| David Bowie with wife Iman in New York. (Reuters)
It is 34 years since they flocked to Woodstock for three days of mud, peace and rock and roll. The town had been an artists’ colony for a century but the Woodstock festival of 1969, held on a dairy farm in upper state New York, came to symbolise a new age of innocent rebellion.
Half a million hippies came, made love not war and then moved on, leaving hazy memories of sets by Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and The Who, and a few shops selling psychedelia and tie-dye T-shirts.
In an unlikely revival, ageing rockers are now moving back. David Bowie has just bought his own mountain-top as New York’s rich and famous increasingly spurn the ostentatious Hamptons enclave on Long Island for more homespun pleasures.
House prices in the area — a two-hour drive north from New York City — have doubled in the past two years, to the delight of local estate agents whose business has been in the doldrums since Bob Dylan led the way for rock stars to live in Woodstock in the 1960s.
Bowie and his supermodel wife, Iman, paid $1.16 million for their rocky, wooded, 64-acre plot, and are expected to spend at least another million building a home at the site on Little Tonche Mountain, above the hamlet of Shokan, just outside Woodstock.
“It’s stark, and it has a Spartan quality about it,” said Bowie, who retreated to the area to record his latest album, Heathen, at studios on a neighbouring peak. “The retreat atmosphere honed my thoughts. I’ve written in the mountains before, but never with such gravitas.”
His new neighbours will include Robert de Niro, who commutes to his nearby estate by helicopter from Manhattan, and the actress, Liv Tyler.
Yoko Ono and her son by John Lennon, Sean, have been spotted strolling through the mountain village of Phoenicia while Hollywood stars Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke’s summer house is a few miles away in the Catskill State Park.
Kate Hyman, a music talent-finder who discovered the singer Moby, moved to Woodstock after the September 11 attacks in New York.
“We’re back!” she said. “For anyone who is an artist, Woodstock is one of the few places with access to New York where we can feel at home, where there is culture, and where there is simply something in the air, something spiritual, that brings out the creativity.
“The Hamptons are full of rich, irritating people. It is far more interesting here.”
Back in the 1920s, the Woodstock hillside known as Byrdcliff was a nationally renowned arts colony, with theatre and music festivals.
Sally Grossman, whose late husband Albert, a record producer, turned Bob Dylan into a star and brought him to Woodstock, says that the spirit of the town has hardly chan- ged since artists and musicians first settled in Byrdcliff 100 years ago.
After living in the area for 39 years, she is worried that the fresh influx will alter its character. “We are in the real countryside here,” she said. “What I do get nervous about is the thought of us becoming like a suburb.”