Bobbi Ercoline, Whose Hug Became a Symbol of Woodstock, Dies at 73

Author: Yuvi March 28, 2023 Bobbi Ercoline, Whose Hug Became a Symbol of Woodstock, Dies at 73

Bobbi Ercoline, who one morning during the Woodstock music festival rested her head on her boyfriend’s chest and in that drowsy moment became a symbol of 1960s hippiedom, died on March 18 at her home in Pine Bush, NY. She was 73.

Her Woodstock boyfriend and later her husband, Nick Ercoline, said the cause was leukemia.

About a half-million people attended the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, Aug. 15-18, in 1969, a cultural phenomenon that has endured in the popular imagination partly with the help of “Woodstock,” a 1970 documentary, and its album soundtrack, featuring Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Jefferson Airplane, Richie Havens and many more musicians.

Ms. Ercoline’s tender moment became the subject of a photograph chosen for the cover of the soundtrack album, a three-LP set that was once a familiar sight in record collections in dorm rooms and coffee houses throughout the country.

Behind a pair of large shades, clad in a multicolored garment and partially covered by a comfy pink-trimmed blanket wrapped around her boyfriend, she seemed to embody the flower-child spirit.

In fact, she and Nick represented something else: the broad appeal held by the counterculture of the 1960s.

Mr. Ercoline was a bartender and construction laborer putting himself through college. Ms. Ercoline—Bobbi Kelly at the time—was a bank clerk. They were observant Roman Catholics working in Middletown, a small city near the festival site in upstate New York, and had begun dating on Memorial Day weekend.

A fuller version of the photograph than appeared on the “Woodstock” album shows, to the right of the Ercolines, a sleeping young friend of theirs, Jim “Corky” Corocoran. Far from being a draft card-burner, he had recently returned from duty with the Marines in Vietnam.

The $18 tickets to Woodstock struck the couple as pricey, and initially they did not plan to go.

On the festival’s first night, they sat on Ms. Ercoline’s front porch with friends, including Mr. Corcoran, listening to the radio. Newscasters spoke of colossal traffic jams and hordes of young people.

At about 8 o’clock the next morning, the group got into Mr. Corcoran’s mother’s 1965 Chevy Impala station wagon and set out to see what all the fuss was about.

They ditched the car miles from the festival, held on a farm in Bethel, NY, and continued down a back road on foot. Ms. Ercoline found the blanket, which had been discarded, on the way. They also picked up a Californian, named Herbie, who was on a bad acid trip. He supplied the plastic butterfly attached to a wooden staff in the photo.

The photographer who happened upon the group was Burk Uzzle, freelancing for the Magnum agency. He had visited the concert stage but decided that the story was elsewhere—the hundreds of thousands of audience members, some tripping, others building tents, skinny-dipping in a pond and sharing crates of bananas and loaves of bread.

Mr. Uzzle woke up about 4:30 on Sunday morning and roved through the crowd. He spotted Bobbi and Nick from about 15 feet away and made use of advice from the Magnum founder Henri Cartier-Bresson, who had told him to study the detailed compositions of the Quattrocento painters of Renaissance Italy, as Mr. Uzzle told The New York Times in 2019.

“I walk up and I know the curvature of the hill has to work with the curvature of the heads,” he recalled. “And there’s the flag, it’s going to have to be there, and just enough of the people.”

The day the “Woodstock” soundtrack came out, Mr. Corcoran bought a copy, and the group gathered to listen to it. They didn’t immediately realize that they were pictured on the cover because they had looked first at the back of the record sleeve to see which songs had been included.

“That’s when I realized I needed to tell my mother that I had gone to Woodstock,” Ms. Ercoline told The New York Post in 2019, on Woodstock’s 50th anniversary.

The group’s initial intent was to get home in time for church on Sunday, she told New York’s Eyewitness News in an interview the same year. The picture was incriminating, she said with a smile: “Proof that I didn’t go to Mass.”

Barbara du-Wan Kelly was born on June 14, 1949, in Middletown and grew up not far away in the hamlet of Pine Bush. Her father, John, was a mechanic, and her mother, Eleanor (Gihr) Kelly, was a homemaker.

She and Mr. Ercoline married in 1971. After focusing on raising their sons, Mathew and Luke, she got an associate’s degree in nursing at Orange County Community College in 1986. As a nurse, she worked mainly at an elementary school. Mr. Ercoline became a union carpenter and a construction inspector.

In addition to her husband, Ms. Ercoline is survived by her sons; a brother, John; and a sister, Cindy Corcoran (who married one of Mr. Corcoran’s brothers); and four grandchildren.

The Ercolines became frequent interview subjects for historians of Woodstock, and they often spoke about their marriage as a symbol of its lasting influence and an example of peace and love in action. Every morning when they woke up and every night before they went to bed, they kissed and held each other for about a minute—just as they had on a grassy hill in the summer of 1969.

Author: Yuvi

My name is Yuvi, I work as Sub Editor at

28 March, 2023, 12:55 am

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