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Forty years later, what part of Woodstock lives on?

History's most famous music festival still shocks and delights – and draw generations together.

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Forgive any middle-age American baby boomer who might use this weekend's anniversary of the Woodstock music festival to reword a Beatles tune and sing "It was 40 years ago today."

The Fab Four didn't make it to the upstate New York songfest, but like the British group, Woodstock shook up America in ways that have reverberated down the years like a Hendrix guitar chord.

The three-day gathering (actually held in nearby Bethel, N.Y.) is still a Rorschach test for how people view an era marked by massive challenges to social assumptions and political authority. Woodstock has come to be seen as either a symbol of what ails America today – drugs, immorality, relativism, and a general decline of civilization – or a joyous, peaceful celebration of human potential, exploration, and fresh possibilities,

Little about the concert was overtly political. "[T]hey are the most courteous, considerate, and well-behaved group of kids I have ever been in contact with...," a local police chief told a New York Times reporter at the time.

Perhaps it was a relief, a timeout, a moment to unwind when the Vietnam War and racial tensions dominated the headlines. Perhaps, in coming a month after the first moon landing, it was time to show humanity could be as one.


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