Is it family stuff? Do today’s kids and 20- and 30-somethings care that much about these long-gone rock icons? Apparently, from the crowds that the exhibit has drawn to date, as well as continuing record sales (and countless biographies, written and filmed) regarding the great trio, the answer’s a resounding “Yes” – which then leads to the next question: What’s to be gained by such memorializing? Is the key creative, a study of some Golden Age of Dionysian pop culture, or are there moral lessons herein? Or just entertaining curiosity?
All three – at the height of their careers, at the age of 27 – died within a year of each other, during the same time period when the My Lai and Manson Family trials were underway, cigarette ads were finally banned from television, kidnappings and hijackings became de rigueur political action around the world, Bangladesh became a nation, the Pentagon Papers were released and the tide officially turned against the Vietnam War. Hendrix passed away first, on September 18, 1970, followed by Janis Joplin on October 4, and then Morrison, in a bathtub in Paris, on July 3, 1971.
In its attempt to “explore how these artists became icons, where they took music and why their art still resonates,” “Strange Kozmic Experience” brings together a host of photos and video- and audio-archived concerts and interviews, plus such treasures as Joplin’s custom-painted 1965 Porsche 356c Cabriolet, Morrison’s poetry books, handwritten lyrics and letters, wardrobe pieces (showing, as always, how petite these people were in real life), original paintings and musical instruments, plus loads of telling 1960s ticket stubs, concert posters and fan memorabilia, as well as the Bethel Woods Museum’s usual displays putting the entire time into context.
“We are excited about this collaboration with the Grammy Museum at LA Live,” said Bethel Woods Museum director Wade Lawrence. “The musical styles of these artists are timeless and triumphant and are a testimony to 1960s rock and its enduring power to stir our senses, electrify our souls and celebrate personal expression.”
Special events tied into the current exhibit include a talk by Bob Santelli, CEO of the Grammy Museum, on the creative explosion of music in the 1960s on Friday, July 15 at 4 p.m.; screenings of The Rose, starring Bette Midler in a role inspired by Janis Joplin, on Thursday, August 11 and Jimi Hendrix, a 1973 documentary, on Saturday, August 13; and a live “multimedia journey” with noted deejay Dennis Elsas, also on Saturday, August 13. Family Day, this coming Sunday, July 17, is designed to engage kids aged 5 to 12 with instrument-making activities, design an album cover, fun music-playing and dance workshops that explore the moves and grooves of the 1960s plus a family-friendly scavenger hunt.
For more information on Bethel Woods – located in Sullivan County about an hour-and-a-half from that other Woodstock and open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., visit www.BethelWoodsCenter.org.