Before Soul Sacrifice
Before Carlos Santana and his band performed at Woodstock Music and Art Fair on that sunny Saturday 16 August 1969, a few other things happened:
Friend Tony T and I had walked 9 miles from where we'd left his car on the side of the road. We didn't know we'd walked 9 miles--only decades later when I clocked it with a car that could drive down Rt 17B without stopping, up Hurd Road without another car on the road, and to the Field.
We put our sleeping bags down to claim our spot, sat down, and waited. Quill opened that day. A Boston band hired by Woodstock Ventures to play free locally to residents of Bethel. Hopefully helping soothe the anger of locals who weren't too enthused about the upcoming festival. Few of us had heard of Quill. Few know them today despite their Woodstock appearance. No album appearance nor movie appearance.
In an attempt to keep things moving, Michael Lang drafted Country Joe McDonald to play and fill in while the crew set up next band's equipment. Joe said he had no guitar. Someone found one for him. Joe said the guitar had no strap. Someone found a piece of rope. Gimme' an F!
Big Grassy Bowl
When Max Yasgur showed Michael Lang his field, Michael realized he'd found exactly what he was looking for both literally and figuratively: a big grassy bowl. After Country Joe finished his surprise and historic set, the guy sitting in front of us offered Tony and me a toke. We straight suburban white Catholic-educated rising college sophomores (literally and figuratively redux) politely demurred. He then asked us if we'd heard of the next band just announced? We said we hadn't. He said we'd really like them.
The next band was Santana and we sophomoric white kids were blown away. Never had we heard such music filled with percussion and an electric lead guitar that felt like Carlos Santana was playing personally to each of our 400,000 friends.
Carlos Santana entered the ethos of myth that afternoon. And while his band mates went in different directions after he had, too, he has remained a beacon of musical nourishment for nearly 50 years.
Happy birthday Carlos!
We Boomers owe more than that big grassy bowl to Carlos. Thank you from all of us. I hope that thunderous standing ovation in 1969 meant as much to you as its continued memory means to us today.
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