Saturday, September 13, 2014

Barefoot in Babylon (Bob Spitz)

Incredibly engrossing, Bob Spitz's Barefoot in Babylon tells the often harrowing behind-the-scenes story of the creation of the Woodstock music festival.  People usually think of Woodstock as the epitome of peace, where a bunch of hippies sat for a few days in a big field listening to music icons like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.  Reading about the organizers' tough journey to put the festival on, along with what actually took place that August weekend, is absolutely riveting.

Spitz starts at the very beginning, when Woodstock was just an idea in Michael Lang's mind.  Once Lang convinced a core group to get in on the action and they found a place to have the festival, they all needed to start organizing the performers, layout, sanitation, concessions, security, and a million other details.  To top everything off, they were met with a huge amount of resistance from the neighbors of the original festival location, so much so that they had to pick up and leave.  When people say that dairy farmer Max Yasgur saved Woodstock, they couldn't be more correct.

Spitz had a multitude of reliable primary sources when writing Barefoot in Babylon, including access to the organizers themselves, along with their papers and memorabilia.  He also has an uncanny ability of making you seem like you're right there in the action, which for most of us, is the only way we would ever be able to experience Woodstock.