“By the time we got to Woodstock, we were half-a-million strong.” Woodstock, music and lyrics by Joni Mitchell, recorded by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

 

 

The countdown has begun, with less than a year until Woodstock turns 50. Like Watergate a few years later, Woodstock occupies that rarefied world of one-word names that conjure up not just a place or an event, but a cultural watershed. Although Woodstock was not the first music festival of the Summer of Love era, it’s the one that dominates the collective memories of an entire generation, many of whom claim to have wallowed in the mud with the 500,000 souls who actually slogged their way to Yasgur’s farm to hear some of the leading rock, folk, soul, and blues acts of the day. Hendrix electrified with his searing “Star Spangled Banner,” Richie Havens strummed fervently for “Freedom,” Canned Heat celebrated the simple pleasure of “Going Up the Country,” while Country Joe and his Fish echoed the nation’s  angst with their sardonic “Fixin’ to Die Rag” (“And it’s one, two, three, what are we fighting for?) All this and more was immortalized in an Oscar® winning documentary that cemented Woodstock as the defining music festival for generations of concert goers.

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“Puff the magic dragon lived by the sea and frolicked in the Autumn mist in a land called Honolee.” Puff The Magic Dragon by Peter, Paul, and Mary

I love satellite radio, although I was late to the party. I resisted taking the plunge, figuring that the programmers at XM/Sirius couldn’t approach, much less duplicate, the eclectic, genre-bending variety provided by my favorite terrestrial station, WXPN in Philadelphia (which I enjoy in D.C. courtesy of the Internet). But when my trusty car expired, I replaced it with a new model that came with a free trial subscription to Sirius/XM. I took me less than the ride home from the dealership to be hooked. Sure, each station might play a limited range of music–but the sheer variety of music across the Sirius/XM spectrum is mind-blowing, not to mention all the news, sports, comedy, and last but not least, Howard Stern. On any given commute, I can be serenaded by old stalwarts like Crosby, Stills, and Nash and Neil Young, their modern-day progeny such as Dawes, Fleet Foxes, and Deer Tick, old-school and Outlaw country from Willie, Waylon, Merle, and McMurtry, and, of course, Elvis, Sinatra, The Boss, The Dead, and Pearl Jam, all of whom have channels devoted to them.

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“Don’t Want to Die in a Super Eight.” “Super 8″ by Jason Isbell

Like me, you’ve probably driven by hundreds of Super 8 motels in your lifetime. Travelling up I-95 for hours on rides to Jersey and New York or on longer hauls southward to the Carolinas, Georgia, and down the endless Florida coast, the rectangular sign with big red 8, black “Super,” and bright yellow background is hard to ignore, even as it blends in with the melange of fast food oases and other budget-conscious lodges that dot the interchanges and byways of our endless ribbons of highway.

Full disclosure–I’ve never stayed at a Super 8 Motel. Never given the place much thought, really. Not because I’m some kind of snob when it comes to accommodations. Sure, I enjoy a swanky room at a Ritz Carlton or Monaco hotel. But I’m equally at home at a Motel 6, where Tom Bodett leaves the light on for us, or at a Holiday Inn, my parent’s motel of choice for our occasional family junkets. I’ve even stayed at a few La Quinta’s, which one of my musician friends, (who’s seen the inside of many a motel), insists means “next to Denny’s.” Somehow, however, my travelling stars and terrestrial GPS never aligned to guide me into the parking lot of a Super 8.

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