|Genre||Rock and folk, including
blues rock, folk rock,
jazz fusion, hard rock,
latin rock, psychedelic rock
|Dates||August 15-17, 1969
ran over to August 18
|Location(s)||Bethel, White Lake,
New York, U.S. (original)
|Years active||1969 (original). 49 years ago
1979, 1989, 1994, 1999, 2009
|Founded by||Michael 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 in the United States in 1969 which attracted an audience of more than 400,000. Scheduled for August 15-17 on a dairy farm in the Catskill Mountains of southern New York State, northwest of New York City, it ran over to Monday,
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 near the hamlet of White Lake in the town of Bethel. Located in Sullivan County, Bethel is 43 miles (70 km) southwest of the town of Woodstock in adjoining Ulster County.
During the sometimes rainy weekend, 32 acts performed outdoors before an audience of more than 400,000 people. It is widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history, as well as the definitive nexus for the larger counterculture generation.
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. Joni Mitchell said, "Woodstock was a spark of beauty" where half-a-million kids "saw that they were part of a greater organism." 
Woodstock was initiated through the efforts of Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, Joel Rosenman, and John P. Roberts. 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. 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.
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. 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.
In April 1969, 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 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 regarding the festival.
Woodstock was designed as a profit-making venture. 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). 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.
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. 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 ( ) in the town of Wallkill, New York, which Woodstock Ventures leased for $10,000 in the Spring of 1969. 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. Reports of the ban, however, turned out to be a publicity bonanza for the festival.
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. 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. 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", 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.
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 would lose any profit or go into debt; 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, the Wednesday before the weekend, the decision was made for them. Those without tickets simply walked through gaps in the fences, and the organizers were forced to make the event free of charge. Though the festival left its promoters nearly bankrupt, their ownership of the film and recording rights more than compensated for the losses after the release of the hit documentary film in 1970.
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. 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.Arlo Guthrie made an announcement that was included in the film saying that the New York State Thruway was closed. The director of the Woodstock museum discussed below said this never occurred. 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.
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. 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.
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.
Hendrix and his new band, Gypsy Sun and Rainbows (introduced as The Experience, but corrected by Hendrix)  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; 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.
Although the festival was remarkably peaceful given the number of people and the conditions involved, there were two recorded fatalities: one from insulin usage, 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. 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.
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..."
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."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. For many years this system was collectively referred to as the Woodstock Bins.
Thirty-two acts performed over the course of the four days:
|Richie Havens||5:07 pm - 7:00 pm|
|Swami Satchidananda||7:10 pm - 7:20 pm||Gave the opening speech/invocation for the festival.|
|Sweetwater||7:30 pm - 8:10 pm|
|Bert Sommer||8:20 pm - 9:15 pm|
|Tim Hardin||9:20 pm - 9:45 pm|
|Ravi Shankar||10:00 pm - 10:35 pm||Played through the rain.|
|Melanie||10:50 pm - 11:20 pm|
|Arlo Guthrie||11:55 pm - 12:25 am|
|Joan Baez||12:55 am - 2:00 am||Was six months pregnant at the time.|
|Quill||12:15 pm - 12:45 pm|
|Country Joe McDonald||1:00 pm - 1:30 pm||Joe later performed together with The Fish.|
|Santana||2:00 pm - 2:45 pm||Aged 20,Michael Shrieve, the band's drummer, was the youngest musician to play at the festival.|
|John Sebastian||3:30 pm - 3:55 pm||Sebastian was not on the bill, but rather was attending the festival, and was recruited to perform while the promoters waited for many of the scheduled performers to arrive.|
|Keef Hartley Band||4:45 pm - 5:30 pm|
|The Incredible String Band||6:00 pm - 6:30 pm|
|Canned Heat||7:30 pm - 8:30 pm|
|Mountain||9:00 pm - 10:00 pm||This performance was only their third gig as a band|
|Grateful Dead||10:30 pm - 12:05 am||Their set was cut short after the stage amps overloaded during "Turn On Your Love Light".|
|Creedence Clearwater Revival||12:30 am - 1:20 am|
|Janis Joplin with The Kozmic Blues Band||2:00 am - 3:00 am|
|Sly and the Family Stone||3:30 am - 4:20 am|
|The Who||5:00 am - 6:05 am||Briefly interrupted by Abbie Hoffman.|
|Jefferson Airplane||8:00 am - 9:40 am||Joined onstage on piano by Nicky Hopkins.|
|Joe Cocker and The Grease Band||2:00 pm - 3:25 pm||Played "With A Little Help From My Friends." After Joe Cocker's set, a thunderstorm disrupted the events for several hours.|
|Country Joe and the Fish||6:30 pm - 8:00 pm||Country Joe McDonald's second performance.|
|Ten Years After||8:15 pm - 9:15 pm|
|The Band||10:00 pm - 10:50 pm|
|Johnny Winter||12:00 am - 1:05 am||Winter's brother, Edgar Winter, is featured on three songs.|
|Blood, Sweat & Tears||1:30 am - 2:30 am|
|Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young||3:00 am - 4:00 am||An acoustic and electric set were played. Neil Young skipped most of the acoustic set.|
|Paul Butterfield Blues Band||6:00 am - 6:45 am|
|Sha Na Na||7:30 am - 8:00 am|
|Jimi Hendrix / Gypsy Sun & Rainbows||9:00 am - 11:10 am||Performed to a considerably smaller crowd of fewer than 200,000 people.|
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". The New York Times ran an editorial titled "Nightmare in the Catskills," which read in part, "The dreams of marijuana and rock music that drew 300,000 fans and hippies to the Catskills had little more sanity than the impulses that drive the lemmings to march to their deaths in the sea. They ended in a nightmare of mud and stagnation... What kind of culture is it that can produce so colossal a mess?" 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.
The New York Times covered the prelude to the festival and the move from Wallkill to Bethel. 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. 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.
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.
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.
Woodstock received the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. 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. 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. 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.
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 (many by Production Coordinator John Morris, 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, 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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
In 1984, a plaque was placed at the original site commemorating the festival. 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.
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. The Center opened on July 1, 2006, with a performance by the New York Philharmonic. 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.
The Museum at Bethel Woods opened on June 2, 2008. 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.
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.
There was worldwide media interest in the 40th anniversary of Woodstock in 2009. 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 lineup 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. Richie Havens, who opened the Woodstock festival in 1969, appeared at a separate event the previous night. 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. 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. 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.
As one of the biggest rock festivals of all time and a cultural touchstone for the late 1960s, Woodstock has been referenced in many different ways in popular culture. The phrase "the Woodstock generation" became part of the common lexicon. 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 still unnamed - Woodstock in tribute to the festival. 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.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.
In 2017, the singer Lana Del Rey released a song, Coachella - Woodstock in My Mind, in order to show her worries about the tensions between North Korea and the United States, while she was at Coachella, expressing nostalgia by reminding the Woodstock festival as a symbol of peace.
Opening ceremony at Woodstock. Swami Satchidananda giving the opening speech
Joe Cocker and the Grease Band performing at Woodstock
Richie Havens performing at Woodstock