Jim Thompson
Jim Thompson
By Jim Thompson
HCP columnist

Woodstock took place Aug. 15-18, 1969. A bit less than a month earlier, Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. The Vietnam War was roaring, despite President Nixon’s campaign promises.

PFC Mark Hook of Hillsboro had already been dead nearly a year. The last major race riot of the 1960s took place in York, Pa. that summer, triggered by the shooting of a youth by an unknown assailant on July 17. A rookie police officer lost his life in those riots.

I wasn’t at any of those events. The best I can figure, that week I was helping Charlie Flannery cut silage on his farm on McCoppin Mill Road in Marshall Township. I do remember I thought I was in love, having met a young lady that summer at the University of Cincinnati (we had seen “Goodbye Columbus” on a date at the Times Theatre in downtown Cincinnati).

By Christmas, she was out of my life. It's hard to keep up a long-distance romance when you don’t have a car, income and are going to school full time (she lived near Akron).

I had come to Charlie and Gloria Flannery’s place to get away from school and the big city. Came to town on Greyhound, which had a bus stop at the Parker Hotel.

I still get away from the big city today, but now I go to Sugar Tree Ridge. My friends there like me to come by bus, too, the “Go” Bus that runs from Cincinnati to Athens and stops at Seaman in Adams County. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The word had not gotten out about Woodstock yet…if anyone in the Midwest knew anything about it, all they knew was that some sort of music festival was taking place in upstate New York.

Many musicians were at Woodstock. Richie Havens, Sweetwater, Bert Sommer, Ravi Shankar, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Santana, Canned Heat, The Grateful Dead, Credence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and many more.

He died in London when he was 27. He had been born in Seattle in 1942. He enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1961. He had African-American, Irish and Cherokee ancestors, but no one cared about that. At the time of his birth, his father was in the military stationed in Alabama. Denied what, at the time, was standard military furlough given to soldiers at the of the birth of a child, his father was placed in the stockade by his commanding officer to prevent him from going AWOL. His father spent two months locked up without a trial.

Receiving an honorable discharge in 1945, his dad returned to Seattle, where life was impoverished and tough for the family. His band was scheduled to be the last band on Sunday, Aug. 18th, at Woodstock. However, due to delays, they did not play until Monday morning. There were 19 songs in his set, and number 15 was "The Star-Spangled Banner."

His name was Jimi Hendrix.

And his performance (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TKAwPA14Ni4) of "The Star-Spangled Banner" (since called by pundits various names – from a protest to a beautiful rendition) had the crowd on their feet, no protests, no backs turned to the stage, nothing but acclamation no matter how they personally interpreted it.

I hope you have a happy and respectful 4th of July – the birthday of the greatest country ever to grace the face of the Earth.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press. He may be reached at jthompson@taii.com.