CSN&Y – Woodstock

The intro and the harmonies are great in this song. One of my favorite CSN&Y songs. This song was written by Joni Mitchell. She did not perform at Woodstock. The fear of missing the Dick Cavett Show is what actually led to Joni Mitchell canceling a scheduled appearance at Woodstock. Her manager David Geffen convinced her that it was more important for her career to do the Cavett Show than it was to appear at Woodstock.

The song was on Déjà Vu that peaked at #1 in 1970. Woodstock peaked at #11 in the Billboard 100 in 1970.

Joni Mitchell: “I was one of the many who were thwarted,” “That was the place every kid wanted to be. I got to the airport with CSN and our agent, David Geffen, and our manager, Elliott, on a Sunday night. It was a catastrophe. I had to do The Dick Cavett Show the following day, and it was Geffen who decided we can’t get Joni out in time. So he took me back to his suite where he lived, and we watched it on TV. I was the deprived kid who couldn’t go, so I wrote it from the point of view of a kid going. If I had been there in the back room with all the egomaniacal crap that goes on backstage, I would not have had that perspective.”

From Songfacts

That Tuesday, Mitchell, David Crosby and Stephen Stills all appeared on The Dick Cavett Show. Crosby has said that he and Stills were talking about the festival, and Mitchell wrote the song based on their experience there. Mitchell, however, claimed that she wrote the song before the band returned.

Joni Mitchell watched coverage of the Woodstock festival from a New York City hotel room. She had given up religion long ago, but found herself going through a “born-again Christian trip” when she wrote this song. Said Mitchell: “Suddenly, as performers, we were in the position of having so many people look to us for leadership, and for some unknown reason, I took it seriously and decided I needed a guide and leaned on God. So I was a little ‘God mad’ at the time, for lack of a better term, and I had been saying to myself, ‘Where are the modern miracles?’ Woodstock, for some reason, impressed me as being a modern miracle, like a modern-day fishes-and-loaves story. For a herd of people that large to cooperate so well, it was pretty remarkable and there was tremendous optimism. So I wrote the song ‘Woodstock’ out of these feelings.”

Joni Mitchell released this the same year on Ladies of the Canyon. It was also the B-side to her song “Big Yellow Taxi.” Her version is much more basic than the CSN&Y release.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s performance at Woodstock was only their second show together. Before forming the band, Crosby had been a member of The Byrds, Nash was with The Hollies, Stills and Young were members of Buffalo Springfield. Neil Young played with the group for only part of the set.

It may seem odd that the most famous song about Woodstock came from someone who wasn’t there, but Mitchell had a different perspective. 

Without Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash returned to play Woodstock ’94. Other acts that played both festivals include Joe Cocker, The Band, and Santana.

Neil Young is not seen in the Woodstock movie even though he was there for part of the set. He strongly disagreed with the idea of the movie, so he declined to appear in it. If he were to play any songs in the movie, he’d have to be cropped out of frame. >>

The opening lyrics are a reference to the book of Matthew in which it says, “Blessed are those who try to make peace for they will be called children of God.”

In the UK the best-known version is the more country-rock flavored recording by Matthews’ Southern Comfort, which topped the British singles and peaked at #23 in the US. Ian Matthews had been the lead singer with Fairport Convention, leaving in 1969 to form Matthews’ Southern Comfort. He recalled in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner & Spencer Leigh: “I had bought Joni Mitchell’s album and we had to do four songs on a BBC lunchtime show. We worked up an arrangement for ‘Woodstock’ and the response was so good that we put it out as a single. Crosby, Stills & Nash’s record had just come out and so we waited to see what happened to that first.” In 1978 Matthews had a #13 hit in the US as a solo artist with “Shake It.”

Joni Mitchell’s no-show at Woodstock was sometimes reported as being caused by “transportation problems.” A persistent rumor was that James Taylor was supposed to give her a lift up the New York Thruway from her hotel in New York City, but Taylor was in a bad motorcycle accident on Martha’s Vineyard, breaking both arms and keeping him out from behind the wheel and away from the guitar for months. That was it for Joni’s trip to Woodstock. 

In September 1969, Stephen Stills was invited to a Jimi Hendrix session at the Record Plant in New York. Stills burst into the session with a song Joni Mitchell had recently composed, titled “Woodstock.” Joined by Hendrix and Buddy Miles, the trio laid down the tune months before Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released their popular rendition. The Hendrix, Stills and Miles version can be heard on Both Sides of the Sky, a 2018 compilation of previously unheard Hendrix material.


Well, I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, Tell me, where are you going
This he told me

Said, I’m going down to Yasgur’s Farm
Gonna join in a rock and roll band
Got to get back to the land and set my soul free

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

Well, then can I roam beside you?
I have come to lose the smog,
And I feel myself a cog in somethin’ turning
And maybe it’s the time of year
Yes and maybe it’s the time of man
And I don’t know who I am
But life is for learning

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

We are stardust, we are golden
We are billion year old carbon
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

By the time we got to Woodstock
We were half a million strong
And everywhere was a song and a celebration
And I dreamed I saw the bomber death planes
Riding shotgun in the sky,
Turning into butterflies
Above our nation

We are stardust, we are golden
We are caught in the devils bargain
And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

21 thoughts on “CSN&Y – Woodstock”

  1. This girl who was two years older than me, invited me to go to Woodstock with her. She had two of her girlfriends with her and she said that she had room for one more person, but I was only 16 and had never been to a concert before, so I declined.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Too bad you didn’t know the significance of the event. I’ve missed some concerts but nothing like that. But I can see being that young and not going

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for the Hendrix info. I had no idea that Hendrix ever covered “Woodstock” let alone with Buddy Miles and Stephen Stills. Of course it was an impromptu jam and the intention was nothing more than that but I’ve just got to hear this.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Good song, I think I like their version better than Joni’s. I knew she missed it because of TV commitment but didn’t know it was Geffen who was her manager.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That was not a good decision though I love the Dick Cavett show. He was the only one to have the counter-culture on.


  4. I’m not CSN&Y fan but, I enjoyed this. I seem to be used to another version, tho. I will have to dig for that.

    The writing is so similar to all the CT material I post:
    We are stardust, we are golden
    We are billion year old carbon
    And we got to get ourselves back to the garden

    Oh, how close to the truth of our existence. Back to the garden…it is a reference to the Garden of Eden…Atlantis.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I never really caught that when I heard it and someone mentioned the spirtual side…Child Of God I always assumed was a hippie….

      Yes I agree it does fit in with the material you post…. The words are eaisier to understand with Joni’s version.


  5. Great post with lots of new info. I knew Joni dated James Taylor and hadn’t heard that his motorcycle accident could have kept her from getting to Woodstock. Wondering what Uncle Neil’s rationale was for being against taping the film and not wanting to be seen in it. The video you chose for this is perfect, it really helps take me back. I wish humans could live like the people in the video, wild and free.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Uncle Neil does exactly what uncle Neil wants…I love the guy but he usually doesnt budge. In 76 him and Stills were on tour with each other and in the middle of the tour…Neil took off and left Stills a note…”Dear Stephen, funny how things that start spontaneously end that way. Eat a peach. Neil.”

      Yea I love that video…Now if you had that festival all you would see would be corporate sponsors and water for 15 bucks.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Uncle Neil could probably be difficult to live with, either at home or in a band with, but sometimes it takes those tough guys to make things happen. Wouldn’t it be kickass to try to put one of these things together WITHOUT corporate intervention?

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes it really would be. They were trying for another Woodstock but changed their minds…it’s cancelled now.
        Keeping corporate out would be the key thing. After they get in…its over with

        Liked by 1 person

  6. One of my fave songs, it really sets a mood. I like both their version and Joni Mitchell’s original.

    Mention of Laurel Canyon, though, always puts me in mind of the John Mayall album, Blues from Laurel Canyon, my favourite tracks from that being Walking on Sunset and The Bear (love, love, love that version of The Bear, just so good!). Have you heard/got that? It’s worth a listen.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. No I haven’t heard a lot of John Mayall…he graduated a lot of guitar players from his band. I’ll take a listen to them today. It’s a good time to listen to music.

      Liked by 1 person

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