Lucy Dacus Writes Essay on Woodstock for The New York Times

The singer re-examines the festival to remind us that it wasn't all "peace and love"

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Lucy Dacus Writes Essay on Woodstock for <i>The New York Times</i>

Lucy Dacus penned an essay titled “Woodstock, a Utopia? Not for Every Generation” for The New York Times regarding the heavily documented original 1969 festival and its recently cancelled 2019 iteration. The op-ed was published on the paper’s website Tuesday ahead of its appearance in Sunday’s print edition.

In the opening paragraphs, Dacus recalled her first time visiting Woodstock, and how “hippie day” at her elementary school was based on television portrayals and “veiled anecdotes” from parents. She explored the idea of Americans still capitalizing off of Woodstock, and not fully examining or remembering the less joyous or groovy aspects of the festival.

Dacus mentioned the often-forgotten death of Raymond Mizsak, how the land Woodstock was held on most likely belonged to the indigenous Lenape tribe and the violent history behind Woodstock ‘99, writing:

I appreciate what I understand about its context as a countercultural respite in the face of the Vietnam War, the trials of Civil Rights activism and the Free Love movement. Peace meant something very specific in the U.S. in August 1969. But the call for peace rings hollow today when the past and future so miss the mark.

Hundreds of years before the festival, the land where Woodstock was hosted was likely the domain of the indigenous Lenape tribe. At the festival, 17-year-old Raymond Mizsak was run over by a tractor in his sleep and killed. The attempt to recreate the festival at Woodstock ’99 was marked by violence, destruction, rape and arson.

If we are going to look back, we ought to take the opportunity to uncover more of the picture rather than allow the story to be further distorted. We should invite the voices who know the stories we haven’t heard yet to speak. It is an insult to the significance of the event to regurgitate its meaning solely through an aesthetic lens, so that its impact is reduced to fashion—flower crowns and paisley prints.

The indie-rock singer-songwriter and boygenius member also explained that she recognized Woodstock’s cultural significance and was “honored” when she, Phoebe Bridgers and Julien Baker were “asked to play the 50th anniversary event,” saying she’s “sad that it isn’t happening,” but that reevaluating the history of the festival is still crucial for younger generations.

Born almost three decades after Woodstock in 1995, Dacus conveyed how the festival is a part of her life “only as a cultural touchstone” and “a symbol of something” she can never claim. With the romanticism surrounding the festival, many members of following generations have relied on the stories of Baby Boomers and seemingly beloved tales, rather than in-depth research.

While Dacus can never remember Woodstock firsthand, she emphasized how an anniversary event such as Woodstock 50 is a “call-to-action” and everyone involved should “re-examine” its past.

“Remembrance is one of the most powerful tools we have,” Dacus wrote. “Revisiting the past, intentionally, allows us to excavate more of the truth each time we look back.”

If Woodstock was truly about “peace” and “love,” then according to Dacus, when re-examining the festival, “the attributes of Woodstock that were truly at its core … will survive the uncomfortable and necessary scrutiny that all history deserves.”

Dacus released her latest single, “Forever Half Mast,” in June. It featured articulate lyrics that referred to similar sentiments found in her new essay.

Her ongoing song series has also included a cover of Édith Piaf’s classic “La Vie En Rose” released in February, and an ode to her mother and Taurus season, “My Mother & I,” released in May.

Read Dacus’ essay in full here and revisit her 2016 Daytrotter Session below.