Woodstock 1969: High Times
Due to weather-related days and a desire to have the crowd exit in an orderly fashion, Sunday’s show was extended into Monday morning. By the time Jimi Hendrix appeared, most of the attendees were on their way home. Hendrix—wearing jeans, a white leather jacket with heavyduty fringe, and a pinkish red scarf, wrapped around his carefully coiffed Afro—stepped onto the stage and introduced his ensemble, an untested band assembled just weeks before and about to make its first-ever performance.
BILLY COX [Hendrix] got in touch with me and told me he needed my help very desperately. I just dropped everything here in Nashville and I went to New York and we got together. We did some other small jobs down in the Village and some other places. But otherwise we constantly stayed in the recording studio, coming up with ideas for songs.
We found out that there was this festival that was fixing to happen in Woodstock. We just thought it was going to be an ordinary event; we didn’t realize how astronomical it was going to be. We rehearsed in Chopin, New York, which is maybe 15 minutes away. We got together with Larry Lee, a guitar player who was a friend from years gone by, Mitch Mitchell, Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez on congas, and Jimi and myself.
The band played a dozen songs that morning, including “Message to Love,” “Spanish Castle Magic,” “Foxey Lady,” and “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return).” Although the crowd had thinned to about 30,000, according to one estimate, Hendrix played as if the festival was at its peak. In a sense it was, thanks to his incendiary show, which culminated in Woodstock’s high point: his solo performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
COX I remember specifically when he did “The Star-Spangled Banner.” If you listen to the first five or six notes, I’m playing with him, and then I said, “Wait a minute, I better get out of this—we didn’t rehearse this.” And what a performance! What a solo! I’ve never heard another to compete with it. We did not have a set list; we just followed Jimi’s lead. We never rehearsed that at all. I will never forget that, and that will always stay with me and be on my mind.
Three songs later, Hendrix was done, and Woodstock was history, immortalized in not only its albums and film but, more significantly, the empowerment of a generation and the transformation of society.
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