Joe Cocker Performing at the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival
Joe Cocker on the festival stage

1969


I Slept Four Hours in Three Days

Well it was 1969. I was eighteen years old and just graduated from high school. The festival was all a buzz that year and I told my parents “I’m going to Woodstock.” I even bought tickets (who would have guessed).

I hitched a ride from Queens, NY with two friends. We landed 50 or 60 feet from the stage with no hassle what so ever. It was nonstop arrivals and before I knew it there was a half a million people behind me.

The music started and yes, everything started to be a blur. The menu on tap was drugs, hardly no food at all for three days. I ate a half a sandwich the whole time I was there.

Being a bass player for some four years now, I was anxious to see all the bass players in action. Ravi Shankar to Crosby Stills and Nash to Alvin Lee to Santana – it just didn’t stop. That was the first time I saw Mr Jimi Hendrix (I saw him one other time in NY).

I slept four hours in three days. I had no change of clothes. Forget about rain-gear. Everybody just wanted to share whatever they had (in every way).

After a day and a half the rain came, it wasn’t bad. It felt like it was part of the concert. The handlers on stage had it bad for some time though. I remember the mud, the nakedness, the playfulness of the whole thing. Like I said, it was a blur most of the time.

I was able to hitch a ride home with another friend I bumped into. And this guy drove us right up to our fuckin front door, talk about love.

In 1979, I was driving home from Massachusetts. When I came up to the Woodstock exit, I pulled into the first real estate office I saw. I ended up buying five acres in Mt Tremper. I started to build my house in 1981 and got married in 1989.

1999, my wife and I took a motorcycle trip to Bethel to show her where I sat. Just last year, the band I’m with was asked to play at the 40th anniversary. That would ring my bell for sure. (I thought playing at Joyous Lake was cool – this would really do it for me.)

For years I was trying to find my face in pictures of the festival. But after twenty years – on the cover of Life Magazine – Bang! – there I was. My wife matted and framed it. Now it’s hanging in our living room.


Article by Dennis and Yvonne Wilder from Mt Tremper
Feature photo by Elliott Landy

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