The Postal Service revealed the stamp, evoking the poster that beckoned a half-million music fans to upstate New York, as 1969 festival organizer Michael Lang said the themes of Woodstock -- activism, diversity and social change -- remained relevant for 2020 amid talk of gun control, climate change and immigration reform. (Courtesy of USPS/File)
A US stamp for Woodstock’s 50th anniversary was unveiled at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art with a piercing rendition of the “The Star Spangled Banner” that rivaled Jimi Hendrix’s at the iconic festival.
The Postal Service revealed the stamp, evoking the poster that beckoned a half-million music fans to upstate New York, as 1969 festival organizer Michael Lang said the themes of Woodstock -- activism, diversity and social change -- remained relevant for 2020 amid talk of gun control, climate change and immigration reform.
“If anyone has a friend or a family member who has never voted,” Lang said, “use this stamp to write a letter to them to encourage them to register and vote this time.”
The stamp, unveiled on Thursday, is one of the few commemorations of the legendary but chaoticevent. A who’s who of rock performed Aug. 15-18, 1969, including the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, the Who and Hendrix. Crowd estimates were as high as 500,000, making Woodstock bigger than Atlanta, Cincinnati and Minneapolis at the time.
Hendrix’s haunting, almost screechy performance of the U.S. national anthem, which lasted four minutes, was emulated by guitarist “Captain” Kirk Douglas, a member of the hip-hop band The Roots, on stage at the Met. While shorter than Hendrix’s version, Douglas filled the room with the amplified sounds of his electric guitar.
Joel Rosenman, who organized the festival as a 26-year-old music entrepreneur, recalled that two days before the opening, facilities -- stage, fence, ticket booths or food stands -- weren’t fully ready and he feared failure. That is, until he woke from three hours of sleep.
“Somehow, overnight, 20,000 people had materialized and camped themselves in front of the stage. This was surprising and a little unsettling,” he said during the stamp’s unveiling. By the Friday, the festival’s opening day, he witnessed “a tidal wave of humanity rolling in and rolling in until it stretched all the way to the horizon.”
In addition to the dove, the new stamp has the words “3 Days of Peace and Music,” stacked in the background along with “1969, USA, and Forever.” The Postal Service said it will be a “forever” stamp, meaning it can be used to mail a first-class letter regardless of future price increases.
The concert, held on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, about 100 miles northwest of midtown Manhattan, is remembered as a turning point for a generation protesting the Vietnam War, fighting for civil rights and demonstrating for women’s rights as they ushered in powerful cultural shifts.
“Woodstock was the defining event of a generation,” said Kevin McAdams, vice president for delivery and retail operations at the U.S. Postal Service. With the stamp, it will be “remembered as a singular musical and cultural event, forever.”