Three Days of Peace & Music
“Some boys and girls got the inspiration, to hold a giant celebration, where drums, pianos and electric guitars would play beneath a million stars.” That’s how Max Said Yes! The Woodstock Story (Change The Universe Press, www.maxsaidyes.com; $17.95), written by Abigail Yasgur and her husband, Joseph Lipner with illustrations by Barbara Mendes, describes Woodstock, a festival billed as “three days of peace and music” celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.
Yasgur, a cousin of Max, felt compelled to tell his story in a way that would help children understand the historical significance of the event. This tribute leaves the sex and drugs out, but keeps the rock ‘n’ roll in. I like this book for ages five and up. After being turned down by owners of many local fields, organizers seeking a location for the festival finally heard a resounding “Yes!” from upstate New York dairy farmer Max Yasgur. On August 15, 16 and 17, 1969, musicians as varied as Janis Joplin to Sha Na Na performed before a reputed half a million people. Max became a local celebrity of sorts and Joni Mitchell mentions him in her song, “Woodstock:” “I’m going down to Yasgur’s farm. I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band. I’m going to camp out on the land. I’m going to try an’ get my soul free.”
In their Note on The Woodstock Festival, Yasgur and Lipner give more details about the famous festival. Dazzling artwork from Mendes accompanies the rhyming text and richly evokes the “Aquarian age” when “Rock songs and incense filled the air.” Not only will the kids enjoy learning about the Woodstock nation, they’ll get a big kick seeing mom and dad reliving an era when entry to such a huge concert cost only $6!
I had the chance to meet Lipner and Yasgur at a launch party earlier this summer at Every Picture Tells A Story in Santa Monica. I learned that, in regards to getting Max Said Yes! off the ground, everything came together about three years ago with the help of a a truly “magical person” named Cheryl Kusner, acccoring to Yasgur. Additionally the meeting with artist Mendes was also meant to be and the collaboration turned out to not only be a colorful one, but a meaningful one as well. At the launch I was also introduced to Stan Goldstein, who worked on Woodstock as the Campground Coordinator although on the organizational charts he was referred to as Chief of Staff. He told me the music was just one element of the three day event and showed me some wonderful souvenirs including a glass milk bottle from Yasgur’s dairy farm and original tickets.