“Woodstock: 3 Days That Changed Everything” considers the festival’s legacy half a century later

By on August 16, 2019

Director Rich Poggioli’s Woodstock: 3 Days That Changed Everything (2019) — which recently premiered on PBS as Woodstock: 50 Years Later — considers the festival’s legacy half a century after those three remarkable days in August 1969.

“Woodstock changed the lives of everyone who was there and touched millions around the world,” festival organizer Michael Lang told Night Flight earlier this week. “We felt a trust in and compassion for each other which lead to the largest and  most peaceful gathering of young people in history.”

Watch this hour-long documentary — hosted by Mark Goodman (MTV/SiriusXM), and, in addition to interviews with Lang, also features contributions and musicians Arlo Guthrie, Richie Havens, Country Joe McDonald and John Sebastian (who performed an impromptu five-song set) — now on Night Flight Plus.


As we’re sure you already know by now, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair — the three-day music festival originally billed as “3 Days of Peace & Music” — was eventually held on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York, about fifty miles from the town of Woodstock.

An estimated 450,000 people flooded into the area, causing traffic to back up some seventeen miles at one point. The lovely thoughtful people of Sullivan County donated an estimated ten thousand sandwiches and other items to try to fend off a food shortage.


Woodstock: 3 Days That Changed Everything gets inside the familiar story to shed new light on an iconic event. It’s presented in three acts.

“Act One: A Festival is Born” tells about the origins of a watershed event and how everything finally came together against such long odds.


Michael Lang

We’ve previously told you about the preparation for Woodstock here: “By The Time We Got To Woodstock We Were Half a Million Strong: August 15, 1969.”

“We had a different vision,” says Michael Lang. “A completely different vision, and our vision was to create a very positive, a very sort-of comforting environment for the artists, not to present confrontation in any way…to make it something that, you know, if you could imagine the best of what this could be, that’s what you’re getting, and you make of it what you will from there…”

“Act Two: The Show” presents vivid stories from actual concertgoers who were actually there and what they witnessed, watching thirty-two bands performing on August 15-18.


Finally, “Act Three: The Legacy” takes into consideration how Woodstock helped re-shape popular culture in the past half-century in many, many ways.

Woodstock paved the way for the popular arena rock shows of the ’70s that followed — sometimes held in open fields, sometimes in sports stadiums and racetracks — and also changed the way the American populace looked at the importance of youth-driven social-justice movements.


We discover in the film how Woodstock’s mix of music, culture and idealism ended up resonating across multiple generations, becoming a rallying cry of generation giving voice to a youth movement who were struggling to be heard, energizing many of them to become activists.

The producers of this documentary were provided with photos, historical footage and video interviews by the Museum at Bethel Woods, who offered their generous assistance.

Read more about Woodstock: 3 Days That Changed Everything below.


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As CBS News contributor Bill Flanagan so succinctly pointed out in a recent segment that aired on “CBS Sunday Morning” (August 4, 2019), the original “gathering of the tribes” wasn’t a summation of the counterculture movement in America in the 1960s, but rather a harbinger of things to come.

Flanagan’s overall thesis was that Woodstock wasn’t the “climax of the 1960s” — he says the Apollo 11 moon landing holds that distinction — but it did kick off the 1970s.


Flanagan correctly posits that Woodstock “did not fully enter the popular consciousness until the spring of 1970,” which is when Michael Wadleigh’s film Woodstock and the accompanying triple-album soundtrack Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More were both released; the film began unspooling in theaters for the first time on March 26, 1970, and the soundtrack arrived in stores months later, on May 11th, that same year.


One of the more important and purely-Seventies concepts resulting from the success of Woodstock was, as Flanagan says, “all about hippies going up the country, getting back to the garden, leaving the dirty cities behind to commune with nature.”

He’s referenced a couple of important popular songs of the ’70s here, which you probably recognized: Canned Heat‘s rural hippie anthem “Going Up the Country,” and Joni Mitchell‘s “Woodstock,” which was a hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, which we told you about in this 2015 blog post.

Flanagan says he was amazed when he realized that this new generation had been embraced by both the adult population (the “straight world”), and the media.

Before then, hippies and acid rock bands, in particular, went from being portrayed in mainstream newspapers, magazines and on popular TV shows (like Dragnet“) as “dangerous drug users out to corrupt the kids.”


Now, they were being portrayed as a generation with something on their minds, something that need to be said that they felt was worth listening to, particularly about the way their government was treating them, and how they were disappointed with the progress of civil rights and an unpopular war in Vietnam.

Flanagan also recalls the first time he’d recognized, in the Seventies, that the counterculture were being targeted for the first time as “consumers.”

“We came for the bands,” Flanagan says at the end, “we left with the brands.”


Watch Woodstock: 3 Days That Changed Everything on Night Flight Plus.


About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.