“The Rather Magnificent” Bert Sommer
~ Woodstock’s Lost Treasure

“The rather magnificent Mr. Bert Somers [sic] …”

Woodstock announcer John Morris never did get Bert’s name right, before or after the perfectly delivered ten-song set. Misspelled on the performer list, the slight repeated like a skip on a record, a foreshadowing of omission and neglect of acknowledgment yet to come.

No irony was intended. The unknown troubadour was included due to the fact that the producer of his first record was Artie Kornfeld—part of the four founding fathers of what would become known as Woodstock Nation. Maybe the introduction was spawned from surprise. This was Bert’s first live gig.

The reaction of the crowd (300,000 and counting) on that early Friday evening of August 15, 1969, along with hindsight, proves that Bert Sommer also deserved to be there. And now, on the cusp of the 55th anniversary of Woodstock, he deserves to be remembered—and to be part of the historical record of Woodstock.

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming book on Bert Sommer—his music, life, and times. Here I focus primarily on Woodstock, but as my research bears out, Bert led a vivid and musically productive life both in the years before and following that iconic weekend. He made an impact on everyone whose path he crossed, and many have shared their stories with me. What occurred—or didn’t—immediately following Woodstock determined so much of his life trajectory.

Bert Sommer never gave up. As long as he could sing in front of an audience—be it 3 or 300,000—he urged us to “Just smile!” 

And so we do, as we listen to his timeless music today.

 — Sharon Watts 2024

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Candace Mann says:


I got my copy of Sharon Watts's book in the middle of a fabric-cutting, new quilt day, so it waited for today's bagel and coffee breakfast to absolutely wow me. Who would have thought a clever artsy reminder of the Woodstock music festival would be a *page-turner*? Not me, for sure, but, boy, was I wrong.

Mr. Forte got up from the table, cleared the dishes, gave me a quizzical glance (I'm always first outta there) and headed upstairs. Thirty minutes later, I read the last Peace Out, closed it up and shook my head at the whole wondrous ride.

The art is exquisite, each page a perfect reminder of what we looked like and loved and dreamed about, the crazy fashions and hairstyles and history, how it felt - and still feels - to have been there then (in the era if not in Bethel) and to be here now. Totally immersive, this little glossy book, as intriguing as a murder mystery - I was hooked. The glossary is the perfect wrap ending, full of I Didn't Know That moments.

You can get it here:…/by-the-time-i-got-to-woodstock…

You don't wanna miss the experience, as they say.

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