The Woodstock Music Festival began on August 15, 1969, as half a million people waited for the festival to open at a nearby dairy farm a Bethel, New York. Known as an experience to be had, woodstock was a festival that lasted 3 days of intense pay and music (Peace and Music). The epic event would later be known simply as Woodstock and become synonymous with the countercultural movement of the 1960s. Woodstock was a success, but the massive concert did not go off without a hitch: Last-minute changes, bad weather and hordes of attendees caused major headaches. Despite the rain during the festival, the huge amounts of drugs, sex and rock n roll music, Woodstock was a peaceful party and earned its prominent place in the history of hippie culture.
The Creation of Woodstock
The Woodstock Music Festival was created by four men, all 27 years old or younger, looking for an idea for an event that could blend business with their passions for hippie and rock culture. The founders are John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld and Michael Lang.
These four businessmen were not newcomers.Lang had already organized the Miami Music Festival in 1968 and Kornfeld was the youngest vice president of Capitol Records. Roberts and Rosenman were New York entrepreneurs involved in building a recording studio in Manhattan. The four men formed Woodstock Ventures, Inc. and decided to organize a music festival.
Creedence Clearwater Revival was the first major talent to get involved and gave Woodstock the credibility it needed to attract other big name musicians.
Where was Woodstock?
The original plan for Woodstock called for the event to be held at the Howard Mills Industrial Park in Wallkill, New York.
Wallkill city officials, however, were spooked and backed out of the deal by passing a law that eliminated any possibility of holding the concert on their turf.
Woodstock Ventures explored a couple of other sites, but none of them worked. Finally, just one month before the concert, Max Yasgur, a 49-year-old dairy farmer, offered to lease them some of his land in the White Lake area of Bethel, New York, surrounded by the verdant Catskill Mountains.
With a month to go before the concert, the four frenzied partners jumped at the chance and paid the asking price.
Woodstock, not in the town of Woodstock
Max Yasgur probably never imagined he would welcome half a million people to his 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York. But for three consecutive days in August 1969, his bucolic pastures became a hub of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll during Woodstock, the music festival that changed the world.
Even though it's called the Woodstock festival, Yasgur's dairy farm wasn't even within walking distance of the town of Woodstock; it was more than 50 miles away.
Woodstock becomes a free concert
Woodstock was not supposed to be a free concert. However, due to lack of time and organization, the concert partners were forced to make the concert free. The main reason for this was that the ticket booths and security barriers were not ready for the start of the event. With no way to restrict access to the festival, and charge festival-goers (no ticket booths), they had no choice but to make the festival free.
According to Lang, in an interview with the Telegraph, you do everything you can to get the gates and fences done, but you have your priorities. People come, you have to be able to feed them, take care of them, and give them a show. So you have to prioritize.
With no effective way to charge patrons, Lang and his partners decided to make Woodstock a free event.
A huge influx of festival goers
Originally, about 50,000 people were expected. But by August 13, 2 days before the concert, that number of people were already on site and over 100,000 tickets had been sold in advance.
As approximately one million people descended on Woodstock, its organizers scrambled to add more facilities. Freeways and local roads came to a halt and many spectators simply abandoned their cars and walked the rest of the way. Eventually, about half a million people turned out.
Woodstock's audience was diverse and reflected the rapidly changing times. Some were hippies who felt alienated by a society steeped in materialism and others were simply rock lovers.
In 1969, the country was immersed in the controversy of the Vietnam War, a conflict that many young people opposed intensely. It was also the time of the civil rights movement, a time of great unrest and protest. Woodstock was an opportunity for people to escape into music and spread a message of unity and peace.
Although the crowd at Woodstock experienced bad weather, muddy conditions, and a lack of food, water, and adequate sanitation, the overall atmosphere was harmonious. In retrospect, some attribute the lack of violence to the large number of psychedelic drugs used.
Others believe that the hippies were simply living out their mantra of making love, not war. In fact, a great many people at Woodstock took this commandment literally and had sex anytime, anywhere.
Safety and Security Issues
Volunteer doctors, paramedics, and nurses staffed the Woodstock medical tent. Most of the injuries were minor, such as food poisoning and barefoot injuries.
It was reported that eight women miscarried. One teenager died after being run over by a tractor. Another person died of a drug-related death. But this was small compared to the large number of festival-goers (half a million).
Security was limited as off-duty police officers were prohibited. It is estimated that there were no more than a dozen police officers to keep an eye on 500,000 people.
Artists in attendance a Woodstock
Thirty-two musicians, a combination of local and world-renowned talent, performed at Woodstock. At approximately 5:00 p.m. on Friday, August 15, Richie Havens took the stage and played a 45-minute set.
Havens was followed by an unscheduled blessing by yoga guru Sri Swami Satchidananda. Other first day performers were:
- Bert Sommer
- Tim Hardin
- Ravi Shanker
- Arlo Guthrie
- Joan Baez
Baez played the end of her set in a torrential rain. The first day ended around 2:00 a.m. on August 16.
The second day officially began around 12:15 p.m. The lineup for day two began:
- Country Joe McDonald
- John Sebastian
- Keef Hartley Band
- The Incredible String Band
- Canned Heat
- The Grateful Dead
- Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Janis Joplin
- Sly and the Family Stone
- The Who
- Jefferson Airplane
The second day ended around 9:45 a.m. on Sunday, August 17.
The third day began around 2:00 pm. Joe Cocker was the first musician to play. The rest of the lineup included:
- Country Joe and The Fish
- Ten Years After
- The Band
- Johnny Winter
- Blood Sweat and Tears
- Crosby Stills Nash and Young
- Paul Butterfield Blues Band
- Sha Na Na
- Jimi Hendrix
Hendrix was the last musician to perform at Woodstock. Rain delays prevented him from taking the stage until early Monday morning, and by the time he continued, the crowd had dwindled to about 25,000.
There are also some artists who refused to participate in the Woodstock event like :
- Simon and Garfunkel
- Led Zeppelin
- Bob Dylan
- The Byrds
- The Moody Blues
- The Doors
- Roy Rogers
- John Lennon
- Chicago Transit Authority
- The Rolling Stones
The Woodstock Legacy
Woodstock officially ended on Monday, August 18, after Hendrix left the stage. Leaving Woodstock was no easier than getting there. Roads and highways quickly became blocked as festival-goers headed home.
Cleaning up the site was a massive task that required several days, numerous bulldozers, and tens of thousands of dollars.
In 2006, the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts opened on the hill where the Woodstock Music Festival took place. Today, it hosts concerts, concerts, and events. Today, it hosts outdoor concerts in its beautiful pavilion. There is also a 1960s museum on site.
Many popular musicians performed in Bethel Woods, some of whom took the stage at Woodstock, such as Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Santana, Arlo Guthrie, and Joe Cocker.
Woodstock is perhaps best described by Max Yasgur, the humble farmer who lent his land for the occasion. Addressing the audience on the third day, he said, ....you proved something to the world...what you proved to the world is that half a million kids, and I call you kids because I have kids who are older than you, half a million kids can get together and have three days of fun, music and nothing but fun, and music and God be with you!
Reliving the Woodstock Festival
Jimi Hendrix performs 'The Star-Spangled Banner' on the last morning of the Woodstock concert in 1969.
Santana performs 'Soul Sacrifice' on the second day of the Woodstock Festival in 1969.
Jefferson Airplane performs 'White Rabbit' on the second day of the Woodstock music festival in 1969.
The audience leaves the Woodstock festival in 1969 to return to their lives after three days of music, peace and love.