As the Huff/Post50 senior writer, I'm regularly sent books on topics that publicists think are of interest to our audience. This includes things like cookbooks with recipes promising to cool down hot flashes and explainer books on how to succeed at online dating if you are 50+. There are books showing you how you can dress to look younger and an equal number of books urging you not to try. Beauty-tip books, prostate health books, books on how to retire to places where you can live the life of Riley even though you are dirt broke. There are a billion books aimed at boomers and I swear I get copies of most of them.
Eventually, they all wind up on the office freebie table where I'm sure more than a few have been repurposed as white elephant Christmas gag gifts. But all of them are always -- always -- gone within a few days. I credit that to the fact they are free.
So what I don't understand is that of all the crazy-ass books people write, why the one book that never got picked up from the office freebie table was a book about Woodstock. I won't embarrass the author by naming it, but suffice to say it has a sort of psychedelic cover with the Woodstock peace dove displayed prominently.
At 65, I am the oldest person in the office. I think it's safe to say that while I was at the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in 1969, most of the people I work with weren't yet born. Still, isn't Woodstock something that rocked the world and deserves a rightful place in history right up there with the Cold War ending and the Berlin Wall coming down?
What has happened to Woodstock? Has it been obliterated from our collective memories? The three-day gathering of half a million flower children was a watershed moment for a generation, heck for the country itself. The Vietnam War was raging. The protest movement was intensifying. And it was hard to know what was burned more often: draft cards or bras. The youth of the nation was challenging social mores and standing in defiance of the status quo. Young men wore their hair long as a statement of their politics and nobody but nobody trusted anyone over 30. Fathers and sons disagreed with a ferocity perhaps not seen since the Civil War. Households across the country turned into familial battlegrounds and for awhile it felt like the generational divide was the size of the Grand Canyon.
And then came Woodstock, symbolizing the freedom and idealism of the 1960s. Only those with blinders on saw it as just a rock concert; it was a statement, a line drawn in the sand, a glimpse of a pure utopia -- crime-free -- where free-spirited people came to love one another -- and perhaps score some good weed. United, we stood as a nation within the nation. You were with us or against us, but Woodstock instructed the world that the time had come to chose your side. Change, it was a'coming.
Critics, of course, saw Woodstock as everything that was wrong with the youth culture of the day -- loose sexual morality, the questioning of authority, a glorification of drugs. Music? Yes, there was music. But that wasn't what Woodstock was really about: The music was merely the soundtrack for the revolution.
So what has happened to Woodstock's place in history? Do younger people even know about it? Is it being taught in U.S. history class? More to the point, why did this particular book linger on the freebie table -- ignored in favor of a book of retirement "tips" that basically said you should save money when you're young or develop a taste for cat food?
To find out, I asked my colleagues why none of them took it. Was it that they weren't interested in Woodstock? Hardly, said Sasha Bronner, HuffPost LA editor and entertainment writer. "I think it's the opposite," she said. "It's an event that is so well known, we have seen all of the incredible photos, I have watched films and documentaries. It's an iconic time that I learned about and idolized when I was younger -- I'm not sure a book would offer a new perspective."
She noted that for her entire life, all things musical have been compared to Woodstock. "At Coachella, we would say 'Well, it's no Woodstock,'" she said. "Our parents lived so much cooler and harder than we did. We are so square compared to the 1960s."
National reporter Matt Ferner agreed with her. It's more a case of being over-saturated with Woodstock, not a generational disinterest. Ferner's mom wasn't a flower child, but she identified with a lot of what they stood for -- and his childhood was marked by his mom's music. "I love the music," he said.
Meredith Melnick, Healthy Living editor, explained the book's lack of takers thusly: Millennials probably don't understand the significance of Woodstock -- partially because there is not one central counterculture today the way there once was.
"To a Millennial [and she is not one] who recognizes Janis Joplin mostly from a Mercedes Benz commercial, Joplin is just pop music from 40 years ago," she said. The iconic voice of my formative years is best-known from a Mercedes Benz commercial?
True or not, that one took my breath away. And Janis began singing in my head: "Take a little piece of my heart now, baby." Or at least take the Woodstock book.