(The following is an excerpt from a story written by Timothy Dumas that appeared…

Written by on August 17, 2018


(The following is an excerpt from a story written by Timothy Dumas that appeared in the Smithsonian Magazine in 2009 about the famous Burk Uzzle photo):

“On August 15, 1969, Nick Ercoline was tending Dino’s bar in Middletown, New York, while his girlfriend of ten weeks, Bobbi Kelly, sat on a stool, sipping nickel draft beer and listening to the news on the radio. In the past 30 days, Senator Ted Kennedy had driven off a bridge at Chappaquiddick Island, the Apollo 11 astronauts had planted a flag on the moon and the Charles Manson family had murdered eight Californians, including actress Sharon Tate, in Los Angeles. In the soft green hills of Catskills dairy country, such events seemed worlds away.

That Friday night, however, waves of American youths were surging toward Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York, 40 miles up the road, for three days of something called the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. A hush fell over Dino’s as newscasters told of epic traffic jams and crowd estimates rising to 500,000. When they heard a rumor (false, it turned out) that a glut of cars had shut down the New York State Thruway, the 20-year-old sweethearts could no longer resist. “We just got to thinking, we were never going to see anything like this the rest of our lives, ever,” Nick says.

Earlier that same day, photographer Burk Uzzle, a Life magazine alumnus and a member of the elite Magnum photo agency, had driven upstate from Manhattan with his wife and two young sons to camp on the trout-filled Neversink River. Uzzle had declined an invitation from Newsweek to cover Woodstock, thinking he would just duck in and shoot it his way instead, then retreat to his campsite. “I really don’t like to work on assignment, to tell you the truth,” he says. “Because then I’m obligated to do what editors want me to do, and that’s usually the wrong thing.”

As Uzzle walked amid Woodstock’s many potential disasters—rain, drugs, food and water shortages—he felt something of an Aquarian spirit in the air. “I’d say to my colleagues down by the stage, ‘Hey, you guys, it’s incredible out there. The girls are taking their clothes off. The guys, too. It’s really beautiful,’ ” he recalls. “And they’d tell me, ‘No, no, no, the editor wants me to stay here and get Ravi Shankar.’ ”

Early Sunday morning (Aug. 17), Uzzle, happily stuck at Woodstock, left his makeshift tent with two Leicas strapped round his neck. “Gracie Slick of Jefferson Airplane was singing, bringing up the dawn,” he remembers. “And just magically this couple stood up and hugged.” They kissed, smiled at each other, and the woman leaned her head on the man’s shoulder. “I just had time to get off a few frames of black and white and a few of color, then the light was over and the mood was over,” Uzzle says of what would become his best-known photograph. His subjects never noticed.”

The couple in the picture were Nick and Bobbi. 49 years later, they are still together.

The moon, the stars and the planets all aligned that weekend on so many levels. Within a few months, the 60’s were finished.




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