Saturday, July 25, 2009

Summer Shorts: Wrapping Up The '60s

Photos: Country Joe at Woodstock; Paul McCartney, back in the USA (from ABC web site); Target ad; President John F. Kennedy and Walter Cronkite; Country Joe today.


Come on all you big strong men/
Uncle Sam needs your help again/
Got himself in a terrible jam/
Way down yonder in Viet Nam/
So put down your books and pick up a gun/
We’re gonna have a whole lotta fun …

--- “Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag” by Country Joe and The Fish, Woodstock 1969.

By Pat Browning

Echoes from Woodstock.

Watching theYouTube video I’m struck by how young that crowd of 300,000 was. Young and still half-innocent, gathered up in a protest against a war and the government and all authority. Barry “The Fish” Melton is quoted as saying, “We didn't understand the forces we were setting in motion." At the time it was just sex, drugs and rock and roll.

Melton was co-founder with Country Joe McDonald of the '60s psychedelic activist rock band Country Joe and The Fish, famous for its "Fish Cheer" that preceded the five-piece band's most famous song "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag."

I love the YouTube video. The story is that Country Joe wasn’t supposed to go on just then but somebody found a rope he could tie on his guitar so he could strap it around his shoulder. Off he went, to do what turned out to be the Woodstock anthem. You can see the rope on the video.

It’s at
Advisory: The video starts with the famous Fish Cheer, which uses the infamous F-word.

The ‘60s were a tumult of assassinations, riots, protests and new music. Hitting a few of the highlights and lowlights – the Cuban Missile Crisis, assassinations of President John F.Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Robert F.Kennedy, civil rights marches and murders, the Beatles, men on the moon, and Woodstock …

While tracking Woodstock I stumbled across a web site with interesting historical notes by year and by era, at
It’s good reading.

These 40 years later, Walter Cronkite died and took a lot of history with him. Paul McCartney is 67 but still “the cute one” and touring the U.S. And Woodstock has not gone away.

Books are being written. A movie is underway. There’s a big 40th celebration “WestFest” planned for Oct. 25 in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park. Target is advertising Woodstock-themed goods aimed at kids who don’t even remember Snoopy and a sassy bird named Woodstock.

“The Fish” just retired as public defender of Yolo County in northern California, but he never gave up the guitar and tours with his own band. Country Joe has been on tour for 40 years and still has a million irons in the fire. He has a great web site at

It’s fitting to bookend the photos with Country Joe in 1969 and Country Joe today, both press photos from his web site.

Makes a nice benediction for the ‘60s – Old activists never die, they just wear looser jeans.


Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

As a Generation X-er (known for general political apathy...although we're good community volunteers) I've always been interested in my parents' generation.

Thanks for the pictures and links.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Mark W. Danielson said...

This was an interesting period in history. On the "activists" side, if you weren't against "the establishment" then you must be supporting "the war machine". On the "conservative side", anything with long hair was anti-establishment. With neither side having much tolerance for exception, riots broke out and people got hurt; a few fatally. I wonder how we'll view our current period in forty years.

Unknown said...

Cannot believe I didn't go to Woodstock, and I had no excuse. I was even in New York then. But I thought it would be a disaster, and I guess for some, especially with the rain, it was. But as time has passed, Woodstock has taken on a different image, one of peace and love and great music, not what many experienced from what they told me. I heard stories of gang rapes, drug overdoses, lack of bathroom facilities and mud, mud, mud. Maybe it was better that I wasn't there afterall. I do like my facilities. Still, the music was great.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Ah, the 60s! I lived in Los Angeles at the time and attended and filmed a few park "Love-ins." While in college I also interviewed, as a campus reporter, some of San Francisco's flower children. Thank heavens my kids weren't teens during that time.

Chester Campbell said...

An interesting time, for sure. Unlike you, Pat, my musical tastes stayed with the big band era and the ballad. I never got into rock. I liked a few of the Beatles songs and some of the folk music of that era, but Woodstock was too far out for me. As for Vietnam, I supported the war effort (I was in the Air National Guard when it started) but didn't agree with a lot of what went on.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth, Gen-Xers are definitely a quieter bunch,and don't seem so me-oriented. Political corruption is staggering but maybe it always was and we just didn't hear about it 24/7. We're probably still hung over from the "whatever feels good" era. Boy, do Iremember those days!

Anonymous said...

Mark,40 years from now we'll all have big heads, bad eyes and tiny bodies, caused by spending our lives sitting in front of computers.

Anonymous said...

Ben, I saw a funny post on DorothyL this week from someone who said her grown sons are still mad at her for not taking them to Woodstock. They were babies at the time. LOL

Anonymous said...

Jean, and here I was thinking that right now is a terrible time to be a teen. So many temptations and such a scary world!

Anonymous said...

Chester, I love the big bands, too. Tonight I taped Lawrence Welk's 1960 Tribute to the Big Bands on PBS-- 45 minutes of nothing but music and almost no chatter.I counted 30 bands from the 1930s and '40s! No wonder their music defined a generation.

Some songs I hadn't heard in a coon's age,like "Blue Moon" (Guy Lombardo), "Daddy" (Sammy Kaye)and "Mood Indigo" (Duke Ellington).

They flashed photos of band leaders when they played their songs and I only recognized Paul Whiteman and Fred Waring! Reminded me of Frank Sinatra's comment that he never learned to dance because he was always on the bandstand singing.

The music was sublime.

Mark W. Danielson said...

Pat, you're forgetting about all the wrinkled tattoos, arthritis cases from texting, and brain cancer from cell phones. Of course, our political views remain unclear.