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Woodstock at 50: We Are Stardust and Candles

The author of this week’s post is Carter Rawson, a digital projects coordinator at the National Library Service, music enthusiast, and recovering indie record label factotum.

As nostalgia for the 50th Anniversary of the original Woodstock Festival reaches its apex, the NLS Music Section salutes the music so closely identified with that historic gathering in upstate New York. For many emerging performers of that era, Woodstock became a career-making event. With much credit due to a film crew that documented almost every minute, those three days saw a unique bond forged between established and nascent performers on a stage schedule turned upside down as time slots were shuffled to accommodate bad weather. These conditions left many marquee acts to perform in the wee hours and newcomers to shine during moments of peak crowd exuberance.

1969 poster promoting the Woodstck Music and Art Fair. Poster shows a dove perched on the neck of an acoustic guitar.

An aquarian exposition in White Lake, N.Y.–3 days of peace & music / Skolnick. Poster (color lithograph) by Arnold Skolnick, 1969. //hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/cph.3g05198

Legend has it that relative unknowns, such as Santana, soared while better-knowns such as Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Grateful Dead struggled. Others, like heavy rock pioneers Iron Butterfly, were grounded altogether by helicopter tie-ups and traffic snarls.

Also emerging that weekend was folk-rock’s first super group, Crosby Stills and Nash (and Young). Instantly popular with the rain-soaked throng, CSN maintained a halo effect that later propelled another no-show, Joanie Mitchell, to the top of the charts as the songwriter of an eponymous single, “Woodstock.”

But perhaps the most unlikely career made that weekend was that of Melanie Safka, an obscure 22-year-old New York folkie who wrote “Candles in the Rain” and rode it to the top of the charts just a few months later. Melanie’s artistic triumph led to a collaboration with the renowned Edwin Hawkins Singers, and from there she went on to become a platinum performer with regular television appearances. For approximately three years, Melanie was a crossover force on AM radio with a talent that competed easily with male contemporaries such as Don McLean and John Denver.

While the cultural legacy of Woodstock has been debated for decades, two things were made clear. One was that this muddy weekend in rural New York yielded an Academy Award-winning film replete with outstanding performances, audience humor and cinéma vérité that immerse viewers in the festival experience. The second was the festival changed the concert industry and the radio airwaves forever by elevating performers strictly associated with the nascent FM band out of the shadows to achieve recognition associated with AM pop radio. Below is a selection of songs popularized by Woodstock or covered by acts closely associated with the festival. For sing-along enthusiasts, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Color photograph of the Woodstock music festival site, likely dating from the 1990s.

Woodstock Music Festival Site, Bethel Vicinity, Sullivan County, NY. Photograph by Carter Rawson, August 18, 2019.

Joan Baez — “I Shall Be Released”

  • The Music of Bob Dylan: Made Easy for Guitar. Includes “I Shall Be Released.” Single line format. (BRM35902)
  • Baez, Joan. The Joan Baez Songbook. For voice and piano. Chord symbols included. Three volumes in line by line and bar over bar formats. (BRM24841)

The Band

  • The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. Guitar lesson on this song as performed by The Band. (DBM03172)

Joe Cocker — “With a Little Help from My Friends” (also covered by Ritchie Havens)

  • Lennon, John. With a Little Help from My Friends. Includes chord symbols. One volume in line by line and bar over bar formats. (BRM20938)

Crosby, Stills, Nash

  • Helplessly Hoping. Bill Brown teaches how to play this song on the guitar in the style of Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. (DBM02140)

Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Proud Mary”

The Grateful Dead

  • Brown, Bill. Ripple: A Lesson on the Style of the Grateful Dead. Bill Brown teaches all the guitar parts to this folksy country-rock hit made famous by The Dead without the use of music notation. Level 2. (DBM02849)
  • Brown, Bill. Uncle John’s Band. Bill Brown teaches all of the guitar parts to this rock hit by the Grateful Dead without the use of music notation. (DBM02691)

Tim Hardin – “If I Were a Carpenter”

Jimi Hendrix — “Red House”

  • Brown, Bill. Red House. Bill Brown teaches Red House for guitar in the style of Jimi Hendrix. (DBM02055)

Jefferson Airplane

  • Somebody to Love. TalkingTabs teaches how to play this song on guitar entirely by audio instruction. Level 2. Cartridge only. (DBM03156)

Janis Joplin

  • Whorf, Mike. Janis Joplin. Biography of the electrifying performer born in Port Arthur, Texas, who died at age twenty-seven of a heroin overdose. Includes several of her emotionally charged songs. (DBM00899)

Santana — “Evil Ways”

  • Evil Ways. TalkingTabs teaches how to play this song on guitar entirely by audio instruction. Level 3. Cartridge only. (DBM03055)

The Who — “Pinball Wizard”

Johnny Winter — “Tobacco Road”

  • All American Country Music, Vol. 2. Includes “Tobacco Road.” Includes words, chord symbols, melody, and piano accompaniment. Seven volumes in line by line and bar over bar formats. (BRM28811)
  • Brown, Bill. Highway 61 Revisited: A Lesson on the Style of Johnny Winter. Bill Brown teaches how to play all of the licks for this open D slide guitar blues hit in the style of Johnny Winter without the use of music notation. This version is based on the album Second Winter. Level 2. (DBM02949)

If you’d like to borrow any of the materials listed in this blog, or if you have questions about our services, call 1-800-424-8567, then press option 2 for the Music Section. You may also email us at [email protected]

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