What I Did on My Sommer Vacation

Bert copy

I won’t kid myself, I couldn’t have hacked* Woodstock. I am referring to the one and only original “3 days of peace & music,” August of 1969. I don’t like being outside my own little universe when it’s warm, muggy, muddy, and rainy. What would I have done in a crowd of half-a-million? I’d be in the freak-out tent without even doing any drugs.

My counterculture activities consisted of hanging an Easy Rider poster on the wall of my pink bedroom and protesting in favor of long hair on our boys at Cedar Cliff High School. Of course, I was horrified by the war in Vietnam, and I cried myself to sleep after Bobby Kennedy was shot. Martin Luther King’s assassination, race riots, man on the moon, the Manson murders, hippies, Yippies, Life and Time magazine coverage of LSD—all were wallpapering my suburban life. But I wasn’t really fully engaged. I missed something important, I know.

Dilemma du jour copy

This summer has been warm, muggy, muddy, and rainy. I am in my own little universe, revisiting Woodstock as an anthropologist of my teenage self, an archivist of the era that I lived through but did not fully absorb.

Now I race the clock to complete an illustrated memoir—By The Time I Got To Woodstock—by next year’s 50th anniversary.

Bert Sommer played Woodstock as his very first gig, and got the first standing ovation of the concert. What followed is a story unto itself, and I bet you never heard of him. Neither did I, and I want to change that. I wrote an original essay about him that got picked up by Boom Underground, and I am hoping to flesh it out into a larger article by next year. Hello, New Yorker? Rolling Stone? New York Times? (High Times?)

Meanwhile, today is the 49th anniversary of Day 2, Bert has already played his 10-song set, and he is golden. Until he fell thorough the cracks.

 

* 1969 slang for “handled,” “endured.”

copyright sharon watts

video courtesy youtube

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Light My Fire

The 50th anniversary of Woodstock is a year away. That will be a milestone for “My Generation.” Who was I back then? A “good girl” from suburbia who had just gotten her driver’s license two days before the unprecedented cultural explosion we did not yet know would define our generation. Now I am an artist (who qualifies for senior discounts) revisiting my own long and winding road to Woodstock, armed with a sketchbook, a scrapbook, and always tuned in to quirky facts that amplify what was simply billed as “three days of peace and music.” As we now all know, it was so much more.

I live just 60 miles, or one hour, from this hallowed hippie ground, yet I had never even done a drive-by. Last December I visited the museum dedicated to all things Woodstock, and down the rabbit hole I went. I wandered the exhibits and started to think about who, and where, I was when Woodstock took control of the zeitgeist of a troubled, yet hopeful America.

By The Time I Got To Woodstock is the illustrated memoir I am immersed in, determined to finish in time for the 50th anniversary.

Rock icons Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Jim Morrison died, all at age 27 (all drug-related), soon after Woodstock. According to Michael Lang’s The Road to Woodstock: “The Doors were at the top of our list, but since Jim Morrison’s arrest in Miami in March, he’d become really paranoid. He told his booking agent he didn’t want to play Woodstock for fear of being assassinated onstage.”

Today is the anniversary of Morrison’s death—July 3, 1971. He was in a bathtub in Paris, and I was in the ocean at Stone Harbor, NJ. It was the summer before I moved to New York City to go to art school and (I thought) become a fashion designer.

What I didn’t know then was that what I really wanted to do was draw. And eventually, archive memories.

This summer I get to do both.

Jim Morrison copy

 

art & text copyright Sharon Watts 2018