I had never performed in front of so many people in my life. I was just thrown into it, and I had my first out-of-body experience. I was terrified, I had to leave. I started walking across that bridge to the stage, and I just left my body, going to a side, higher view. I watched myself walk onto the stage, sit down and sing a couple of lines. And when I felt it was safe, I came back.
It started to rain right before I went on. Ravi Shankar had just finished up his performance, and the announcer said that if you lit candles, it would help to keep the rain away. By the time I finished my set, the whole hillside was a mass of little flickering lights. I guess that’s one of the reasons I came back to my body.
For a year afterward, every time I sang “Candles in the Rain,” the song I wrote about Woodstock, people would start lighting candles. It became so connected with my concerts that my shows were getting banned because fire departments wouldn’t approve them. In fact, they wouldn’t let me do concerts in New Jersey for several years because they said I constituted a music festival, and they didn’t allow festivals in that state.
If you hear people talking about Woodstock today and you weren’t there, it must be like listening to old war stories. It was an amazing experience to be there, to be in that time and live through that group of people who were acknowledging each other, as if we were all in one family. Woodstock was an affirmation that we were part of each other, that there was more to life than doing what your mother and father told you and that certainly we shouldn’t have been involved in the Vietnam War.
A version of this story was originally published in the August 24th, 1989 print edition of Rolling Stone.