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Listen Now to The Woodstock Episodes Part 4
with the man who put together the Festival and kept it all together when it could have been a disaster, Head of Production John Morris.
John Morris at Woodstock. 1969
Photo courtesy John Morris
Continuing our series, “The Woodstock Episodes," (link below), we invite you to join the conversation as host Julian G. Simmons talks with John Morris, the thirty-year-old Head of Production at Woodstock, and also the famous "voice of calm" that held it together during the ferocious storm and general chaos that threatened to turn that massive gathering of half a million people into a historic disaster.
It's a voice we could really use today.
Listening to John’s colorful behind-the-scenes description of the pure chaos of the production, it quickly becomes clear how essential he was to the success of Woodstock. His amusing first-hand backstage anecdotes are punctuated by some of the famous moments we all recall: Richie Havens getting roped into going on first and making up "Freedom" on the spot, John Sebastian's easy-going style, ambling in off the street in the middle of an acid trip to perform when there was nobody else available, the crowd huddling in the near-hurricane as sound towers swayed, chanting "NO RAIN! NO RAIN! NO RAIN!, or the rabble-rousing antiwar anthem of Country Joe McDonald:
And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.
Country Joe McDonald at Woodstock.
Photo © Jim Marshall
Woodstock also marked the signal moment when Heartland America's antipathy toward the Antiwar movement started to soften, led by an unknown dairy farmer who saved the festival at the last minute.
The organizers got kicked out of town after town, facing virulent opposition from the locals .... until a dairy farmer named Max Yasgur saved the whole festival by opening up his pasture and giving his blessing to half a million "kids." Hear his heartfelt welcome in this episode.
Max Yasgur speaking at Woodstock, 1969. Photographer unknown.
Woodstock represented a sea change in American culture, and a dream of a more peaceful, caring society that became synonymous with Our Generation. It was the flame that grew from a spark of an idea for a more loving and peaceful future. It was a moment of hope that rippled down through the decades, and still lives in a lot of us today.
The lingering question today is, did we succeed in bringing about lasting change? Or did we get lost along the way? Can we get that "Woodstock Spirit" back? Or -- as John suggests from his own experience -- has it now become "all about the money"?
John Morris today. Photo © Ronn Spencer
There are many parallels between that Summer of '69 and today. Right now, we're at a similar crossroads, with a divided nation in crisis, and a choice – can we find our way back to that high road of kindness, caring, and community, or will we slide further into that intolerant, selfish, "all about me" mentality that has gotten us into this terrible predicament we're in today?
We chose to launch this podcast with an in-depth look back at Woodstock to remind ourselves of who we were, and could be again. Despite the downsides of those years, we had something. And we think it's worth talking about today.
So please join the conversation; listen in, and let us know what you think. We urge you to record your thoughts on your phone's voice recorder, and email us the sound file, and we will try to include you in the podcast. (For us technically-challenged, there is a step-by-step guide here). You can also read along with the transcript while listening on our website; you can find all the transcripts to date on the Transcripts page, or click on this button:
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