18 August 2010

This Date In Rock History: 18 August

On this date in 1969, hundreds of thousands of people were trudging back from what was to become a generational touchstone: the Woodstock Music Festival at Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel, New York. The "Three Days of Peace & Music" featured landmark performances by The Who (highlighting their new rock opera, Tommy); Sly & The Family Stone; Santana; Jimi Hendrix; and (making only their second live appearance) Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

A festival invitee -- but noted absentee -- was Miss Joni Mitchell, the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan singer-songwriter whose intimate lyrical style was beginning to take firm root in the rock world. Her agent had recommended that Joni not attend Woodstock, in order to make sure she could honor her contractual agreement to appear on the Dick Cavett Show, the nightly ABC late night talk program making a name for itself for showcasing rock artists.

In what was to become known in TV folklore as "The Woodstock Show," the 90 minute Cavett episode would feature Mitchell, The Jefferson Airplane, Stephen Stills and David Crosby. The latter were all recent arrivals from Woodstock, having played sets there in the past couple of days. (Jimi Hendrix was scheduled to appear on the show as well, but had gone on stage at 7.30 a.m. that morning and could not make it back to New York City for the late afternoon taping.)

All these years later, "The Woodstock Show" is a pleasure to watch, both as a time capsule but especially for the music, which is first rate. Through the graces of YouTube, you can view the episode in five parts, which we link below with some brief comments:

PART ONE -- Cavett's brief monologue; The Jefferson Airplane sings "We Can Be Together."

PART TWO -- The Jefferson Airplane sings "Volunteers." Joni Mitchell is introduced, and she plays "Chelsea Morning" (acoustic guitar) as well as "Willy" (piano).

PART THREE -- Joni Mitchell sings "For Free" (piano). Stephen Stills and David Crosby are introduced and join all the artists for an interview with Cavett.

PART FOUR -- The interview with all the guests continues. Stephen Stills plays a solo "4 + 20" with his acoustic guitar.

PART FIVE -- Joni Mitchell performs "The Fiddle & The Drum" a cappella. The Jefferson Airplane does "Somebody To Love," accompanied by Crosby. The show ends with a fade out from an extended jam by The Airplane with Stills sitting in on electric guitar.

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