Woodstock 50th Anniversary Special

Mike Greenblatt On The Pop Explosion – AUDIO INTERVIEW

An Interview with Mike Greenblatt July 18, 2019

We’re talking to Mike Greenblatt author of Woodstock, Back to Yasgur’s Farm, a hardcover book from Krause Publications

JV: Mike, isn’t it interesting that there are so many 50th Anniversary Celebrations these days, and what does that say about music in 1969 compared to music in 2019?
MG: The sounds of ’69 had legs. Much of today’s music is disposable. I doubt anyone will be listening, for instance, to what is #1 right now on the Billboard Hot 100: “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus, in 2069.

JV: When did you start developing the ideas for Back to Yasgur’s Farm?
MG: 2017

JV: How did you work with your editor, Paul Kennedy, did he merely edit or were there knock-down drag-out moments to put this in or take that out?
MG: Paul isn’t the type of editor to fight with. He was usually right. This being my first book at 68, I chafed against some of his edits but he did a miraculous job with the pictures, the lay-out, and, yes, making my story more readable. Sure, he took out my JFK quote (Kennedy predicted the rise of the counter-culture in his 1961 inaugural speech), the details of the encounter I had with the naked girl in the lake, Joplin trying to seduce Springsteen and a few other tidbits I liked, but that was his job. And he did it masterfully.

JV: This is a celebration of an important time in history, different from political books and fiction, but the book has potential to go beyond music fans into the mainstream market, how does an author get that point across in this day and age of the internet?
MG: It’s not easy when everything can be had at the flick of a switch. Still, the tactile sensation of holding a good hard-cover under your arm wherever you go is something I’ve done all my life and taught my kids early on and will never go out of style

JV: From what you saw from the front row, is Woodstock 1969 a moment that can never be captured again.
MG: Well, it was a few hundred people back, truth be told, but considering there were about 499,800 behind us, it was like the front row, for sure. And no, Woodstock was a cosmic accident that could never be replicated.

JV: Has the mega-concert become redundant after Monterey Pop, Isle of Wight, Altamont and Woodstock?

MG: Never. Mega-Concerts will always be events of the highest order if done right. Today, that manifests itself into Coachella, Burning Man, Lollapalooza, the Montreal International Jazz Festival, and, my favorite, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, which I attended in 2015 and felt that Woodstock rush.

JV: Did you attend Mar Y Sol or any of the Isle of Wight events to compare them to Woodstock?

MG: The only fests I have attended since Woodstock were New Orleans, Montreal, and a few all-day things like that Allman Brothers/The Band/Grateful Dead 1973 day in DC that I’ll never forget. Sure, comparisons to Woodstock were inevitable but, in the end, they’re all their own animal with truly nothing to do with the scope of Woodstock.

JV: Or maybe a better question, have you seen the current Isle of Wight to compare to Woodstock and how the times are different (…or in the world of music, have they stayed the same?)

MG: I have not.

JV: Hearing the Jimi Hendrix guitar on a version of the song Woodstock by Stephen Stills, Joni Mitchell’s version, the soundtrack version of the Crosby Stills Nash & Young song, the Deja Vu album version, do you think the reference to
Yasgur’s Farm helped immortalize the 1969 event?

MG: No, there were many many reasons why Woodstock has been emblazoned in our brains. The song is just window-dressing.

JV: Were you reporting about the concert when you were at the event, and did you get to the front row at either stage?

MG: No, it preceded my journalism career by four years. There was only one stage at Woodstock and the reason we got so up front is only because we were there a day early.

JV: What was it like with an overpowering avalanche of people the promoters were not ready for – and how did you navigate getting to see the artists you wanted to catch perform?

MG: We saw it all. The only artists we missed were when we were sleeping. Jefferson Airplane, for instance, came on at 7:00 in the morning. I had fallen asleep after Sly & The Family Stone’s sent ended at 5:00 in the morning, and, thus, slept through The Who and the Airplane. Then, at the end, we left during Blood Sweat & Tears at 2:00 in the morning because we hated that stupid “Spinning Wheel” song and missed the last three acts. I apologized to Graham Nash 49 years later and he accepted my apology. Plus, we were wet, cold, hungry, thirsty and had to go to the bathroom. We physically couldn’t stay any longer.

JV: How did you amass 300 or more photographs? And where did they come from?

MG: You’d have to ask Paul Kennedy that. He made a deal with Getty Images, I believe. Plus, I submitted some photos and other photographers did as well. He did a great job.

JV: Genya Ravan and Ten Wheel Drive, Tommy James and the Shondells and other artists were invited to play, look at how history now is because they didn’t. Had they and other artists – say Hank Williams Jr. – performed as part of those three days, do you think music history might be different?

MG: I have a page in the book called “Invited To The Dance But…” For one reason or another, Roy Rogers, Donovan, The Beatles, The Doors, Simon & Garfunkel, The Jeff Beck Group, Iron Butterfly and a fascinating list of others all had their reasons which we list. But no, the lineup may have changed, but the history would’ve stayed the same.

JV: Why do you think a Boston band like Quill got lost in the shuffle while others rose to superstardom through the magic of Woodstock??

MG: Because Quill was totally underwhelming and sounded like a bunch of guys banging on pots.

JV: There’s an $800.00 boxed set of the concert from RHINO and a more modest $129.00 version in release, and a 50th Anniversary concert – will you be at the 50th Anniversary show, perhaps a good place to sell the book?

MG: I will be back on Yasgur’s Farm where The Museum Of Bethel Woods now stands August 15, 16 & 17 from 2:00 p.m. to 6 p.m. selling, signing and smiling. The proposed Watkins Glen concert that’s been off-again and on-again is now, I believe, off-again.

JV: What do you think of the $800.00 box?

MG: I reviewed the 10-CD box in Goldmine magazine and found it revelatory as the microphones were left on for all three days in between bands and there’s things in that box not in the movie or in any soundtrack. The $800 box seems a little excessive. I mean, sure, I wouldn’t mind owning it, but who has that kind of money to spend on a boxed set? Certainly not me.

JV: Your timing couldn’t be better – have you thought of working with Rhino to have some kind of media tour for the phenomenal boxed set and your book?

MG: I would if they asked me.

JV: Barry Tashian kept a diary during his tour with The Beatles in 1966, did you keep a diary during 1969 while at the concert and after? Did you collect clippings from the newspapers and magazines back in the day?

MG: I did not.

JV:Would a Woodstock live on YouTube be a viable platform in some coming year, or was it the experience of being in the inclement weather part of the overall feel that is essential to the memory?

MG: The latter but I would love to see such a platform.

JV: What would you have changed at Woodstock if you had a magic wand and could run the show your way – be it crowd,
sound, weather, or how the artists appeared on the stages?

MG: Just the weather.

JV: Where did you interview Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone?

MG: New York City.

JV: What would you think of a virtual reality Woodstock concert in 2069 for the hundredth anniversary where a supercomputer can recreate the event with original voices, holograms and even audience members like you from the film to interact with people?

MG: I would love it.

Thanks for your time, Mike

You’re welcome. I will send you a list of my upcoming appearances, be it live, radio or television today.

Mike Greenblatt

July 29 WDIY “Lehigh Valley Public Radio” Pennsylvania “Folk Classics” 7-9 pm
July 31 NYU Bookstore New York City “Late Bloomers” panel 6-7:30 pm
August 12 Frank Banko Alehouse Cinema at the ArtsQuest Center, Bethlehem PA 6:30
August 15, 16 & 17 Bethel Woods Center For The Arts, Bethel, NY 2-6 pm
September 12 Friar’s Club New York, NY with Gene Cornish of The Rascals Woodstock 50th Anniversary Special

Joe Viglione is the Chief Film Critic at He has written thousands of reviews and biographies for,, Gatehouse Media, Al Aronowitz’s The Blacklisted Journal, and a variety of other media outlets. Joe also produces and hosts Visual Radio, a seventeen year old variety show on cable TV which has interviewed Jodie Foster, director/screenwriter David Koepp, Michael Moore, John Cena, comics/actors Margaret Cho, Gilbert Gottfried, Gallagher, musicians Mark Farner and Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, Ian Hunter of Mott The Hoople, Ray Manzarek, John Densmore, Felix Cavaliere of The Rascals, political commentator Bill Press and hundreds of other personalities.