The drama of the Woodstock festival sometimes overshadows the fact that it was the result of a great time for music.
New instruments and ideas were at the heart of new creative scenes that all came together in the moment of Woodstock.
The songs themselves were powerful tools for social, political, personal, and environmental change. It's been near 50 years since and the impact of these ideas and changes are being felt today more than ever.
Whether you heard the Woodstock era songs at the festival or on the radio yesterday, they continue to have an impact and influence on our ideas about what a good future looks and feels like.
When we asked Dr. Bob about his favourite Woodstock-era song he was emphatic: Jimmy Hendrix Star Spangled Banner. Beyond Hendrix bombastic guitar reading of the melody, and the iconic performance film, it's the heart of Francis Scott Key's song and it place as symbol of America that make it special. The lyric was written as he witnessed the bombardment of Baltimore by the British Navy using the first rockets in modern warfare during the War of 1812. The words, set to an heroically scaled melody, represent the best impulses and ambitions of America.
Here are five songs that continue to resonate today and inspire us as we work to help Dr. Bob repaint the Woodstock Light Bus.
1/ Going Up The Country - Canned Heat
It's mission statement as much as a song. What other 'flute riff' is such an immediately recognizable call to action? And the counter-tenor vocal inspires us all to sing a little higher and take ourselves a little less seriously. The song is adapted from a 1920's blues standard and poses the classic musical question "don't you want to go?" As the summer sun comes with friends, adventure, and music in the air...Yes we do!
2/ The Weight - The Band
The Weight is the ultimate song about responsibility. Freedom is often thought of as freedom from responsibility. But the character in the song, after traveling and finding no one willing to be responsible for anything finds freedom and fulfillment by being willing to do what no one else will... be responsible for the burdens of others. "Put the load right on me!"
3/ With A Little Help From My Friends - Joe Cocker
This song filmed in the Woodstock movie is maybe the most enduring image of the 60's singer. It is passion incarnate. And how many people could take a Beatles song and make it better (better, better...)? The message is simple. We all need each other. We all need help. We all need friends. Lennon and McCartney wrote it purposefully in a limited range so that Ringo... or anyone... could sing it. The lyric openly asks the listener to not be critical of the singer singing because that's not what's important in a great song. Songs are meant for sharing and singing. This is one of the best and, like the other songs on this list, is in the Rolling Stone's top 500 of all time. Sing it with a little help from your friends.
4/ Dance To The Music - Sly and the Family Stone
Few pop songs have been more influential over the course of time. "Dance to the Music" did what it was supposed to do: it changed everything... it launched Sly and the Family Stone into the pop consciousness. Even toned down for pop audiences, the band's radical psychedelic rock sound caught many music fans and fellow recording artists completely off guard. "Dance to the Music" featured four co-lead singers, black musicians and white musicians in the same band, and a distinct blend of instrumental sounds: rock guitar riffs from Sly's brother Freddie Stone, a funk bassline from Larry Graham, Greg Errico's syncopated drum track, Sly's gospel-styled organ playing, and Jerry Martini and Cynthia Robinson on the horns. It's an unabashed party song, "Dance to the Music" opens with Robinson screaming to the audience, demanding that they "get on up...and dance to the music!"
5/ Piece of My Heart - Janis Joplin
The song's message can come through in different ways depending on the needs of the listener. It could be "I will not let you destroy my ability to be human, to love"; or "surely if I keep taking these emotional punches, if I keep setting an example of love and forgiveness, surely the world will understand, change, give me back what I have given". Joplin used blues conventions not to transcend pain, but to scream it out of existence. Shout out this song.
What's your favourite song from the Woodstock era? What song inspired and influenced you? Or helped you get something done? Write us in the comments! We love these stories.