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Posted: 2009 08-27


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The Man of The Land — The Greatest Single Clip in the History of Rock n Roll

Yup, we’re gonna have a festival.”

This is a masterpiece of humanity.

“I’m a farmer. … I don’t know how to speak to 20 people at one time let alone a crowd like this … "

No matter where you grew up or where you are, it’s all about the land: The Earth. The right here. The farmers who till the soil and grow the food that makes us whole. Whether it’s Hank or Bob, Bruce or Neil, Joni or Willie, music, in one way or another, is about getting back to the land.

And here is The Man of The Land. The Greatest Figure in the History of Rock n Roll. Don’t hit me, just dig it. Without Max Yasgur’s spirit — which is Guthrie and Kerouac and Lincoln combined — the greatest epoch in live rock n roll would never have happened. He was just a local dairy farmer who said yes when everyone else said no  

And that is one eternal lesson.

He was rock n roll's Rosa Parks. Except he owned the bus.  And said fuck you to the rule brokers, and drove it into history.

If you don’t know the backstory, Max was a respected, if iconoclastic, ‘elder statesman’ in this area of Sullivan County, NY, even though he was only 49 years old at the time of the festival. (And what a 50th he must have had! ☺ ) He was known to speak his mind and go his own way in an old-world rural culture that was very much go-along-get-along.

The festival organizers were thrown off of their months-of-construction site just 30 days before the festival was to begin.

Max 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 when 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, “Stop Max's hippy music festival — Buy no milk.”

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.

And thus, in one of the festival’s innumerable karmic and funny twists, the organizers were thrown out of the town of Wallkill, and ended up on Max’s farm along Happy Avenue  in Bethel(hem). There was a whole lotta Shinin’ goin’ on with this man and this moment.

He made the deal for the biggest event in rock history with a handshake. A two fingered handshake. Notice, at the end of the clip, that’s not a peace sign he’s flashing with his right hand — but a sign of his life as a hard working man of the land.

Without Max, who knows what would have happened.  But with him, magic did.  

R.I.P. — Max Yasgur 1919 – 1973


YouTube Uploader: innerpreneur

Max Yasgur, owner of the farm where Woodstock took place, appears onstage during the festival noting how the gathering sent a message to the world.

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