In Search of Peace, Love and Rock n’ Roll

Woodstock photoWhere were you between August 15-18, 1969?

I was ten and living in Poughkeepsie, NY. Not far from the three-day event known world-wide as “Woodstock.” The music and message of peace and love from the concert has always stayed with me. In fact my XM radio stays on a station playing only classic rock. On a visit to Bethel Woods last year I even had a chance to stand on the hallowed concert grounds. To say it was awesome would be an understatement.

Since I love everything Woodstock, I’m thrilled to share with you my interview with fellow Blue Ridge Literary author Michael Murphy. Goodbye Emily cover June - CopyHis novel, GOODBYE EMILY, centers on three baby boomers who relive their 1969 trip to Woodstock.

This road trip is more than a vacation. It’s a chance for sixty-year-old Walt “Sparky” Ellington to regain his deteriorating health. The loss of both Emily and his job as a professor has turned him into a bitter man. Closure over losing the love of his life is a step towards better health, the reason he decides to scatter her ashes at the place where they met…Woodstock. To recreate the original trip, he brings his friend, Buck, whose scars from serving in Vietnam rest a layer beneath his surface and Josh, who has been living in a nursing home due to the onset of early Alzheimer’s.

Michael deals with the sensitive topics of aging with insight, humor and a lineup of memorable characters.

Thank you, Michael for joining me. What gave you the idea for this story?

So much has been written over the years about Woodstock’s great performances, but little about what led nearly half a million to come for all over and endure the rain and mud and stay for the music. The famous cover photo for the album and documentary of a couple wrapped in a blanket particularly inspired me. They met at Woodstock and eventually married, like Sparky and Emily.

As I get older, it seems life takes on clarity that can only come from experience. Do any of the characters in Goodbye Emily find that to be true?

The road trip the three men take is also metaphorically a journey of self-discovery. In Young Adult novels, characters come of age. In Goodbye Emily, they come to a similar, though belated, self-discovery, so that at the end, they’re looking forward to life’s challenges.

What message would you like readers to take away from Goodbye Emily?

That growing older doesn’t mean we have to grow old. By that I mean we don’t want to become the grumpy “get off my lawn” kind of person. We should laugh and love no matter what no matter what our age.

Were you at Woodstock?

I was not at Woodstock, but as a west coast guy (Arizona) I went to the Monterey Pop Festival after graduating high school in 1968.

You’ve also been blogging about Woodstock. Have you learned anything new about Woodstock that you didn’t know before?

Plenty, like Jimi wasn’t Jimi Hendrix’s real name. His manager gave him that name in 1965. He was born Johnny Allen Hendrix. And Oscar-winning director Martin Scorsese got his start as a film editor working on the 1970 documentary Woodstock. Lots more on the blog,

What will appeal to baby boomers the most about Goodbye Emily?

Baby boomers love that I’ve portrayed people in their sixties as funny, smart, driven, still idealistic and optimistic about the future. It’s how we are, after all.

Who’s your favorite group that performed at Woodstock?

There are so many and I have even greater respect for them than I did before I wrote the novel. My favorite group has become Country Joe (and the Fish) because I’ve gotten to know him over the past year, after he read Goodbye Emily and raved about it. He still performs, is active and his next door neighbor is Wavy Gravy.

Michael, thanks for joining me today. I loved your book and wish you much success! Anybody care to share about Woodstock, rock n’ roll or how visiting the past helped them move forward?

WANT TO RELIVE WOODSTOCK? Check out this video…With a Little Help From My Friends-Images from Woodstock.



17 responses to “In Search of Peace, Love and Rock n’ Roll

  1. I was in Cold Spring, NY down the Hudson River a few miles from Poughkeepsie and I was 8 yrs old 🙂 Great interview, Sharon and Michael. Love the premise of the book and great cover, too! Best of luck.

  2. Growing older doesn’t mean we have to get old. I love you, Michael, for saying that. I tell my kids that all the time because I’m a Woodstock generation person and my kids, 14 and 18, see me “not growing old” as the years go by. I ride my horse, ride my bike every day, do yoga, meditate, yell and scream at their games, and am very active. Being in your 60’s is the new being your 40’s!!!!

  3. I’m most proud of writing a novel with three baby boomers in the lead and portraying them in how I see boomers, funny and enjoying life, inspite of challenges. Don’t think we’ve changed much at all.

    • Michael,
      Years ago, my aunt said to me that even though she was older (60 at the time) she still saw herself as being thirty. Now that I’m over fifty, I get it. My mind and soul do not match my chronological age. (body is another story).

  4. Fun interview, Sharon! Thinking of Woodstock fills my mind with vivid ideals and images; freedom, speaking your mind, dancing crowds, love, happy faces, plus the amazing clothing choices. I also am sucker for the journey. Goodbye Emily sounds like a book for me.

  5. Forgot to mention you can read what others have said about Goodbye Emily at

  6. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and have been recommending it to everyone I know — not just Baby Boomers, but their children as well. I connected with the characters, and their stories kept me turning pages (actually, clicking forward on my Kindle!) I’m delighted that this sub-genre of books about Boomers is doing so well. After all, we’re the largest demographic in the reading population.
    Good work, Michael.

    • Good point, Sandra. Any age group could enjoy this story. I enjoyed reading about people closer to my age. So often I pick up books about twenty or thirty year olds…not that I don’t still feel that way…but the maturity and wisdom that comes with age does make for good fiction. Thanks for posting.

  7. What a wonderful book this was. I just finished it yesterday, so I was delighted to see the interview with Michael today. Recently I read an article on aging, and the author stated that whenever someone gripes about an issue related to age, she thinks to herself, “That doesn’t apply to me.” She got that attitude from her 84 year old mother who took a trip to the base of Mt. Everest last year and who is planning a road trip this upcoming summer with her 87 year old best friend. Ah, the power of positive thinking!

  8. I was too young to attend Woodstock, although it would have been right up my alley if I had been the right age at the time. Like you, Sharon, I’m a classic rock kind of gal. Michael, the book sounds terrific and I look forward to reading it. Best of luck!!

  9. Have really enjoyed the discussion. Good for your mom, Linda. Mine will be 89 in April, lives in the same house I grew up in and drives, though when I hear about it, I try to stay off the streets.

  10. It’s in my TBR list. Michael is a very nice man and I’m sure his book is great. Thanks for the interview. Cher’ley

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