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The Father of us all.  The modern Thoreau who threw the party.  Max Yasgur
The Father of us all. The modern Thoreau who threw the party. Max Yasgur


The granddaddy. Where it all began. The Chuck Berry of concerts. The Beatles of parties. The Hendrix of sunrises.


The three daze in August that changed the lives of a half-million who were there, a million more who said they were, millions more who felt they were, millions more who saw the movie, and millions more in the 40 years that this landscape has hung on the walls of the Metropolitan Museum of Rock.


Many careers were made that weekend. Richie Havens, Joe Cocker, Melanie, Santana, Country Joe McDonald, Ravi Shankar, Sha Na Na for starters. Not to mention inspiring Joni Mitchell to write her golden “Woodstock” song, or CSN&Y playing their second gig ever, man, or Hendrix cementing his singular dominance of the medium.


The Academy Award-winning film for Best Documentary that was sculpted from wet mud has likely been seen by more people than any other rock film yet made. Martin Scorsese, an editor and cameraman on Woodstock, was able to build upon this embryonic experiment to create The Last Waltz.


There’s the original 3-hour film, then there’s the diskful of outtakes first released as part of the Director’s Cut in 1994, and an additional batch on the DVD in 2009. There are also several outtakes and various single-camera bootlegs that have emerged over the years, but all are generally dark, grainy, and sound bad.


There are many performances that catch first-time viewers by surprise — Alvin Lee and Ten Years After’s I’m Goin’ Home and Sly & the Family Stone’s I Want To Take You Higher, for instance — and there are the one’s you’ve heard a million times, from Richie Haven’s opening Freedom to Jimi’s closing Star Spangled Banner — but they all still reveal new sparkles every time you look into the diamond in the mud.



A Picture of The Mighty Max

The local Catskills dairy farmer Max Yasgur had been reading in the local papers about the trouble the promoters were having, and told them when they first met, “I want to help you boys. You got the raw end of the deal.” He had a very evolved philosophy of equality and justice. A living 20th century Thoreau, he was a farmer and a pro-active ethicist. Injustice did not sit well with him. And he was also a pretty sharp businessman.

Picture Woody Allen meets Jack Benny – as Max is quite visibly wandering around his farm all weekend licking the end of his pencil and writing down every bucket of milk a cow didn’t deliver and charging the promoters for it. And because of the close and respectful relationship between the two, the promoters spent months and thousands of extra dollars restoring his land to what it was before they arrived.

One story, to give you the idea, and something only his wife Miriam could relate: When word spread that Max was talking to these ‘hippies’ about having this banned festival on his farm, somebody put up a sign along the road that said something like, “Don’t buy Yasgur’s milk – he loves the hippies.”

When Max & Miriam drove by it, as she recalled, “I thought, ‘You don’t know Max. Now it's going to happen.’ That did it. He just turned to me and said, ‘Is it alright with you?’ ... I knew he was not going to get past this sign, so I said, ‘I guess we’re gonna have a festival.” And he said, ‘Yup, we’re gonna have a festival.’ And that was it.”

Max would have been a great political leader or writer or millionaire businessman if just a couple cells of DNA had been different. But ol’ Jack Fate cast this activist philosopher as a farmer, with a perfect natural amphitheater and hundreds of acres in the same neck of the world as that little artists’ colony that Dylan happened to stumble into a few summers earlier.




The Woodstock weekend’s set list was painstaking reconstructed by scholar Andy Pax for Rhino’s (highly recommended) 40th Anniversary box set, and was also included in Michael Lang’s definitive book The Road The Woodstock. The list is now maintained by a wikisortium of Woodstock devotees, and can be viewed here.


We at RockPeaks have been studying this pivotal weekend in rock history for over 30 years, and this list gets our editorial blessing.


You’re well advised to take your read slowly; There are many points of interest along the way.




How bout Richie Havens — god bless ‘im, he’s been telling people for decades about his 2-hour performance. Unless he really took Hey Jude for a ride, this ain’t no 2 hour set.


The Minstrel from Gault
From the Prison —> Get Together —> From the Prison (Reprise)
I'm a Stranger Here
High Flying Bird
I Can't Make It Anymore
With a Little Help from My Friends
Handsome Johnny
Strawberry Fields Forever —> Hey Jude
Freedom (Motherless Child)


And dig that in between the two songs in the movie — Handsome Johnny and Freedom — he did Strawberry Fields and Hey Jude! both sides of the huge 45 The Beatles had just released. 


And Country Joe did NOT come on after Richie as he and the biographies have insisted for decades.


And note how Sweetwater, Bert Sommer, and Tim Hardin do structured 10-song sets before the festival’s freeform madness had begun to take over. At least the weekend started out straight.


And then there’s Melanie, who was an aspiring folk singer who just happened to be backstage, and on a hunch promoter Michael Lang put her out there along on the dark stage with just a guitar and not a fan in the audience. And a career was born.


If you don’t know, her performance also began a rock n roll concert ritual. Before her set it was suggested to the audience that if you light candles it will keep away the rain. As she put it, “By the time I finished my set, the whole hillside was a mass of little flickering lights.” And word of this spread, and those candles became lighters, and the lighters became cell phones, and we’re all living history.


Sadly the film crew seems to have used this unknown folk singer’s set to regroup, but the moment lives on in her inspired monster hit she wrote right after it, “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).”

The great musical Warrior, as Ken Kesey called her, Joan Baez opened the climactic set of the opening night “Oh, Happy Day”, which I’m sure ripped the joint apart if the version she did two months later at The Celebration at Big Sur is any indication. Take a trip without leaving your seat and watch THAT!


Country Joe’s first ever solo set opens with Janis – his love song to his former girlfriend who was very still very much alive and would be performing on the same stage later that night. And in the middle he does two Johnny Cash songs??!!



Country Joe McDonald

Donovan's Reef
Heartaches by the Number
Ring of Fire
Tennessee Stud
Rockin' Round the World
Flying All the Way
Seen a Rocket
"Fish" Cheer > I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag

You can really see how there was a nice build on Saturday late afternoon with The Incredible String Band → Canned Heat → Mountain. Which was then, of course, completely destroyed by The Dead’s dreadful droning performance.


The Incredible String Band
Invocation (Spoken Word)
The Letter
Gather 'Round
This Moment
Come with Me
When You Find Out Who You Are
Canned Heat
I'm Her Man
Going Up the Country
A Change Is Gonna Come / Leaving This Town
Too Many Drivers at the Wheel
I Know My Baby
Woodstock Boogie
On the Road Again

Blood of the Sun
Stormy Monday
Theme for an Imaginary Western
Long Red
For Yasgur's Farm
Beside the Sea
Waiting to Take You Away
Dreams of Milk and Honey > Guitar Solo
Blind Man (???)
Dirty Shoes Blues (???)
Southbound Train

The Grateful Dead
St. Stephen
Mama Tried
Dark Star
High Time
Turn On Your Lovelight


But then — Rock n Roll fans Red Alert!!


Can you imagine a night were you were dancing outside to Creedence → Janis Joplin → Sly & the Family Stone → The Who → The Airplane !!! That’s just mind-boggling.
And there was still a whole day and night to go.


Saturday Night at Woodstock . . . can you imagine a night that went like this . . .

Creedence Clearwater Revival

Born on the Bayou
Green River
Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won't Do)
Bad Moon Rising
Proud Mary
I Put a Spell on You
The Night Time Is the Right Time
Keep on Chooglin'
Suzy Q

Janis Joplin
Raise Your Hand
As Good as You've Been to This World
To Love Somebody
Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)
Kozmic Blues
Can't Turn You Loose
Work Me, Lord
Piece of My Heart
Ball and Chain

Sly & The Family Stone
Sing A Simple Song
You Can Make It If You Try
Everyday People
Dance To The Music
Music Lover
I Want To Take You Higher
Love City

The Who
Heaven and Hell
I Can't Explain
It's a Boy
Amazing Journey
Eyesight to the Blind (The Hawker)
Acid Queen
Pinball Wizard
The Abbie Hoffman Incident
Do You Think It's Alright?
Fiddle About
There's a Doctor
Go to the Mirror
Smash the Mirror
I'm Free
Tommy's Holiday Camp
We're Not Gonna Take It
See Me, Feel Me
Summertime Blues
Shakin' All Over
My Generation
Naked Eye

Jefferson Airplane
The Other Side of This Life
Somebody to Love
3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds
Won't You Try / Saturday Afternoon
Eskimo Blue Day
Plastic Fantastic Lover
Wooden Ships
Uncle Sam Blues
The Ballad of You & Me & Pooneil
Come Back Baby
White Rabbit
The House at Pooneil Corner

The Who came on about 3:30 in the morning, played almost all of Tommy and were doing Summertime Blues and My Generation as the sky was just turning blue. When you’re on good drugs and in a good scene you’re always groovin through sunrise — so how ‘bout doing it with The Who and Keith Moon playing?


And speaking of killer Keith – do not miss this performance by him in 1965 when he was 17 years old


And I know the Airplane were wasted and so was everyone else by the time they came on about 8:00 in the morning, but if the Won’t You Try / Saturday Afternoon and Uncle Sam’s Blues is any indication, all with early morning regular Nicky Hopkins on keys, you’d think that sequence of Plastic Fantastic Lover, Wooden Ships and Volunteers had to be pretty smokin. You can see in the film there’s a huge audience awake and groovin in front of them.



Joe Cocker ignited a career by covering The Beatles’ With A Little Help From My Friends — but who knew earlier in the set he’s covered Dylan, Traffic and Ray Charles!


Joe Cocker
Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring (without Joe Cocker)
40,000 Headmen (without Joe Cocker)
Dear Landlord
Something's Coming On
Do I Still Figure in Your Life
Feelin' Alright
Just Like a Woman
Let's Go Get Stoned
I Don't Need No Doctor
I Shall Be Released
Hitchcock Railway
Something to Say
With a Little Help from My Friends


And after Joe kicked off his solo career the day before, he and The Fish (Barry Melton) had been saviors focusing the crowd during the storm, they went for a whale of a swim on Sunday afternoon.


Country Joe & The Fish
Rock & Soul Music
(Thing Called) Love
Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine
Sing, Sing, Sing
Summer Dresses
Friend, Lover, Woman, Wife
Silver and Gold
The Love Machine
Ever Since You Told Me That You Love Me (I'm a Nut)
Short Jam (instrumental)
Crystal Blues
Rock & Soul Music (Reprise)
"Fish" Cheer > I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag

it’s funny to see The Band actually played No More Cane on the Brazos — which was so memorably laid down by a blazing Rick Danko, Janis, Jerry and others the next summer on the Festival Express train trip.


And then we get to . . .


Johnny Winter
Mama, Talk to Your Daughter
Six Feet Under the Ground
Leland Mississippi Blues
Mean Town Blues
You Done Lost Your Good Thing Now
Mean Mistreater
I Can't Stand It (with Edgar Winter)
Tobacco Road (with Edgar Winter)
Tell the Truth (with Edgar Winter)
Johnny B. Goode

It’s always been a mystery to this scholar at least what Edgar’s role was. That he was even there is amazing, and to see that he was in for a Tobacco Road . . . where’s the rest of this footage? And where’s the Johnny B. Goode he closed the set with??!!


And I bet you never knew CSNY’s Woodstock set list before!

Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young)
Acoustic Set
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
Helplessly Hoping
Marrakesh Express
4 + 20
Mr. Soul
I'm Wonderin'
You Don't Have to Cry

Electric Set
Pre-Road Downs
Long Time Gone
Sea of Madness
Wooden Ships

Acoustic Encores
Find the Cost of Freedom
49 Bye-Byes

Where is that electric set?! Nash’s rockinest rocker → Crosby’s scorcher Long Time Gone → Stills’ Bluebird → Neil’s Sea of Madness → Croz’s Wooden Ships! That is one rockin set, and the crazy Madness and gorgeous Ships are both on the original record — and both Ships and Long Time Gone are used to open the movie — so where’s the damn footage?


And you can see how, after this whole weekend of music how Paul Butterfield and then gulp Sha Na Na might have driven away the masses as it got light.


And then there’s the epic Jimi . . .

Jimi Hendrix
Message to Love
Getting My Heart Back Together Again > Hear My Train a-Comin'
Spanish Castle Magic
Red House
Lover Man
Foxy Lady
Beginning > Jam Back at the House
Gypsy Woman
Voodoo Child (Slight Return)
Stepping Stone
Star Spangled Banner
Purple Haze
Woodstock Improvisation
Villanova Junction
Hey Joe


His whole historic set was released on DVD in 1999.  The film crew was running way past empty by this Monday morning, into their fourth day of mud and madness. That any footage exists at all is proof there is a god. It was a series of superhuman efforts that built the show, the film, and the performances.


And for you hardcores — look under "Artist" Max Yasgur for a bunch of different people's Super-8 home movies that have survived and finally been converted to digital form.  There's 20+ minutes (so far) of festival footage that no one beyond their friends has ever seen.  


And that this master could rise to the morning moment and deliver this heartfelt Star Spangled Banner ode to his country that played out exactly 40 years later when a guy who looked not too different from Hendrix was inaugurated President of the United States.




Retrieved from Wikipedia:
Woodstock on Wikipedia
Woodstock poster.jpgArnold Skolnick (who designed the logo) says that the dove on the guitar was actually designed to resemble a catbird (and it was originally perched on a flute).[1]
GenreRock and folk, including blues rock, folk rock, jazz fusion, hard rock, latin rock, and psychedelic rock styles.
Datesscheduled: August 15–17, 1969, but ran over to August 18
Location(s)White Lake, New York
(site of original festival)
Years activeOriginal festival held in 1969; namesake events held in 1979, 1989, 1994, 1999 and 2009.
Founded byMichael Lang, John P. Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld
The Woodstock Festivals

The Woodstock Music & Art Fair—informally, the Woodstock Festival or simply Woodstock—was a music festival attracting an audience of over 400,000 people, scheduled over three days on a dairy farm in New York from August 15 to 17, 1969, but ultimately ran four days long, ending August 18, 1969.[2]

Billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music", it was held at Max Yasgur's 600-acre (240 ha; 0.94 sq mi) dairy farm in the Catskills near the hamlet of White Lake in the town of Bethel.[2] Bethel, in Sullivan County, is 43 miles (69 km) southwest of the town of Woodstock, New York, in adjoining Ulster County.

During the sometimes rainy weekend, 32 acts performed outdoors before an audience of more than 400,000 people.[3] It is widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history, as well as the definitive nexus for the larger counterculture generation.[4][5]

Rolling Stone listed it as one of the 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll.[6]

The event was captured in the Academy Award winning 1970 documentary movie Woodstock, an accompanying soundtrack album, and Joni Mitchell's song "Woodstock", which commemorated the event and became a major hit for both Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Matthews Southern Comfort. In 2017 the festival site was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[7]


  • 1 Planning and preparation
    • 1.1 Selection of the venue
    • 1.2 Free concert
  • 2 The festival
    • 2.1 Sound
    • 2.2 Performing artists
    • 2.3 Declined invitations and missed connections
    • 2.4 Media coverage
  • 3 Releases
    • 3.1 Films
    • 3.2 Albums
  • 4 Aftermath
  • 5 Legacy
    • 5.1 Woodstock site today
    • 5.2 Woodstock 40th anniversary
  • 6 In popular culture
  • 7 Gallery
  • 8 See also
  • 9 References
  • 10 Further reading
  • 11 External links

Planning and preparation

Woodstock was initiated through the efforts of Michael Lang, John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, and Artie Kornfeld. Roberts and Rosenman financed the project. Lang had some experience as a promoter, having co-organized a small festival on the East Coast the prior year, the Miami Pop Festival, where an estimated 25,000 people attended the two-day event. Early in 1969, Roberts and Rosenman were New York City entrepreneurs, in the process of building Media Sound, a large audio recording studio complex in Manhattan. Lang and Kornfeld's lawyer, Miles Lourie, who had done legal work on the Media Sound project, suggested that they contact Roberts and Rosenman about financing a similar, but much smaller, studio Kornfeld and Lang hoped to build in Woodstock, New York. Unpersuaded by this Studio-in-the-Woods proposal, Roberts and Rosenman counter-proposed a concert featuring the kind of artists known to frequent the Woodstock area (such as Bob Dylan and The Band). Kornfeld and Lang agreed to the new plan, and Woodstock Ventures was formed in January 1969.[8] The company offices were located in an oddly decorated floor of 47 West 57th Street in Manhattan. Burt Cohen, and his design group, Curtain Call Productions, oversaw the psychedelic transformation of the office.[9]

From the start, there were differences in approach among the four: Roberts was disciplined and knew what was needed for the venture to succeed, while the laid-back Lang saw Woodstock as a new, "relaxed" way of bringing entrepreneurs together.[10] When Lang was unable to find a site for the concert, Roberts and Rosenman, growing increasingly concerned, took to the road and eventually came up with a venue. Similar differences about financial discipline made Roberts and Rosenman wonder whether to pull the plug or to continue pumping money into the project.[10]

In April 1969, newly minted superstars Creedence Clearwater Revival became the first act to sign a contract for the event, agreeing to play for $10,000. The promoters had experienced difficulty landing big-name groups prior to Creedence committing to play. Creedence drummer Doug Clifford later commented, "Once Creedence signed, everyone else jumped in line and all the other big acts came on." Given their 3:00 a.m. start time and omission from the Woodstock film (at Creedence frontman John Fogerty's insistence), Creedence members have expressed bitterness over their experiences at the famed festival.[11]

Woodstock was designed as a profit-making venture, aptly titled "Woodstock Ventures". It famously became a "free concert" only after the event drew hundreds of thousands more people than the organizers had prepared for. Tickets for the three-day event cost $18 in advance and $24 at the gate (equivalent to about $120 and $160 today[12]). Ticket sales were limited to record stores in the greater New York City area, or by mail via a post office box at the Radio City Station Post Office located in Midtown Manhattan. Around 186,000 advance tickets were sold, and the organizers anticipated approximately 200,000 festival-goers would turn up.[13]

Selection of the venue

The original venue plan was for the festival to take place in Wallkill, New York, possibly near the proposed recording studio site owned by Alexander Tapooz. After local residents quickly shot down that idea, Lang and Kornfeld thought they had found another possible location in Saugerties, New York. But they had misunderstood, as the landowner's attorney made clear, in a brief meeting with Roberts and Rosenman.[8] Growing alarmed at the lack of progress, Roberts and Rosenman took over the search for a venue, and discovered the 300-acre (120 ha) Mills Industrial Park (41°28′39″N 74°21′49″W / 41.477525°N 74.36358°W / 41.477525; -74.36358 (Mills Industrial Park)) in the town of Wallkill, New York, which Woodstock Ventures leased for $10,000 in the Spring of 1969.[1] Town officials were assured that no more than 50,000 would attend. Town residents immediately opposed the project. In early July, the Town Board passed a law requiring a permit for any gathering over 5,000 people. On July 15, 1969, the Wallkill Zoning Board of Appeals officially banned the concert on the basis that the planned portable toilets would not meet town code.[14] Reports of the ban, however, turned out to be a publicity bonanza for the festival.[15]

In his 2007 book Taking Woodstock, Elliot Tiber relates that he offered to host the event on his 15 acres (6.1 ha) motel grounds, and had a permit for such an event. He claims to have introduced the promoters to dairy farmer Max Yasgur.[16] Lang, however, disputes Tiber's account and says that Tiber introduced him to a realtor, who drove him to Yasgur's farm without Tiber. Sam Yasgur, Max's son, agrees with Lang's account.[17] Yasgur's land formed a natural bowl sloping down to Filippini Pond on the land's north side. The stage would be set up at the bottom of the hill with Filippini Pond forming a backdrop. The pond would become a popular skinny dipping destination.

The organizers once again told Bethel authorities they expected no more than 50,000 people.

Despite resident opposition and signs proclaiming, "Buy No Milk. Stop Max's Hippy Music Festival",[18] Bethel Town Attorney Frederick W. V. Schadt and building inspector Donald Clark approved the permits, but the Bethel Town Board refused to issue them formally. Clark was ordered to post stop-work orders.

Free concert

The late change in venue did not give the festival organizers enough time to prepare. At a meeting three days before the event, organizers felt they had two options: one was to complete the fencing and ticket booths, without which the promoters were almost certain to lose their shirts; the other option involved putting their remaining available resources into building the stage, without which the promoters feared they would have a disappointed and disgruntled audience. When the audience began arriving by the tens of thousands, the next day, on Wednesday before the weekend, the decision had been made for them.[8] "The fences at Woodstock" became an oxymoron, while the stage at Woodstock gave birth to a legend.

The festival

The influx of attendees to the rural concert site in Bethel created a massive traffic jam. Fearing chaos as thousands began descending on the community, Bethel did not enforce its codes.[14] Eventually, announcements on radio stations as far away as WNEW-FM in Manhattan and descriptions of the traffic jams on television news discouraged people from setting off to the festival.[19][20] Arlo Guthrie made an announcement that was included in the film saying that the New York State Thruway was closed.[21] The director of the Woodstock museum discussed below said this never occurred.[22] To add to the problems and difficulty in dealing with the large crowds, recent rains had caused muddy roads and fields. The facilities were not equipped to provide sanitation or first aid for the number of people attending; hundreds of thousands found themselves in a struggle against bad weather, food shortages, and poor sanitation.[23]

On the morning of Sunday, August 17, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller called festival organizer John Roberts and told him he was thinking of ordering 10,000 New York State National Guard troops to the festival. Roberts was successful in persuading Rockefeller not to do this. Sullivan County declared a state of emergency.[19] During the festival, personnel from nearby Stewart Air Force Base assisted in helping to ensure order and airlifting performers in and out of the concert venue.[24]

Jimi Hendrix was the last act to perform at the festival. Because of the rain delays that Sunday, when Hendrix finally took the stage it was 8:30 Monday morning. The audience, which had peaked at an estimated 400,000 during the festival, was now reduced to about 30,000 by that point; many of them merely waited to catch a glimpse of Hendrix before leaving during his performance.[25]

Hendrix and his new band, Gypsy Sun and Rainbows (introduced as The Experience, but corrected by Hendrix) [26] performed a two-hour set. His psychedelic rendition of the U.S. national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner" occurred about three-quarters into the set (after which he segued into "Purple Haze"). The song would become "part of the sixties Zeitgeist" as it was captured forever in the Woodstock film;[27] Hendrix's image performing this number wearing a blue-beaded white leather jacket with fringe and a red head scarf has since been regarded as a defining moment of the 1960s.[25][28]

We were ready to rock out and we waited and waited and finally it was our turn ... there were a half million people asleep. These people were out. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene, just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud.

And this is the moment I will never forget as long as I live: A quarter mile away in the darkness, on the other edge of this bowl, there was some guy flicking his Bic, and in the night I hear, 'Don't worry about it, John. We're with you.' I played the rest of the show for that guy.

—John Fogerty recalling Creedence Clearwater Revival's 3:30 am start time at Woodstock[11]


Although the festival was remarkably peaceful given the number of people and the conditions involved, there were two recorded fatalities: one from what was believed to be a heroin overdose, and another caused in an accident when a tractor ran over an attendee sleeping in a nearby hayfield. There also were two births recorded at the event (one in a car caught in traffic and another in a hospital after an airlift by helicopter) and four miscarriages.[29] Oral testimony in the film supports the overdose and run-over deaths and at least one birth, along with many logistical headaches.

Yet, in tune with the idealistic hopes of the 1960s, Woodstock satisfied most attendees. There was a sense of social harmony, which, with the quality of music, and the overwhelming mass of people, many sporting bohemian dress, behavior, and attitudes, helped to make it one of the enduring events of the century.[30]

After the concert, Max Yasgur, who owned the site of the event, saw it as a victory of peace and love. He spoke of how nearly half a million people filled with potential for disaster, riot, looting, and catastrophe spent the three days with music and peace on their minds. He stated, "If we join them, we can turn those adversities that are the problems of America today into a hope for a brighter and more peaceful future..."[10]


Sound for the concert was engineered by sound engineer Bill Hanley. "It worked very well," he says of the event. "I built special speaker columns on the hills and had 16 loudspeaker arrays in a square platform going up to the hill on 70-foot (21 m) towers. We set it up for 150,000 to 200,000 people. Of course, 500,000 showed up."[31] ALTEC designed marine plywood cabinets that weighed half a ton apiece and stood 6 feet (1.8 m) tall, almost 4 feet (1.2 m) deep, and 3 feet (0.91 m) wide. Each of these enclosures carried four 15-inch (380 mm) JBL D140 loudspeakers. The tweeters consisted of 4×2-Cell & 2×10-Cell Altec Horns. Behind the stage were three transformers providing 2,000 amperes of current to power the amplification setup.[32] For many years this system was collectively referred to as the Woodstock Bins.[33]

Performing artists

Main article: List of performances and events at Woodstock Festival

Thirty-two acts performed over the course of the four days:[34]

Declined invitations and missed connections

  • Bob Dylan, in whose "backyard" the festival was held, was never in serious negotiation. Instead, Dylan signed in mid-July to play the Isle of Wight Festival of Music, on August 31. Dylan set sail for England on Queen Elizabeth 2 on August 15, the day the Woodstock Festival started. His son was injured by a cabin door and the family disembarked. Dylan, with his wife Sara, flew to England the following week. Dylan had been unhappy about the number of hippies piling up outside his house in the nearby town of Woodstock.[43]
  • The Jeff Beck Group: Jeff Beck disbanded the group prior to Woodstock. "I deliberately broke the group up before Woodstock", Beck said. "I didn't want it to be preserved." Interestingly, it was to have been the first time that Beck would perform with Tim Bogert and Carmine Appice. Also, Beck's piano player Nicky Hopkins performed with Jefferson Airplane.[44]
  • The Doors were considered as a potential performing band but canceled at the last moment. According to guitarist Robby Krieger, they turned it down because they thought it would be a "second class repeat of Monterey Pop Festival" and later regretted that decision.[45]
  • Led Zeppelin was asked to perform, their manager Peter Grant stated: "We were asked to do Woodstock and Atlantic were very keen, and so was our U.S. promoter, Frank Barsalona. I said no because at Woodstock we'd have just been another band on the bill." However, the group did play the first Atlanta International Pop Festival on July 5, as one of 22 bands at the two-day event. Woodstock weekend, Zeppelin performed south of the festival at the Asbury Park Convention Hall in New Jersey. Their only time out taken was to attend Elvis Presley's show at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, on August 12.[46]
  • The Byrds were invited, but chose not to participate, figuring Woodstock to be no different from any of the other music festivals that summer. There were also concerns about money. As bassist John York remembers: "We were flying to a gig and Roger [McGuinn] came up to us and said that a guy was putting on a festival in upstate New York. But at that point they weren't paying all of the bands. He asked us if we wanted to do it and we said, 'No'. We had no idea what it was going to be. We were burned out and tired of the festival scene. [...] So all of us said, 'No, we want a rest' and missed the best festival of all."[47]
  • Chicago, at the time still known as the Chicago Transit Authority, had initially been signed on to play at Woodstock. However, they had a contract with concert promoter Bill Graham, which allowed him to move Chicago's concerts at the Fillmore West. He rescheduled some of their dates to August 17, thus forcing the band to back out of the concert. Graham did so to ensure that Santana, which he managed at the time, would take their slot at the festival. According to singer and bassist Peter Cetera, "We were sort of peeved at him for pulling that one."[48]
  • Tommy James and the Shondells declined an invitation. Lead singer Tommy James stated later: "We could have just kicked ourselves. We were in Hawaii, and my secretary called and said, 'Yeah, listen, there's this pig farmer in upstate New York that wants you to play in his field.' That's how it was put to me. So we passed, and we realized what we'd missed a couple of days later."[49]
  • The Moody Blues were included on the original Wallkill poster as performers, but decided to back out after being booked in Paris the same weekend.[50]
  • Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention, according to the Class of the 20th Century U.S. television special, is quoted as saying "A lot of mud at Woodstock ... We were invited to play there, we turned it down.'[50]
  • Arthur Lee and Love declined the invitation, but Mojo Magazine later described inner turmoil within the band which caused their absence at the Woodstock festival.[50]
  • Free was asked to perform and declined.[50] They did however play at the Isle of Wight Festival, a week later.
  • Mind Garage declined because they thought the festival would be no huge deal and they had a higher paying gig elsewhere.[50]
  • Spirit also declined an invitation to play, as they already had shows planned and wanted to play those instead, not knowing how big Woodstock would be.[51]
  • Joni Mitchell was originally slated to perform, but canceled at the urging of her manager to avoid missing a scheduled appearance on The Dick Cavett Show.[52][53]
  • Lighthouse declined to perform at Woodstock.[54]
  • Roy Rogers was asked by Lang to close the festival with Happy Trails but he declined.[55]
  • Procol Harum was invited but refused because Woodstock fell at the end of a long tour and also coincided with the due date of guitarist Robin Trower's baby.[56]
  • Jethro Tull also declined. According to frontman Ian Anderson, he knew it would be a big event but he did not want to go because he did not like hippies and other concerns including inappropriate nudity.[57]
  • Iron Butterfly was booked to appear, and is listed on the Woodstock poster for a Sunday performance, but could not perform because they were stuck at an airport.[58]
  • Raven – attorney Miles Laurie, one of Michael Lang's lawyers set up a meeting with Raven manager, Marty Angelo and offered his band a spot on the lineup but only if they signed a contract with Lang to be Raven's record producer and 10% of future earnings. Raven turned down his offer based on the fact that the year before the band played at one of Woodstock's "Sound Outs" and the gig didn't go well. Lang assured them that his concert was going to be different. The band respectfully declined.[59]
  • Blues Image, according to a 2011 interview with percussionist Joe Lala, agreed to appear at the Woodstock festival. Their manager did not want them to go and said, "There’s only one road in and it’s going to be raining, you don’t want to be there". The band members were disappointed and in response said, "Don’t you think it’ll be beneficial that we’re there?” The band instead took a gig at Binghamton.[60]

Media coverage

Very few reporters from outside the immediate area were on the scene. During the first few days of the festival, national media coverage emphasized the problems. Front page headlines in the Daily News read "Traffic Uptight at Hippiefest" and "Hippies Mired in a Sea of Mud". Coverage became more positive by the end of the festival, in part because the parents of concertgoers called the media and told them, based on their children's phone calls, that their reporting was misleading.[19][61]

The New York Times covered the prelude to the festival and the move from Wallkill to Bethel.[18] Barnard Collier, who reported from the event for The New York Times, asserts that he was pressured by on-duty editors at the paper to write a misleadingly negative article about the event. According to Collier, this led to acrimonious discussions and his threat to refuse to write the article until the paper's executive editor, James Reston, agreed to let him write the article as he saw fit. The eventual article dealt with issues of traffic jams and minor lawbreaking, but went on to emphasize cooperation, generosity, and the good nature of the festival goers.[19][61] When the festival was over, Collier wrote another article about the exodus of fans from the festival site and the lack of violence at the event. The chief medical officer for the event and several local residents were quoted as praising the festival goers.[29][62]

Middletown, New York's Times Herald-Record, the only local daily newspaper, editorialized against the law that banned the festival from Wallkill. During the festival a rare Saturday edition was published. The paper had the only phone line running out of the site, and it used a motorcyclist to get stories and pictures from the impassable crowd to the newspaper's office 35 miles (56 km) away in Middletown.[1][63][64][65]


Main article: Woodstock (film)

The documentary film Woodstock, directed by Michael Wadleigh and edited by Thelma Schoonmaker and Martin Scorsese, was released in 1970. Artie Kornfeld (one of the promoters of the festival) went to Fred Weintraub, an executive at Warner Bros., and asked for money to film the festival. Artie had been turned down everywhere else, but against the express wishes of other Warner Bros. executives, Weintraub put his job on the line and gave Kornfeld $100,000 to make the film. Woodstock helped to save Warner Bros at a time when the company was on the verge of going out of business. The book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls details the making of the film.

Wadleigh rounded up a crew of about 100 from the New York film scene. With no money to pay the crew, he agreed to a double-or-nothing scheme, in which the crew would receive double pay if the film succeeded and nothing if it bombed. Wadleigh strove to make the film as much about the hippies as the music, listening to their feelings about compelling events contemporaneous with the festival (such as the Vietnam War), as well as the views of the townspeople.[66]

Woodstock received the Academy Award for Documentary Feature.[67] The film has been deemed culturally significant by the United States Library of Congress. In 1994, Woodstock: The Director's Cut was released and expanded to include Janis Joplin as well as additional performances by Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, and Canned Heat not seen in the original version of the film. In 2009, the expanded 40th Anniversary Edition was released on DVD. This release marks the film's first availability on Blu-ray disc.

Another film on Woodstock named Taking Woodstock was produced in 2009 by Taiwanese American filmmaker Ang Lee.[68] Lee practically rented out the entire town of New Lebanon, New York, to shoot the film. He was concerned with angering the locals, but they ended up being incredibly welcoming and excited to help with the film.[69] The movie is based on Elliot Tiber, played by Demetri Martin, and his role in bringing Woodstock to Bethel, New York. The film also stars Jonathan Groff as Michael Lang and Henry Goodman and Imelda Staunton as Jake and Sonia Teichberg.[70]


Two soundtrack albums were released. The first, Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More, was a 3-LP (later 2-CD) album containing a sampling of one or two songs by most of the acts who performed. A year later, Woodstock 2 was released as a 2-LP album. Both albums included recordings of stage announcements (e.g., "[We're told] that the brown acid is not specifically too good", "Hey, if you think really hard, maybe we can stop this rain") and crowd noises (i.e., the rain chant) between songs. In 1994, a third album, Woodstock Diary was released. Tracks from all three albums, as well as numerous additional, previously unreleased performances from the festival but not the stage announcements and crowd noises, were reissued by Atlantic as a 4-CD box set titled Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music.

An album titled Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock also was released in 1994, featuring only selected recordings of Jimi Hendrix at the festival. A longer double-disc set, Live at Woodstock (1999) features nearly every song of Hendrix's performance, omitting just two pieces that were sung by his rhythm guitarist.

In 2009, Joe Cocker released a live album of his entire Woodstock set. The album contained eleven tracks, ten of which were previously unreleased.

In 2009, complete performances from Woodstock by Santana, Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, and Johnny Winter were released separately by Legacy/SME Records, and were also collected in a box set titled The Woodstock Experience. Also, in 2009, Rhino/Atlantic Records issued a 6-CD box set titled Woodstock: 40 Years On: Back to Yasgur's Farm, which included further musical performances as well as stage announcements and other ancillary material.[71]


Max Yasgur refused to rent out his farm for a 1970 revival of the festival, saying, "As far as I know, I'm going back to running a dairy farm." Yasgur died in 1973.[74]

Bethel voters tossed out their supervisor in an election held in November 1969 because of his role in bringing the festival to the town. New York State and the town of Bethel passed mass gathering laws designed to prevent any more festivals from occurring.

In 1984, at the original festival site, land owners Louis Nicky and June Gelish put up a monument marker with plaques called "Peace and Music" by a local sculptor from nearby Bloomingburg, Wayne C. Saward (1957–2009).[72][75]

Attempts were made to prevent people from visiting the site, its owners spread chicken manure, and during one anniversary, tractors and state police cars formed roadblocks. Twenty thousand people gathered at the site in 1989 during an impromptu 20th anniversary celebration. In 1997 a community group put up a welcoming sign for visitors. Unlike Bethel, the town of Woodstock made several efforts to cash in on its notoriety. Bethel's stance changed in recent years, and the town now embraces the festival. Efforts have begun to forge a link between Bethel and Woodstock.[76]

Approximately 80 lawsuits were filed against Woodstock Ventures, primarily by farmers in the area. The movie financed settlements and paid off the $1.4 million of debt Woodstock Ventures had incurred from the festival.[19]

Woodstock site today

In 1984, a plaque was placed at the original site commemorating the festival.[77] The field and the stage area remain preserved in their rural setting and the fields of the Yasgur farm are still visited by people of all generations.[78]

In 1996, the site of the concert and 1,400 acres (5.7 km2) surrounding was purchased by cable television pioneer Alan Gerry for the purpose of creating the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.[79] The Center opened on July 1, 2006, with a performance by the New York Philharmonic.[80] On August 13, 2006, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performed before 16,000 fans at the new Center—37 years after their historic performance at Woodstock.[81]

The Museum at Bethel Woods opened on June 2, 2008.[82] The Museum contains film and interactive displays, text panels, and artifacts that explore the unique experience of the Woodstock festival, its significance as the culminating event of a decade of radical cultural transformation, and the legacy of the Sixties and Woodstock today.[82]

The ashes of the late Richie Havens were scattered across the site on August 18, 2013.[83]

In late 2016 New York's State Historic Preservation Office applied to the National Park Service to have 600 acres (240 ha) including the site of the festival and adjacent areas used for campgrounds, all of which still appear mostly as they did in 1969 as they were not redeveloped when Bethel Woods was built, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[84]

Woodstock 40th anniversary

There was worldwide media interest in the 40th anniversary of Woodstock in 2009.[85] A number of activities to commemorate the festival took place around the world. On August 15, at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts overlooking the original site, the largest assembly of Woodstock performing alumni since the original 1969 festival performed in an eight-hour concert in front of a sold-out crowd. Hosted by Country Joe McDonald, the concert featured Big Brother and the Holding Company performing Janis Joplin's hits (she actually appeared with the Kozmic Blues Band at Woodstock, although that band did feature former Big Brother guitarist Sam Andrew), Canned Heat, Ten Years After, Jefferson Starship, Mountain, and the headliners, The Levon Helm Band. At Woodstock, Levon Helm played drums and was one of the lead vocalists with The Band. Paul Kantner was the only member of the 1969 Jefferson Airplane line-up to appear with Jefferson Starship. Tom Constanten, who played keyboard with the Grateful Dead at Woodstock, joined Jefferson Starship on stage for several numbers. Jocko Marcellino from Sha Na Na also appeared, backed up by Canned Heat.[86] Richie Havens, who opened the Woodstock festival in 1969, appeared at a separate event the previous night.[87] Crosby, Stills & Nash and Arlo Guthrie also marked the anniversary with live performances at Bethel earlier in August 2009.

Another event occurred in Hawkhurst, Kent (UK), at a Summer of Love party, with acts including two of the participants at the original Woodstock, Barry Melton of Country Joe and the Fish and Robin Williamson of The Incredible String Band, plus Santana and Grateful Dead cover bands.[88] On August 14 and 15, 2009, a 40th anniversary tribute concert was held in Woodstock, IL and was the only festival to receive the official blessing of the "Father of Woodstock", Artie Kornfeld.[89] Kornfeld later made an appearance in Woodstock[clarification needed] with the event's promoters.

Also in 2009, Michael Lang and Holly George-Warren published The Road to Woodstock, which describes Lang's involvement in the creation of the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival, and includes personal stories and quotes from central figures involved in the event.

In popular culture

As one of the biggest rock festivals of all time and a cultural touchstone for the late sixties, Woodstock has been referenced in many different ways in popular culture. The phrase "the Woodstock generation" became part of the common lexicon.[90] Tributes and parodies of the festival began almost as soon as the final chords sounded. Cartoonist Charles Schulz named his recurring Peanuts bird character - which began appearing in 1966 but was yet unnamed -Woodstock in tribute to the festival.[91] In April 1970, Mad magazine published a poem by Frank Jacobs and illustrated by Sergio Aragonés titled "I Remember, I Remember The Wondrous Woodstock Music Fair" that parodies the traffic jams and the challenges of getting close enough to actually hear the music.[92] Keith Robertson's 1970 children's book Henry Reed's Big Show has the title character attempting to emulate the success of the festival by mounting his own concert at his uncle's farm. In 1973, the stage show National Lampoon's Lemmings portrayed the "Woodchuck" festival, featuring parodies of many Woodstock performers.[93]

More recent culture continues to remember Woodstock, with Time magazine naming "The Who at Woodstock – 1969" to the magazine's "Top 10 Music-Festival Moments" list on March 18, 2010.[94]

In 2005, Argentine writer Edgar Brau published Woodstock, a long poem commemorating the festival. An English translation of the poem was published in January 2007 by Words Without Borders.[95]

Wadham College, one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford, hosts an annual music and arts festival in its gardens, named 'Wadstock', after the Woodstock festival.[96]


See also

  • 1960s portal
  • iconHudson Valley portal
  • National Register of Historic Places portal
  • Rock music portal
  • Woodstock Jazz Festival
  • Nambassa
  • Przystanek Woodstock (Woodstock Festival Poland)
  • Sunbury
  • List of historic music festivals
  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Sullivan County, New York


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Further reading

  • Blelock, Weston; Blelock, Julia, eds. (2009). Roots of the 1969 Woodstock Festival: The Backstory to "Woodstock". WoodstockArts. ISBN 978-0-9679268-5-8. 
  • Kirkpatrick, Rob (2009). 1969: The Year Everything Changed. Skyhorse Publishing. ISBN 978-1-60239-366-0. 
  • Kornfeld, Artie (2009). The Pied Piper of Woodstock. Spirit of the Woodstock Nation LLC. ISBN 978-0-615-32599-6. 
  • Lang, Michael (2009). Woodstock Experience. Genesis Publications. ISBN 978-1-905662-09-8. 
  • Lang, Michael (2009). The Road to Woodstock. Ecco Publishing. ISBN 978-0-06-157655-3. 
  • Makower, Joel (2009). Woodstock: The Oral History, 40th Anniversary Edition. SUNY Press/Excelsior Editions. ISBN 978-1-4384-2974-8. 
  • Perone, James E. (2005). Woodstock: An Encyclopedia of the Music and Art Fair. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313330575. 
  • Rosenman, Joel (1999). Young Men With Unlimited Capital: The Story of Woodstock. Scrivenery Press. ISBN 978-1-893818-02-6. 

External links

  • Woodstock Museum
  • Woodstock at DMOZ
  • Kirkpatrick, Rob (August 5, 2009). "Pot, Skinny-Dipping, and Freedom Rock: Woodstock and the Year of the Outdoor Music Festival". PopMatters. 
  • Michael Lang Interview, The man behind Woodstock. 
  • Chet Helms
  • Tom Rounds
  • Mel Lawrence
  • Lou Adler
  • John Phillips
  • Hilly Kristal
  • Michael Lang
  • Bill Graham
  • Wally Hope
  • Ubi Dwyer
  • Sid Rawle
  • Bill Hanley
  • Wavy Gravy
  • Freddy Bannister
  • Barry Fey
  • Merry Pranksters
  • Alex Cooley
  • Graeme Dunstan
  • Mick Farren
  • Russ Gibb
  • Shelly Finkel
  • Jim Koplik
  • Stewart Levine
  • Hugh Masekela
  • Leonard Stogel
  • Robert Raymond
  • Bruce Lundvall
  • Jerry Masucci
  • Counterculture of the 1960s
    • Summer of Love
    • UK underground
  • hippies
    • la Onda
    • deadheads
  • rock concert
    • crowd surfing
    • audience wave
  • music festival
    • folk festival
    • pop festival
    • rock festival
    • free festival

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