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Brown Acid and A Girl in The Lake: A Review of Mike Greenblatt’s Woodstock 50th Anniversary: Back to Yasgur’s Farm

The cover of Mike Greenblatt's new book, Woodstock: Back to Yasgur's Farm

by Jordan Micoley

In 1964, The Federal Communications Commission enacted the FM Non-Duplication Rule, which mandated that AM and FM radio must distinguish their programming from one another. Although a seemingly small event, it started something that would change history. The need for distinctive content on the airwaves opened up radio to a flurry of new, experimental music that would drive the youth of the 1960s.

In the thick of it was music journalist Mike Greenblatt. In his debut book at age 68, Woodstock 50th: Back to Yasgur’s Farm, Greenblatt combines a fresh look with historical context and contemporary eyes, at the storied festival, including interviews with the insiders and performers as well famous photography of both behind-the-scenes and on the ground moments. Most compelling, however, is Mr. Greenblatt’s firsthand account at Woodstock as a teenager, with his friend Neil Yeager. The story is memorable, especially one anecdote about some poorly timed Brown Acid, the very strong LSD that was giving people bad trips, and a moment in the famous lake.

The book weaves together an engaging narrative with thoroughly researched content,  in addition to photographs and interviews with the figures who made it all happen. Equal space is given to each of these components of Mr. Greenblatt’s book, rendering it not gratuitous, but rather well-balanced . It would be easy to give large amounts of space to indulgent rockstar stories, the best moments were those from Greenblatt or other attendees, whose stories can be forgotten to time more easily than the stories of the Gods of Rock.

The book’s content reflects Greenblatt’s five decades spent inside the music industry, both as a publicist and as a music journalist. In-depth exploration of each of the groups and performers of each day, too, are fair in length, in Woodstock. The stories of those whose careers faltered or just begun around the festival are included. It is interesting to learn of the people who were not in the famous film, directed by Mike Wadleigh, or had their careers launched from the films largely bought soundtrack.

Throughout the book, it is often brought to attention the many times the festival could have gone terribly wrong, be it Governor Nelson Rockefeller sending in the troops or mass electrocution. However, Mr. Greenblatt’s book shows that through innovation and the goodwill of mankind, the impossible was possible. Mr. Greenblatt puts a focus on this, as included stories, poems, and reflections are given to other attendees, like himself. I was honored to meet Mike, his first signature was on my copy of the book, and he took time extra to chat about great bands. His dedication and passion are evident, and his first book makes me hopeful for a memoir.

Mike Greenblatt will be at the “Secrets of Publishing: Late Bloomers” panel at the NYU Bookstore on July 31 from 6-7:30, along with award-winning professor and bestselling author Susan Shapiro. This free-and-open-to-the-public panel will explore tips on getting published from industry insiders, and celebrate debuts by authors who realize it’s never too late to get a book deal. Read more about the event here.

Jordan Micoley is a nightlife contributor and advertising manager at Honeysuckle Magazine.

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