. The Hippie Movement is still alive. You just have to look hard to find it.

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