Time to Write Now By Julaina Kleist-Corwin

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Chaos at Altamont Free Concert on December 4, 1969

Altamont newspaperDo you remember The Altamont Free Music Festival on December 4, 1969?  Were you there?

Since Woodstock Music and Art Fair in August 1969 was peaceful and a huge success, venue organizers expected the same results for the Altamont free music festival. However, the team of producers for Woodstock spent months in preparation whereas planning  for Altamont was improvised with last minuted decisions. The Rolling Stones  wanted to end their U.S. 1969 tour with a concert on the west coast as an equivalent of  the eastern Woodstock. The site location they selected was in the rolling hills on the Altamont Speedway 60 miles east of San Francisco.

The Hells Angeles acted as an informal security staff. Singer Marty Balin from the Jefferson Airplane group was knocked unconscious by one of the Hells Angels. Then 21-year-old Alan Passaro, another Hells Angel, stabbed 18-year-old Meredith Hunter to death in front of the stage  where Mick Jagger sang “Under My Thumb.” Since Hunter had a gun, Passaro was acquitted in self-defense. The Grateful Dead were next to perform, but they left the event in fear of their safety during the developing chaos. By the end of the day, three accidental deaths had occurred.

Luckily, I had left the concert before the chaos began. However, my friend who lived in the Oakland downstairs flat from me, met some new friends and wanted to stay saying they would give her a ride home. I didn’t like the idea of leaving her there, but she’s very strong minded. The next day I found out that she had been hit by a slow moving car while she laid on a blanket. The driver wanted to leave during the violence and didn’t see her. She spent a several days at the hospital for head injuries but survived without any memory of the  mayhem that had gone on around her


The last few day, some writer friends and I talked about memories. Tonight, I read the summary about Altamont on www.History.com December 4th highlights. The experience I had on that historical day in 1969 is a short story I want to write.


  1. Since I never cared much for the Rolling Stones I only thought about going but didn’t think it would be worth it. After I heard about what went on I was glad I didn’t go.

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