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U.S. postage stamp with the Woodstock Music and Art Festival logo
The year 1969 saw a major upheaval in American culture and society, one that found a corresponding reflection in pop music. A glance at the charts shows the transition: carefree bops like “Sugar, Sugar” and “Build Me Up, Buttercup” are there, but so are psychedelic tunes like “Aquarius” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion.” The Allman Brothers, Blind Faith, Judas Priest, Mountain, and ZZ Top all debuted, while the Beatles recorded their final album. On the 50th anniversary of that tumultuous year, join Dave Price, D.C.-based author of the upcoming What’s That Sound: Song Lists and Stories to Help You Better Understand the Music of the Baby Boom Era, to explore the music of 1969 and why it endures.
’59, ’69, ’79: The Music in Context
Price leads a look at a how the music of 1969 is linked to pop’s past and influenced its future. He and songwriter and poet R. G. Evans recall “the day the music died”—the 1959 airplane crash that claimed the lives of rockers Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and the Big Bopper—and its reflection in Don McLean’s “American Pie.” With Rolling Stones expert Doug Potash, Price looks at the Stones’ ill-fated Altamont concert, a dramatic and violent contrast to the peace-and-love vibes of Woodstock. Then fast-forward a decade for some tracks and talk about albums from Donna Summer, the Clash, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, and Pink Floyd that show how diverse music was in a year when rock and disco battled for supremacy on turntables and the airways.
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