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Santana's Powerful Rhythm & Message Help Fans Recall Woodstock Vibe at Anniv Concert

Fans of music and the history of Woodstock got to connect directly to the past through one of the musicians that played there Saturday at Bethel Woods.  For many it was also a chance to touch their own history. 

Santana allowed those returning after 50 years to enjoy the percussion heavy music that goes along with his iconic guitar.  Driving drumbeats got the crowd energized, while the hit Evil Ways had most people up and moving right away.  Huge video screens showed scenes of African, Caribbean and Latin dancers and ceremonies that matched the rhythm of the multiple drummers and percussionists on stage. 

Santana said the spirit of Woodstock back in 1969 has a place today, as he recalled late musicians who also crusaded for social welfare.

“Jerry Garcia, John Coltrane, Bob Marley, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, we’re talking about unconditional love. Some people may call it … goodie two shoes, Pollyanna.  And we say, ‘we are so glad you were not at Woodstock the first time or not tonight,’ … because this is about caring, gentleness, compassion … unconditional love.”

One of the highlights of a set with long versions of well-known Santana hits was a stretch of Black Magic Woman, Oye Como Va, and the classic instrumental, Europa.   Another high point was Santana inviting most of the Doobie Brothers on stage, allowing each to take a lengthy solo while he smiled his encouragement to Tom Johnstone and Patrick Simmons, who might have felt just a little self-conscious inventing on the guitar while Santana looked on. 

Credit Tom Honan
Doobie Brothers play energetic set as great lead-in to Santana at Bethel Woods Woodstock Golden Anniv concert Saturday

The Doobie Brothers’ set to open the night included extended versions of numerous hits most in the audience recognized and sang along with.  Without You and Ukiah allowed the band to stretch itself, change pace, and show top musicianship, even though the same players put out these songs 46 years ago … almost as long past as the original Woodstock concert. 

The crowd reacted most strongly to hits China Grove, Black Water and Listen to the Music, a long encore version that included the collective voices of the 16,000+  singing the chorus.  The set list borrowed heavily from earlier hits, which were likely part of the summer radio listening or mix tape of many of the crowd 30, 40, 50 years ago. 


Credit Tom Honan
Ira & Maxine Stone, who played Woodstock with Bert Sommer in 1969, got to perform on the grounds Saturday at Bethel Woods.

Musicians Ira and Maxine Stone, who now perform as Stone Band, got a chance to play at one of the smaller stages Saturday at Bethel Woods. They were part of a group with singer songwriter Bert Sommer back in 1969 and played right before Sweetwater, Arlo Guthrie and Joan Baez.  

Maxine Stone called her return to the site of Woodstock 'Cathartic.'

"It's a very grateful thing because I think that the vibe is tangible. The desire to listen to each other and to be kind, to be changed by being in this experience together is what brought us all together.  50 years ago we were trying to find a version of America. We could wrap our arms around. Sound familiar?"

Ira Stone asserts the history of having played the original holds weight in his musical career, if also met with a little skepticism.

It's certainly easier to get bookings if, if somebody asks you, 'well, what have you done?' 'I played Woodstock.'  Usually they go, 'no, you kidding.' Or then they say, 'who'd you play with?' and I said, 'Bert Sommer,'  and you know, for 30, 40 years, no one knew who that was."

Maxine Stone says a moment that touched her here at Bethel Woods was when a young man has a reaction to their hsitory.

"He said, 'I just want to thank you, your generation because you modeled for us that you can change the world and without you having done that, we wouldn't really have had that path to follow.'  He looked like he was a 20-something, which means (they are) seeking hearts and musical lovers."


Sharon Ferguson drove to the Golden Anniversary weekend of concerts with her daughter from Iowa.

“1027 miles in my little camper.”

She says she was 16, and came with five others just before her senior year in high school was going to start.  She’s camping out this weekend, and seems to remember camping then as well.

“Well, yeah. In the mud.”

Credit Tom Honan
Reminders of the political times were present around the grounds at Bethel Woods, along with a lot of attire celebrating the times.

The return has a bittersweet connection to the time for her.  She’s the only one living out of the group that made the trip in 1969.

“Our three men who drove were all drafted to Vietnam and did not make it.  And the other two girls (who went) did not, they have not survived.”

Despite that sorrow, She remembers most the peaceful feeling and comradery of Woodstock.

‘I just wanted to come home.  I wanted to get back to the garden.  I really did; it was so important.” 

Bethel Woods concludes the Golden Anniversary celebration tonight with a concert featuring John Fogerty, who came as a member of Credence Clearwater Revival.  The performance will also include Grace Potter and The Tedeschi-Trucks Band. 

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.