Setting one’s soul free

Posted 8/3/22

Another anniversary of the legendary Woodstock Music and Art Fair is on the horizon.

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Setting one’s soul free


Another anniversary of the legendary Woodstock Music and Art Fair is on the horizon. 

The fair was held August 15 to 18, 1969, on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, NY. This commemoration brings to mind the luminous song by Joni Mitchell that would become the anthem capturing the spirit of the Woodstock festival. 

“I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm/I’m going to join in a rock ‘n’ roll band/I’m going to camp out on the land/I’m going to try an’ get my soul free.”

Ironically, the iconic singer-songwriter who wrote “Woodstock” never made it to Sullivan County for that festival. Trapped by transportation “hassles” and a commitment to a television show, Mitchell watched the festival from her New York City hotel room. Even so, she channeled the vibe that forever emanates from the historic event.

The best singer-songwriters are masters of such captures—finding the exact words to weave with the precise pattern of notes, brought together by some essence of the heart to tell a story with profound and perfect simplicity. 

Mitchell is one of those masters. 

“We are stardust/We are golden/And we’ve got to get ourselves/Back to the garden.”

Despite suffering a brain aneurysm in 2015 and overcoming other serious health concerns, Mitchell made it back to another iconic music festival—the Newport Folk Festival—on July 24, 2022, returning to the stage she last performed on in 1969. In a surprise appearance fostered by singer-songwriter, Brandi Carlile, the 78-year-old Mitchell brought the audience to tears as an intense energy of deep emotion swept through the crowd. 

I had the privilege to be among the concertgoers in Fort Adams State Park in Rhode Island that day. In one of those miraculous moments that sometimes occur in the natural world, the brutally hot weather that had plagued the festival began to shift as a gusting fog moved across the surrounding sea, reducing the sun’s glare to a softened glow that set the stage for the magical experience that ensued. It felt like having one’s soul set free with the help of a beloved friend.

For more on the Newport Folk Festival, read NPR’s account of the experience at www.npr.org/2022/07/25/1113351769/joni-mitchell-brandi-carlile-newport-folk-festival-2022 ). 

Lyrics source: jonimitchell.com/music/song.cfm?id=75

woodstock, music, art, joni mitchell


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