Woodstock, the most famous music festival of all time, took place 50 years ago this week, August 15th to the 18th, 1969, in Bethel, New York.
Billed as An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music, it was the brainchild of Michael Lang. His goal wasn't just to stage a music festival, which he had helped do the previous year at the Miami Pop Festival, but to to bring attention to issues affecting the world.
He first hoped to stage the festival in or near Woodstock, New York, which had become a refuge for Bob Dylan and many other artists. When that didn't pan out, they moved 40 miles south to Wallkill, New York. But, like Lang's plans this year for Woodstock 50, town officials refused to issue a permit, and, with a month to go,Woodstock was homeless.
Salvation came 45 miles to the west, to Bethel, New York, where dairy farmer Max Yasgur leased Woodstock Ventures 600 acres to hold its event.
With a line-up of 32 acts that included Creedence Clearwater Revival (the first act signed),Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone,The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin as well as Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young,The Band,Joe Cocker and Santana, word spread across the country and the masses descended upon Bethel.
Michael Lang on promoting Woodstock:
Tickets for the three-day event cost $18 in advance and $24 at the gate -- equivalent to about $120 and $160 today. But when an estimated 500,000 people showed up and pushed through the fences, it became a free concert. Scheduled for three days, it turned into four due to delays caused by the masses and miles of stalled traffic, technical difficulties and rain, which turned the festival into a sea of mud. Still,Woodstock became a legend and symbol of '60s history.
Michael Lang on the success of Woodstock:
The legend of Woodstock grew in 1970 with the Academy Award-winning documentary.Joni Mitchell, who did not attend the festival, wrote the song "Woodstock" about it. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young recorded it and added to the event's cultural reach.
Lang and his partners owned the rights to the movie and its soundtrack and were able to turn vast potential losses into profit.