The Spirit of ’69 Rides Again in the Legendary “Light” Bus
The original VW bus gained recognition after its appearance 50 years ago at Woodstock.
At the Woodstock Art and Music Fair in 1969, the brown acid was to be avoided – but a trip to see the technicolor 1963 Volkswagen Type 2 van which became an enduring symbol of the festival was a must.
Commissioned by the singer of the band Light, Bob Grimm, the VW was painted by artist Dr. Bob Hieronimus after he had spent a summer visiting backstage with artists like Jimi Hendrix and discussing topics ranging from UFOs and Atlantis to reincarnation and the eye in the pyramid on the back of the $1 bill.
Named Light in honor of Grimm’s band, the “magic bus” was driven to Woodstock by the singer and his bandmates. Eye-catching because of its vivid colors and striking symbols, the bus was photographed by Rolling Stone and Life magazine for articles in the publications.
Also, after the bus was photographed BY XXXthe Associated Press, it gained nationwide notoriety after the image was reproduced in newspapers and magazines across the country. The bus became so synonymous with the festival that producers of the official Woodstock album chose to include a picture of the bus in the liner notes.
Unfortunately, though it endured in memories and media, the actual bus fell into disrepair following the festival when Light broke up and Grimm went to England to tour with the Four Seasons. No one is sure exactly what happened to it, but the van “was last seen partially being held together by the paint job.”
Prior to Woodstock’s 50th anniversary in August 2019, Hieronimus and Canadian documentarian John Wesley Chisholm set out a mission to recover the four-wheeled piece of history and, when they couldn’t, the pair decided to build a replica.
Following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Hieronimus and Chisholm were able to acquire an exact model of the van which was used to create the original bus and restore it.
To complete the restoration, Hieronimus and a team of five artists spent six weeks recreating the original hand-painted symbols and psychedelic shapes that covered Light in ’69.
On the new version of the vaunted van, the central circle that’s painted on the vehicle’s front end is its symbolic heart and it is meant to represent the cohesive force of the universe. According to Hieronimus, that force is love, one people, and one planet.
On the driver’s side, the prominent symbol is an eagle with the name of the bus woven into its wings. While the eagle represents the United States, the symbols surrounding it are meant to show America’s destiny can be determined by examining its past links to ancient Egypt.
On the other side of the bus, the Sphinx represents the conscious control (human head) that people have over their animal instincts (animal body).The green serpent beneath the Sphinx depicts the 10 divine incarnations of Vishnu, a nod to India’s mystery traditions.
“With hindsight, it is interesting that the symbols I painted on this bus were very much in harmony with the powerful event at Woodstock,” Hieronimus said. “Those with eyes to see and ears to hear realized that it carried the message of who we are and the purpose of life on planet earth: serving others as we evolve toward cosmic consciousness.”
“It’s a living room on wheels that you can outfit any way you want, and transports you and your family, however you define family, wherever you want to go,” Chisholm said. “It’s a time machine that takes people to the past, through the present, and to the future.”
In Light’s future is a cross-country tour leading up to the music festival’s 50th-anniversary concert at Watkins Glen this August. If you are planning on going to Upstate New York this summer, hopefully Light is still on the road.