Joni Mitchell didn’t go to Woodstock, the music festival that lasted three days and started 50 years ago this week.
But she did write a song about it that was memorably covered by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
“We’ve got to get ourselves/ Back to the garden,” Mitchell said in the chorus of “Woodstock,” implying that going to the festival was almost like returning to paradise, where people can free their souls.
People today can either recall or get a sense of that experience over the next month at The Cabot in Beverly, where a series of programs and events has been curated for fans of all ages.
“Younger people are curious about this stuff, and I think it relates to what they’re dealing with now,” said Casey Soward, executive director of The Cabot. “Fifty years later, what progress have we made? What do we have left?”
Along with a summer’s worth of music, films and a Broadway show commemorating the Woodstock era, the theater has filled its lobby and other public areas with an exhibit of memorabilia from the period, all of which came from the David Bieber Archives.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Bieber was a disc jockey at WBCN, a radio station that served as the voice of the counterculture in Boston.
He worked there with Peter Wolf, lead singer of the J. Geils Band, and eventually went on to serve as creative director of The Boston Phoenix, a leading alternative newspaper.
“He had access to everything, and he kept every single thing that he got, which was amazing,” Soward said.
The exhibit, “Back to the Garden: 1969 and The Woodstock Era,” can be viewed for free on Mondays and Wednesdays between 3 and 5 p.m., through Sept. 18. It will also be open during all shows at The Cabot between now and then.
“Everything that we have here, it represents Woodstock and the Woodstock era, so there’s stuff about the moon landing, there’s stuff about all kinds of stuff that was going on in the time period, because it was a really active time period,” Soward said.
The 1969 moon landing by Apollo 11 is declared in enormous red type by a newspaper from New Brunswick, Canada, which stated “Earthlings on the Moon.”
There are also reminders that all was not well in 1969. Altamont, a famously unpleasant rock concert in California where a man was killed, is represented by several items.
There are also photos and print media accounts capturing the shootings of students at Kent State in Ohio, and Ted Kennedy’s car accident on Martha’s Vineyard, which took the life of Mary Jo Kopechne.
But there are also everyday items such as a carrying case for 45 records that features a psychedelic, checkerboard pattern, which Soward said has drawn a surprising number of reactions from visitors.
“A lot of this is meant to bring out some of the obscure stuff of the era, too,” Soward said.
But the focus is on music, and the exhibit includes album covers from Jimi Hendrix, a copy of Rolling Stone magazine commemorating Hendrix’s death and some sneakers that faithfully re-create a pair that the great guitarist once wore in concert.
Soward said that one of his favorite items is the cover of an album by The Doors that features a photo of lead singer Jim Morrison and was signed by Ray Manzarek, the group’s keyboard player.
“He drew a little mustache and goatee on Jim, like, thanks for screwing up my career with your untimely death,” Soward said.
There is plenty of regional material, such as a calendar of shows for the month of May 1969 from The Boston Tea Party, a legendary rock venue that once occupied space on Lansdowne Street in Boston.
“Look at the lineup,” Soward said. “Jeff Beck. The Who. Joe Cocker. Led Zeppelin.”
Woodstock is represented by a wide range of items, including covers of albums that share complete festival performances by blues great Muddy Waters and another by sitarist Ravi Shankar.
There is also a copy of a contract signed by The Who, in which the band agrees to appear at Woodstock for $12,500.
“I wish we could still pay them that much to play today,” Soward said.
While most of the items on the walls are replicas of original materials in Bieber’s archive, authentic items appear in display cases, and all of them are being changed as new events appear on The Cabot’s stage.
This weekend, for instance, materials related to The Band will appear, in anticipation of a Saturday performance by The Weight. The Weight features guitarist Jim Weider, who played with The Band for 15 years, and the group’s performance will include a re-creation of The Band’s set from Woodstock.
David Crosby kicked off the summer at The Cabot with a show on June 15 that was interrupted by illness, but Soward hopes to bring him back in 2020 to finish the set. The theater is also screening a new documentary about the legendary performer, “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” on Aug. 25 and 26.
“We can guarantee that we will finish the movie,” Soward said.
The celebration of 1969 will finish on Sept. 13 and 14 with “A Night With Janis Joplin,” a theatrical tribute to one of the most powerful singers of the ’60s generation, who gave a searing performance at Woodstock. Joplin is played by actress Mary Bridget Davies, who won a Tony Award for the role.
“This musical played on Broadway, and now, it’s going out on tour, and the first stop of the tour is going to be here in Beverly,” Soward said.
Schedule of events
Through Sept. 18
“Back to the Garden: 1969 and The Woodstock Era,” exhibit from David Bieber Archives. Free to view on Mondays and Wednesdays, 3 to 5 p.m., and while attending shows.
Saturday, Aug. 17
The Weight Band Celebrates Woodstock, 8 p.m. Tickets $29.50 to $49.50.
Sunday, Aug. 25
Screening of “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” 4 and 6:30 p.m. Tickets $9.75 and $11.75.
Monday, Aug. 26
Screening of “David Crosby: Remember My Name,” 4:30 p.m. Tickets $9.75 and $11.75.
Friday, Sept. 13
“A Night With Janis Joplin,” starring Mary Bridget Davies, 8 p.m. Tickets $59.50 to $149.
Saturday, Sept. 14
“A Night With Janis Joplin,” starring Mary Bridget Davies, 3 and 8 p.m. Tickets $59.50 to $149.
All events take place at The Cabot, 286 Cabot St., Beverly. For reservations or more information, visit www.thecabot.org or call 978-927-3100.