From August 15th to 17th 1969, the largest rock festival in US history was held in Bethel, New York, at which the leading rock groups performed to a crowd of half a million in what is now known as ‘Woodstock Festival’. The name was that of a nearby town, the original planned site (chosen because it was Bob Dylan’s home), where the organizers were denied a permit.
The above picture of a hippie couple wrapped in a tight embrace was the iconic picture not only of the festival but also of the generation. The couple, along with the people in the background are an archetype of the generation known for flower power and rock ‘n’ roll. Their embrace symbolizes this generation’s escape into various utopias. The blurred festival crowd on the farmer’s field in the background becomes an anonymous tangled mass.
The couple was Bobbi and Nick Ercoline, a couple who stayed only one night and never saw the stage because they were so far away. They remarried two years later. The NY Daily News asked the couple, who are still together, to recreate their adventure.
Woodstock was also the beginning of the commercialization of music on a large scale, driving the cost of live performances to unprecedented heights. A coolly calculated operation organized by Woodstock Ventures Inc., the festival attracted famous names (Crosby, Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix to name a few) and took care to professionally document the festival in sound and film, ensuring a steady stream of profits with ongoing marketing. In this milieu, the above picture was used (in both b/w and color), and reproduced on millions of record covers, setting the standards that market the festival to this day.
For that generation, Woodstock was a legend in which drugs, the yearning for a different and escapist lifestyle, and the search for a common American identity merged into one. Looking back today, forty years on, the allure has faded and the legend has to be relocated into the dustbin of history as the epitome of American extravagance and decadence.