50 Years Later: Joplin man remembers his time at Woodstock


“50 years ago today we were getting ready to leave,” explained John Jensen of Joplin.

At 20 years old, Jensen couldn’t have imagined what the August of ’69 would hold.

“A buddy of mine… his dad had a Wolkswagen minibus. And he took us up the day before,” Jensen added.

Headed to a dairy farm in Bethel, New York for three days of peace and music.

“We didn’t have anything with us. I do remember having a bottle of wine, but…” Jensen laughed.

He was one of nearly half-a-million people who’d bought a $6 ticket to the Woodstock music festival.

“By this time it was getting pretty crowded,” Jensen continued. “I mean literally, shoulder-to-shoulder people.”

The 72+ hours of rock’n’roll was more like a spiritual experience for him.

“I remember when Sly and the Family Stone came on,” explained Jensen. “If you can imagine how people will hold up a candle or a lighter or something like that? Can you imagine 500,000 people doing that? It was really amazing.”
Though it wasn’t all glamorous — with scorching temperatures.

“It was just so hot.”

Mixed with spouts of rain.

“I was covered in mud from head to toe.”

But, Jensen says the conditions were irrelevant when it came to the music and the people.

“Everybody was just absolutely wonderful. Everybody helped each other in any way they could. There was no hatred anywhere.”

That feeling stayed with Jensen — leaving Woodstock a changed young man.

“I was involved in the anti-war movement about that time as well,” said Jensen. “I guess you could have considered me a hippie back then, in fact probably still some hippie in me.”

Now at 70 years old, he can still summon that part of himself, like while standing in Landreth Park in Joplin…

“By looking around, this is almost like a natural amphitheater which is the way Woodstock was setup. The stage was setup kind of just like the way this is here.”

…Or, hitting a local karaoke bar.

“I still love music today. I sing Woodstock songs when I’m doing the karaoke,” Jensen chuckled.

Still re-living memories that he cherishes more and more as the decades pass.

“Looking back on it, it was absolutely worth it. It was a part of history, and I became a part of that history,” Jensen explained. “And that was just amazing.”

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