Saturday, May 29, 2010

Hip Hop Hippie

Lang, Michael with Holly George-Warren. “The Road to Woodstock” Harper Collins: New York, 2009, 781.6607 L271
Tiber, Elliot with Tom Monte. “Taking Woodstock: a true story of a riot, a concert, and a life” Square One Publishers: Garden City, NY, 2007, 92 T5528

I was thinking about all the books and the film that have come out recently about the Woodstock Festival of 1969 among them “The Road to Woodstock” by Michael Lang, and the memoir and movie “Taking Woodstock” by Eliot Tiber. It has been a long time since that eventful weekend but interest in the event remains strong. One has to ask oneself why is there still such interest in a festival that represented excess, mud, and great music. It think the reason is that there was more too it than meets the eye. Woodstock was a staged event if you accept the term that was meant to express something of the vision of peace, harmony and opposition to a war that was behind the whole hippie and peace movements of the 60s. It was in a sense the culmination of the high craziness and idealism of that era.

The symbolism we remember: long hair, colorful clothes, and connection to nature, all pointed to a larger ideal that some developed of how things ought to be. Their idea was if we could resist certain negative trends in our technological and overly urbanized society. Like the Be-ins of the previous year in New York’s Sheep Meadow Park and the original Be-in in San Francisco this was a designed happening. The spontaneity came from the flood of up to a million people that actually came and the ordered chaos that ensued. But overall there was a message behind the madness. In some strange way the vision of harmony with others, closeness to nature, and the creation of a small utopian city became real at least for one weekend.

Today there are other creative movements among them the work of Hip Hop musicians, rappers, and oral poets. They are trying to shape the vision of another kind of utopia with their creativity and energy. Strange to say, in some ways they are attempting to do something similar what the hippies were doing. They are confronting society with its problems of crime, racial injustice, and inequality with the magic of words and rhythm. The styles of different, hip hop tries to be hard and edgy emphasizing the realness of the real while the hippies of Woodstock emphasized a softer image that was oriented toward a back to nature philosophy. Yet both movements try to confront the larger society with a message of how things could be. The stereotypes of hippies as sentimental and soft fall aside when you consider the Woodstock festival had a cultural and political ideal behind it. It was confrontational in its craziness. It was a search for three days of peace and brotherhood. At the same time hip hop isn’t all anger or the description of hard times in the city. It includes a flow of wild images and creativity with words that defies gravity. So one might combine the two terms and call a these purveyor of the utopian arts a hip hop hippie.