Woodstock, the construction of the legend in France
Fans sit on the roof of a bus at the Woodstock Festival, August 1969. © Getty Images / Archive Photos
The festival celebrating the 50th anniversary of Woodstock will not take place, but it is a shower of tributes that flourish everywhere. Did Woodstock really make an impression in France? What was its impact? The youth press of the time shows a craze more than limited, in a France that discovers fashion "pop". If Woodstock impressed the minds on this side of the Atlantic, it was as much the result of the documentary that relates it as the festival itself.
This is the epilogue of a soap opera that lasted a good part of this beginning of the year. The Woodstock 50 festival , which was to celebrate Woodstock's birthday, will not take place. After the withdrawal of its main financial partner, Amplifi Live, a subsidiary of the Japanese group Dentsu, which took with it the $ 18 million investment, and the company producing production provider, Superfly, its organizers have thrown in the towel at the beginning of the month of August.
A few days before the weekend of August 18, their website posted this message: "Despite all our efforts and support, the festival we had organized, more recently at the Merriweather Post Pavilion, is canceled (...) While the world While celebrating the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, we hope this moment serves to reinforce the values of compassion, human dignity and the beauty of our differences, embraced by our original festival in 1969. " The organizers, including Michael Lang, one of the four founders of Woodstock, who was involved in this anniversary, invited artists to donate 10% of their stamp to charity.
Faded, then, the great celebration that was to bring together Jay-Z, Santana, Robert Plant, The Raconteurs, Run the Jewels, or initially, The Black Keys. The message is followed by a statement detailing the causes of this industrial accident: the forced displacement of the Watkins Glen Circuit Festival in upstate New York at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in the suburbs of Baltimore, disagreements with the financial partners and the local authorities, cascading disclaimers ...
Of the advertised posters, John Fogerty, featured in the original edition with the Creedance Clearwater Revival, had warned that it would occur, not at Woodstock 50, but at the Bethel Wood Center of Arts, the concert hall located on the premises of the original Woodstock. But what was the "spirit of Woodstock"? How did these "three days of peace and music" mark history? And what impact did it have in France? It is only in its November 1969 issue that the magazine Hi Friends (SLC) has devoted a dossier, entitled When Pop Fills Up , to the success of pop festivals in the summer of 1969.
Non-violence and music
"An America bored by the excess of comfort of a life super-standardized and made pessimistic by the incessant progress of the violence and the racism has just attended bewildered and amazed, with the most extraordinary birth of the century: that of the non -violence: For three days and three nights, now historic, the Woodstock-Bethel Festival has brought together nearly half a million young people under 30, in the open fields, in the worst conditions, yet not a single punch was not exchanged ... ", introduces the monthly.
He then marveled that "the biggest pop and rock festival that America (...) has known" , and held between August 15 and 18, 1969, was born in the spirit " of a young genius of 24 years, Michael Lang, and three of his friends " . SLC does not ignore the Dantesque conditions, the roads "blocked on a radius of 50 km" , the "driving rain that will last all night" from Friday to Saturday and "will put everything in question" , the lack of food, but he does not say anything about the drugs that circulate freely in the crowd and the nakedness of these hippies who make love and oppose the Vietnam War. As for the three dead of the festival, it is, it seems, not the purpose in this article.
In this account that already tells the great epic of Woodstock, all the inconveniences are counterbalanced by the extraordinary solidarity that surrounds the festival. From the 24-hour Hog Farm community to distribute free vegetarian meals, locals "joining forces and provisions to prepare the extraordinary 790,000 sandwiches" or festival-goers always able to help the locals.
A gathering of friends
For the monthly that sided with the French youth - against what he calls "crumbling" - Woodstock was neither more nor less than a gathering of friends. The artists even seem to take a back seat. The names of those who were there and the presence of "thirty groups and popular singers " are listed: Joan Baez, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Ravi Shankar, Canned Heat, Creedance Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Iron Butterfly, etc. Monday, August 18, 1969, "At 10 o'clock in the morning, Jimi Hendrix has the honor to close what will undoubtedly remain the musical event and the most extraordinary youth movement of the century".
"In 1967, the Monterey Festival was very important, Jimi Hendrix fires his guitar, Otis Redding, Ravi Shankar, Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones is there to support his compatriots, Who, testifies. François Jouffa, then reporter for the radio Europe No. 1 and author of a History of rock (1) .We did not announce Woodstock because there were festivals everywhere and all the time in the United States, which Between 50,000 and 150,000 people in France, we talked a lot about it when the film was released, but I do not remember any articles in the mainstream press before the movie was released. "
In the months following the festival, the echo is also very limited. The young Rock'n'Folk magazine does not devote a single article to Woodstock and prefers to cover in its October 1969 issue the second edition of the Isle of Wight festival, the scene of the return of a Bob Dylan, who Carefully avoided Woodstock. In the record that Hello Buddies devotes to the craze around the "pop" festivals in November, the "High Mass of Pope Dylan" in England is on a par with the American rally.
A documentary builds the legend
But it is the release of the documentary river Michael Wadleigh, Woodstock , produced by the firm Warner Bros. (2), which anchors the festival in posterity. A screening is organized in Paris by Eddie Barclay at the Normandie cinema, on the Champs-Élysées, followed by a hippie party and above all, the film is screened at the Cannes Film Festival.
In August 1970, SLC returns to "Woodstock in pictures" . The article titled "The shock Woodstock" is this time announced in one of a number in which we find Joe Dassin , Julien Clerc , Jacques Dutronc , and Mike Brant , alongside the "revelations" of the summer of 1970: Michel Delpech and Gilles Marchal.
"Woodstock has also been an exhausting adventure," says director Michael Wadleigh, "in the SLC pages, we stayed three days and three nights without sleep, filmed seventy hours and the sound recording took us eighty. -One hours It also took us six months to edit this film but I think it was worth it: the audience seems to appreciate it.
In this summer of 1970, the third festival of the Isle of Wight, brings together around Jimi Hendrix one of the most beautiful posters of the time: Joan Baez, Leonard Cohen, Miles Davis, Joni Mitchell, The Who, Sly & the Family Stone or The Doors. In France, the organizers of the first pop festivals defy the bans that are made at their gatherings. As for Woodstock, he has barely begun his journey to legend (3).
(1) François Jouffa, Jacques Barsamian, History of rock (Tallandier) 2008.
(2) Woodstock: three days of music and peace: the long version , real. Michael Wadleigh, 1994.
(3) To listen: Woodstock Box Back to the garden 50th anniversary collection (Rhino) 2019.
▶ To read: Michka Assayas, Woodstock - three days of peace and music , GM editions, 2019.
▶ To read on rfi.fr: Woodstock 69: after the party, the debts
By: Bastien Brun
festivals - concert - Rock - Pop - United States - France