“Well, I stand up next to a mountain, and I chop it down with the edge of my hand…”

by Katie Pizzuto on September 3, 2008

in introduction,Uncategorized

Monday morning, August 18, 1969. Woodstock Music Festival, Bethel, New York. A mud-caked audience that peaked at over 400,000 people dwindles to 30,000 tops, many just hoping to catch an earful of Jimi Hendrix before heading home. Cold, wet and tired, they wait for Hendrix and his band to take the stage. Jimi had originally been booked to close the festival on Sunday night, but schedules had, by this time, gone the way of the fences. When he finally does take the stage with his new band, he launches into an unprecedented 2-hour set, and tarries through the handicaps of technical problems and ill-rehearsed bandmates that fail to keep up with him. As they finish up Voodoo Child, Jimi lays a pick alongside the strings of his upside-down Stratocaster, and for about 4 minutes Yasgur’s Farm listens quietly, unaware that it is witnessing a pivotal, historic moment in music.

Jimi’s entire set was, of course, one that knocked you to your knees in reverence, but what came out of that Fender during the Star Spangled Banner was incomparable genius. The anthem melody itself was treated respectfully and played rather straight forward, which made it the perfect juxtaposition to the loud simulated sounds of machine guns, bombs and screams. Its complexity served to mirror the perpetual state of tension that this country lived in. Jimi claims that his solo improvisation of our nation’s anthem that day was never intended to be a political statement. And anyhow, to define it strictly as an anti-war protest would be to limit its scope. This wasn’t Kumbaya with an acoustic-strumming hippie and a splash of patchouli. It was a generation’s electric voice about American unrest—both beautiful and tragic. It was an evocation of the chaos of the times; a marriage of the apocalypse and the rebirth. It was a wake-up call to those who weren’t yet paying attention to the quagmire in Vietnam. It was the equivalent of 30,000 “fuck you”s to the status quo, and its resonance is still heard and felt today.

Hendrix wasn’t the first to reinterpret the anthem, but being a harbinger of change isn’t necessarily about being first. Jimi was able to perform the song in a way that forced you to stop singing and listen. He asked you to reconsider it. And once you get folks to shut their mouths and hone their ears a lot can happen. Sometimes what happens is great, and sometimes it ain’t. Sometimes the harbinger is lauded and revered, and sometimes he goes down in a hail of bullets.

It’s never comfortable or free of conflict, and it’s certainly not always forward motion, but that’s the organic nature of change. I return repeatedly to music because it follows the same creative process of cooking and making wine—it’s the opening of an artist’s vein. Food and wine has its own set of mavericks, heretics, pioneers and renegades—and for better or worse, this is their sandbox.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Alexander September 3, 2008

“If you can just get your mind together
Uh-then come on across to me
Well hold hands and then well watch the sunrise from the bottom of the sea
But first, are you experienced?
Uh-have you ever been experienced-uh?
Well, I have……”

– I still remember the first time I ever heard his guitar………..drove me crazy!

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2 Jeff September 3, 2008

No – change isn’t always pretty or easy. No – a wake-up call isn’t always soothing. And the more closed-off and uninformed the masses are, the more difficult that change will be. We can only hope that a growing number of minds and souls will be opened as time passes – so that the inevitable changes ahead of us can be as positive and pain-free as poissible.

A brilliant piece, Katie!

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3 Anthony September 11, 2008

Wow what a great piece Jeff

Loved it.
Katie totally agree that change with the wine and food process is a must and maybe should be rendered sooooooon. we need someone to say what the fuck and just do it.
Maybe ill be that one person LOL

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