Sunday, July 11, 2010

Remembering Woodstock

I have just started to read the book Remembering Woodstock and would like to extract some of the comments and points made as I make my way through the text. This book has some important reflections on the socio-cultural context of the 1960s and the music that was released at that time and so is likely to form some of the basis of the second chapter of my thesis. The second chapter I am about to write considers the social and musical context of political music from the 1960s to today in Australia and the United States.

The introduction of this text, written by editor Andy Bennett notes that two very important issues were relevant to the United States in the 1960s – the Civil Rights movement particularly around the mid 1960s and the anti-Vietnam War movement of that decade.

Bennett notes that the passing of the Civil Rights Bill by Kennedy in 1964 did little to alleviate the socio-economic conditions of African Americans in the United States . The rise of the Black Power Movement and later the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) were two important developments of the 1960s in this country. The music reflected the sentiments of this issue with songs such as James Brown ‘Say it Loud’ and Aretha Franklin’s ‘Respect’ just two examples of songs relevant to this movement. [pg xvii] Hendrix was also an important musician in this regard and was of course one of the few African Americans invited to perform at Woodstock and in doing so gave a world renowned rendition of the Star Spangled Banner [pg xviii].

With respect to the Vietnam War, Bennett writes:

A particularly prominent liaison between rock music and protest centred around the Vietnam War. From the mid-1960s onwards a strong anti-Vietnam War movement put increasing pressure on the US government to end the war and withdraw from Vietnam. Anti-war demonstrations in the US... opposed the seemingly senseless nature of the Vietnam War. Which, it was argued, had ‘sunk into an apparently endless slough of mud and dead bodies’ (Snowman, 1968, p. 149). Similar concerns were expressed concerning what was deemed to the oppressive action of the US government and its over blocking of the self-determination of a small country in the interest of its own corporate concerns [pg xvi].

Bennett goes on to note that songs such as Country Joe MacDonald’s ‘I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die-Rag’ were effective in detailing the central concerns of that movement [pg xvi]. Indeed he states that:

[T]he lyrical content of popular music ... took on increasingly radical dimensions as the 1960s progressed. Songwriters and lyricists saw it as their artistic responsibility to respond directly to current social and political issues, which, during the mid-1960s were becoming increasingly turbulent [pg xv].

The socio-cultural events and issues of this time were readily apparent to and indeed a driving force behind the Woodstock Festival held 15 August to 18 August 1969 with an audience of some 450,000 people and a further 1.5million unable to get in [pg xiv].

Further Reading
Ed. Andy Bennett, 'Remembering Woodstock' (Ashgate 2004) <http://www.amazon.com/Remembering-Woodstock-Ashgate-Popular-Music/dp/0754607143> at 11 July 2010