That summer of 1969 reinvented everything. The man managed to walk the Moon, Charles Manson shocked humanity with the murder of actress Sharon Tate, The Who changed rock with the release of the “Tommy” album, Bowie released “Space Oddity” and Woodstock caused the big bang for the big rock concerts. On August 15, 50 years ago, the music festival began to mark an era. For $ 7 a day, half a million people attended concerts held by 34 artists.
“Three days of peace and music” was the promise of organizers Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman, four young people from the music industry who organized the Woodstock Festival on August 15-16, 1969.
The festival was held in Bethel, New York, several tens of miles from Woodstock, because of a petition launched by city residents who refused to host thousands of people on their land. Finally, farmer Max Yasgur agreed to lease his 240-hectare plot of land for August 50-18 for $ 50,000 (the equivalent of $ 350,000 today).
In this space, they have performed legendary artists such as Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Joe Cocker, The Who, Carlos Santana, and Sly and the Family Stone.
In 1969, the music industry was not as strong as it is today. Thus, Jimi Hendrix was the highest-paid artist – for $ 18,000. Much over Joe Cocker, who received for his benefit $ 1,375, and Carlos Santana – $ 750.
Creedence Clearwater Revival was the first band to accept playing the festival.
Among the great absentees, The Rolling Stones. At the time, the music of the British band was characterized too violently by the organizers. Nor was John Lennon present, forbidden on American soil because of his pacifist views. The Doors declined the invitation: Jim Morrison was in the process after the disastrous concert in Miami at the time. But Bob Dylan was the main absentee. In the first volume of his “Memories”, published in 2015, the singer testified that the hippie invasion would have disgusted him so much that he refused to take the stage. A regret for the organizers who wanted to pay tribute to him for his work.
On the first day of the festival, the poster was Joan Baez, and Richie Havens, Melanie Safka and Arlo Guthrie took the stage. Country Joe McDonald, Santana, Canned Heat, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, and Jefferson Airplane were among those who sang the next day, and Joe Cocker, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Johnny Winter, and Jimi Hendrix played recitals in the third.
Among the 34 artists who went on stage, the recitals of many remained in the public memory.
This is the case with the interpretation of The Beatles song – “With a Little Help From My Friends” by Joe Cocker. The artist, for eight minutes, seemed completely transposed. A performance that remains in the collective imaginary as representative for the event. Just like when Jimi Hendrix sang the American anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner”. The guitarist proposed a hired arrangement, using the guitar to reproduce the sounds of American aircraft bombings in Vietnam. An issue very present during the festival.
The capricious weather of those days of August turned the field into a sea of mud, which became a fun place for spectators.
Three people died during the festival – two due to drug overdose and one trampled by a tractor. During the same period, two children were born.
In total, organizing the Woodstock festival would have cost over $ 2.4 million.
After 25 years, in 1994, a second Woodstock festival was held, held for two days at Winston Farm, New York. At that time, 164,000 tickets were sold. In 1999, another Woodstock was organized in the same state of New York, with rock, hip hop, punk and techno bands including Bush, Moby, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Megadeth, and Metallica.
Michael Lang wanted to mark 50 years since the first festival by an event that was to take place Watkins Glen (New York) and for which they had accepted to sing 76 artists. Among them: John Fogerty, Carlos Santana, John Sebastian and Country Joe McDonald (also present in the first edition), Jay-Z, The Killers, The Raconteurs, and Miley Cyrus.
In 2017, space, where the festival took place, was entered in the National Register of Historic Places.