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Dallasite Richard Harris recalls 1969 Woodstock

Posted on 22 August 2019 by admin

Photo: Mark Goff – Wiki Commons
Richard Harris joined Swami Satchidananda when he welcomed the Woodstock audience with peace and prayer. (Harris is fifth from the right in white.)
Labor Day weekend festival the spot to reminisce

By Shari Stern
Nostalgic Texans eager to dig up their tie-dye T-shirts and flower crowns can enjoy some of the original greats at the Texas International Pop Festival on Labor Day weekend. The festival, set for Saturday, Aug. 31, through Sunday, Sept. 1, at Lake Park Golf Course in Lewisville, welcomes back artists like Chicago, ZZ Top, Grand Funk and Edgar Winter.
The festival may not be Woodstock, but Dallas resident Richard Harris believes it will still bring back the same savor of the storied festival he relished at 17 years old in 1969.
Harris, a recent graduate of the High School of Music and Art in New York, was studying yoga with famous 1960s guru, Swami Satchidananda. Swami’s highly-regarded work for the Integral Yoga Institute earned him an invite to the Woodstock Festival, where he would open with a blessing of peace to the 400,000-person crowd gathered in Bethel, New York.
But blocked roads delayed Swami’s arrival, and some of the performers were unable to get to the site.
As time wore on, Harris remembers that festival promoters encouraged musicians to start playing. Richie Havens, slated as the fifth act, went first.
“After playing everything he knew, he started improvising with his now-famous song, ‘Freedom,’” Harris said. “When he was finished, the Swami had arrived by helicopter.”
Then, Harris, along with his 25 fellow yogis, went onstage with the Swami and became a part of history.
Gazing at the crowd from the stage was a unique opportunity for Harris. He chatted with Havens, while miles of traffic and pedestrians headed toward the grounds, where they had, at one point, stomped over the fence, tearing it down so there were no longer tickets necessary to get in.
“It was like two different events: There was the concert and there was Woodstock Nation,” Harris said.
Friends, families and kids formed ‘tribes’ that set up camp on the grounds near each other.
“I was able to soak in the entire experience, and not just the music,” Harris said. “That’s what made it special. It was living together with people you just met and forming bonds.”
Harris chronicled his experience. “[Woodstock] was a cultural touchstone,” he wrote. “Half a million young people were there, they lived in peace for three days without any visible form of security. They cooperated to share food and shelter.”
The baby boomer still gets emotional when he says, “Woodstock was the epitome of the ’60s, and expressed true values. It was about acceptance and diversity, freedom to express yourself and be yourself in an honest way with music as an integral part.”
Now, Harris will have the opportunity to enjoy some of the same music when Texas celebrates the 50th reunion of the Texas International Pop Festival, featuring some of the same music he heard 50 years ago.
“When I was onstage, I knew that this was going to be one of the most momentous and historical events of the ’60s,” Harris said. “I will never forget it.”

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