Sunday, August 12, 2012

Remembering Woodstock

Michael Murphy, Author of Goodbye Emily

Today my guest is Michael Murphy, author of a new book entitled Goodbye Emily. According to Michael, "My return to Woodstock novel captures the music, the rain, the mud, but  Goodbye Emily focuses on two people who meet and fall in love at Woodstock and their love lasts a lifetime. Forty years later, well, I don’t want to give too much away."

To celebrate Woodstock's anniversary this month, Michel is providing us with some interesting trivia about the event.  Read on... 

Woodstock wasn’t the first big multi-day rock concert of the sixties. In 1967, The Monterey Pop Festival featured sixties greats Jimi Hendrix, The Who, The Mamas and the Papas, Ravi Shankar, Janis Joplin, Simon and Garfunkel, and Otis Redding and others. The event was memorialized in a 1968 documentary, “Monterey Pop.”

Emboldened, Woodstock organizers wanted an event near Woodstock, New York because Bob Dylan and other folk/rock stars lived nearby. They wanted to raise enough money through ticket sales to create a permanent recording studio in Woodstock. Organizers secured a location in nearby Wallkill, secheduled acts, printed tickets and publicized the event. Then things began to go wrong. Very wrong.

Local residents feared an influx of drug-crazed hippies. Authorities in Wallkill rescinded the permit just weeks before the scheduled event leaving organizers to scramble for an alternative site. After stumbling upon a beautiful lush dairy farm owned by Max Yasgur near Bethel, New York, they secured the location and prepared for the festival.

When August 15 came, construction hadn’t been completed. There was no way to keep the crowds out, so the concert quickly became a free concert, virtually ensuring organizers would not meet their financial goals.

With the popularity of the 1968 Monterey Pop documentary, word had spread about Woodstock. Roads were jammed. Nearly a half a million made it to Yasgur’s farm, but the scheduled acts didn’t arrive on time. 

With an impatient crowd, organizers talked Richie Havens into taking the stage. After his initial performance they talked him repeatedly into returning to the stage to stall until more acts arrived. After nearly three hours, he’d run out of material.

What followed was Woodstock history. Havens took an old spiritual, “Motherless Child” and improved a song that’s become known as his famous Freedom song. As he stated later, “When you see me in the movie tuning my guitar and strumming, I was actually trying to figure out what else I could possibly play! I looked out at all of those faces in front of me and the word freedom came to mind."

Country Joe McDonald, scheduled for day three as part of Country Joe and the Fish, was talked into performing an acoustic set. Before his famous anti-war song, “I’m-Fixing-to-Die-Rag,” he gave the “Fish Cheer.” For those who’ve seen the documentary, the four letter word he and nearly a half million shouted, was not fish.

I’m honored two Woodstock icons, Country Joe and Wavy Gravy like my novel. “Michael I just finished reading your novel and found it a fantastic read and wonderful story! It would make a terrific movie. Thanks for letting me see it. cheers, Joe.” Country Joe McDonald
“What we have in mind is a sweet look back at the good old days. We must have been in heaven, man.” Wavy Gravy

Find out more at


  1. For the record, I am old enough to remember Woodstock and I do. Flower power, peace and free love! Those were the days. I wonder what ever happened to my tie-dyed tee shirts?
    Michael, I'm definitely going to have to check out "Goodbye Emily" and I absolutely love the psychedelic cover!

  2. For the record (thank you, Patricia Gligor), I too can remember Woodstock, but I was in Japan when the event took place. I have a tie-dyed tee from the town of Woodstock, which I wear at appropriate events. I've already pre-ordered "Goodbye Emily." Can't wait to read it.

  3. WOW..this piece set me to wondering where my flowered hip-hugger bell-bottom pants are! I know I saved them! The Sixites was the best decade ever!

  4. Tie-dyed shirts and hip-hugger bell-bottoms! Goodbye-Emily will bring you back to the music, the rain, the mud of Woodstock and the we can change the world attitude back then. I learned a lot about the event researching the book. One of the most surprising was to learn Richie Haven's song Freedom, was improvised as he sang an old spiritual Motherless Child and looked out over the crowd. The word freedom popped into his mind.

  5. I didn't attend because my mother won't let me. But I visited the Woodstock site a couple of years ago. I swear I could hear Country Joe and the Fish echoing across the fields. Congratulations on your book, Michael.

  6. I had so much fun in the sixties, but even if I found my bell bottoms with their embroidery on the leg, I couldn't begin to get into them. Darn!

  7. Congrats on your book, Michael!

    Thanks for the fun trip down Memory Lane. You betcha I'm old enough to remember Woodstock and the whole hippie movement. I wasn't quite old enough to attend. But in 2007, on my way to Albany for a book conference, I finally saw where Woodstock was. Seeing Woodstock ranks up there with seeing the Grand Canyon and the Golden Gate Bridge.

    Back in the Woodstock days, I lived in South Florida. In my head, hippies are linked to NASA's Man to the Moon program. Every time NASA launched an Apollo mission from Cape Canaveral, many of us climbed on the roofs of our houses and watched the Saturn V contrail and first-stage separation.

    Hippies in my area regularly attended concerts at a local amusement park called "Pirates World." And many hippies joined the Establishment they'd previously eschewed by moving to Key West, opening a sandal or t-shirt shop, and embracing Jimmy Buffet's Conch Republic.

  8. I was a young divorced mother raising a child by myself. No time for things like Woodstock, but I sure remember the music -- and I did wear bell bottoms. My, how things have changed.

  9. Boot cut jeans are now in, just another version of the bell bottom unless you're a cowboy. And there were flared bottoms too. I guess they went out of fashion several years ago after being "in" for several months.

    I could only afford one pair of bell bottoms which I embroidered to cover the holes. Very in.

  10. I didn't go to Woodstock, being a traditional stay-at-home mom, but I've always loved the music of that era and it appears in my essays and memoirs and fiction. I have and wear T-shirts printed WOODSTOCK that I bought in the town of Woodstock, which I visit every couple of years while up in the Catskill Mountains. It's such an artsy town, and I feel right at home.

  11. thanks for sharing.