53 years ago today, the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, opens on a patch of farmland in White Lake, a hamlet in the upstate New York town of Bethel.
Held for 3 days, 15 till 18 August 1969, the festival has become widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history as well as a defining event for the countercultureâHippies and Flowerâgeneration. Woodstock attracted an audience of more than 400,000. 32 acts performed outdoors despite sporadic rain.
Promoters John Roberts, Michael Lang, and a few others, originally envisioned the festival as a way to raise funds to build a recording studio and rock ‘n’ roll retreat near the town of Woodstock, New York. The longtime artists’ colony was already a home base for Bob Dylan and other musicians. Despite their relative inexperience, the young promoters managed to sign a roster of top acts, including the Jefferson Airplane, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival and many more.
Plans for the festival were on the verge of foundering, however, after both Woodstock and the nearby town of Wallkill denied permission to hold the event. Dairy farmer Max Yasgur came to the rescue at the last minute, giving the promoters access to his 600 acres of land in Bethel, some 50 miles from Woodstock.
Led Zeppelin, The Rolling Stones, Simon & Garfunkel, Jethro Tull, Free, The Byrds, The Doors, The Moody Blues, Procol Harum, and Joni Mitchell were asked to perform, but later either declined or cancelled.
Later music festivals inspired by Woodstock’s success failed to live up to its standrad and the festvial still stands for many as an example of America’s 1960s youth counter culture at its best.
In total, there were 3 Woodstock festivals: 1969, 1994, and 1999. The first one is the original, the second one, it was held to mark their 25th anniversary. Two Woodstock veterans, Joe Cocker and Santana, they performed again, this time together with Metallica, Aerosmith, NIN, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Bob Dylan.
Michael Lang, one of Woodstock’s founders, has just died from cancer in January 2022 at the age of 77.
â¢ Read also MICHAEL PUTLAND: FROM ABBA TO ZAPPA.
Sources: Rolling Stone, Wikipedia, Vogue, The Guardian.