When Memories Become Music

It is interesting how one moment in time can have a totally different affect on an individual, as reactions and circumstances can change from person to person. Living through a profound event such as Kent State in 1970, or the tent village at Woodstock West can transform a young student into someone out to change the world. Dealing with these events is also something that changes depending on personality and thoughts. One man who witnessed Woodstock West dealt with his memories in a very unique and creative way-by writing a song.

Ray Smith was one of the first people to contact the Woodstock West: Build Not Burn filmmaking team, and eagerly gave us a recap of the way he experienced the peaceful protest back in 1970.

As a young Canadian, Smith was not affected by the draft as most nineteen-year-old American men were at this time. After completing his first year of college, Smith and his friends jumped in his 1962 Acadian, and headed for California in search of adventure. Smith didn't make it to California. Instead, after running into car trouble, he and his friends ended up in Denver, Colorado. The date was May 8, 1970.

After spending the evening chatting with demonstrators and viewing the new Beatles' film, Let It Be, Smith and his friends decided to stick around and observe the march in protest of Nixon and the Vietnam War set for downtown Denver the following morning. After following the protestors to the Capitol, Smith listened to numerous speeches urging both peaceful and violent protests. One of the final speeches was made by a DU student who explained Woodstock West - an ongoing demonstration against the events that had occurred the previous week at Kent State. The student also mentioned that the encampment would be offering free food, music, accommodations and drugs. Smith and his friends were sold, so on the afternoon of May 9, they headed south to the University of Denver campus.

The group arrived at Woodstock West and found it buzzing with conversation and still under construction. They listened to speeches from numerous campus leaders and they viewed others protesting the existence of the encampment. There were people of all ages discussing the peaceful protest, and trucks delivering shipments of food to the communal tent kitchen. That evening, as his friends decided to continue their road trip and head south for Mexico, Smith decided to stay and observe how the tent city progressed.

Smith returned to the site the following day and, to the soundtrack of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's song "Woodstock," blaring from one of the nearby fraternities, he fell into conversation both with peaceful protesters discussing the predicament in which the US found itself and with Vietnam veterans who had war stories to share. He stuck around campus until the evening, when Zephyr, a band based out of Boulder, CO visited the encampment and played a show for the protestors. This music really stuck with Smith, and when reminiscing about the sites and sounds of Woostock West, he found the best way to deal with his memories was with music as well, so he wrote a song.

Woodstock West and his presence as students rebuilt the tent city after the police arrived to tear down the encampment, made a huge impact on Smith and his self image as he felt himself transform into a pacifist.

A few months ago, Ray sent us the first draft of a song that he wrote. He continues to fine tune this creative and poignant expression of what Woodstock West represented. We believe the lyrics (see below) and the passion behind this song will genuinely touch those with memories of Woodstock West.

**To listen to Ray's song, please check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/woodstockwest**



Build Not Burn.....Ray Smith

Nixon is lying...don't know the truth

He's sending the bombers...He's shooting our youth

Campus's burning...students ally

The times they are changing....it's time to ask why

We need a leader...we need a plan

We need conviction....to face the man

Our friends are dying....now it's our turn

Then there's a voice....we'll build not burn

Was on the campus....of stately DU

The springtime of 70....the hope of a few

This higher place....from which we learn

Where we made the choice...we'll build and not burn


We're born of bloodshed...we're born of lies

We call ourselves Woodstock... can't compromise

Our brothers are buried...and now its our turn

A lifelong decision, to build not burn.

build not burn......build not burn

Tents are erected...communities planned

We're sharing our stories...we're taking a stand

Officers come... they bulldoze our town

They can't stay forever...they can't keep us down.

And now they're leaving....now we can build

Our friends come join us...our mission fulfilled

We party till dawn...to the songs of a band

The music of Zephyr...the smoke of this land

On the horizon...helmets and guns

Orders to shoot...shoot at your sons

Our lives in peril...our town's under siege

Soldiers are coming...do we stay or leave?


The soldiers surround us...they've taken our place

But I know they're wary...there's shame on their face

I know they'd join us...but they remain stern

I know they'd join us...to build and not burn

It's forty years later...and so much has changed

Our stories are heard now... they will be exchanged

We have so many more freedoms...we had not before

We called ourselves Woodstock...we challenged a war