The Woodstock Music and Art Fair was an event held at Max Yasgur’s 600 acre (2.4 km²) dairy farm in the rural town of Bethel, New York from August 15 to August 18, 1969. For many, it exemplified the counterculture of the 1960s and the “hippie era.” Many of the best-known musicians of the time appeared during the rainy weekend, captured in a successful 1970 movie, Woodstock. Joni Mitchell’s song “Woodstock,” which memorialized the event, became a major hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Though attempts have been made over the years to recreate the festival, the original Woodstock festival of 1969 has proven to be unique and legendary.
Woodstock has been idealized in the American popular culture as the culmination of the hippie movement. – What started as a paid event ended being free with over 500,000 attendees or flower children. Although the festival was remarkably peaceful given the number of people and conditions involved, the reality was less than perfect. Woodstock did have some crime and other misbehavior, as well as a fatality from a drug overdose, an accidental death caused by an occupied sleeping bag being run over by a tractor and one participant died from falling off a scaffold. There were also three miscarriages and two births recorded at the event and colossal logistical headaches. Furthermore, because Woodstock was not intended for such a large crowd, there were not enough resources such as portable toilets and first-aid tents. As a matter of fact the original plan for holding the festival in Wallkill, NY was scrapped because the town officially banned it on the grounds that the planned portable toilets wouldn’t meet town code. Maybe they would have preferred full bathroom suites.
There was some profiteering in the sale of “electric Kool-Aid.”
Woodstock began as a profit-making venture; it only became a free festival after it became obvious that the concert was drawing hundreds of thousands more people than the organizers had prepared for, and that the fence had been torn down by eager, unticketed arrivals. Tickets for the event (sold in 1969) cost US $18 to buy a ticket in advance (which would be US$95.58 in 2005 with inflation factored in) and $24 to buy a ticket at the gate for all three days. 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.
Yet, in tune with the idealistic hopes of the 1960s, Woodstock satisfied most attendees. Especially memorable were the sense of social harmony, the quality of music, and the overwhelming mass of people, many sporting bohemian dress, behavior, and attitudes
Performers and Schedule of Events
Friday, August 15
The first day, which officially began at 5:08 p.m. with Richie Havens, featured folk artists.
Richie Havens (opened the festival – performed 7 encores)
High Flyin’ Bird
I Can’t Make It Anymore
With A Little Help w/ me
Strawberry Fields Forever
I Had A Woman
Swami Satchidananda – gave the invocation for the festival
Country Joe McDonald, played separate set from his band, The Fish
I Find Myself Missing You
Rockin All Around The World
Flyin’ High All Over the World
Seen A Rocket flyin
The “Fish” Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag
How Have You Been
Rainbows Over Your Blues
I Had A Dream
For Pete’s Sake
Why Oh Why
Incredible String Band
When You Find Out Who You Are
The Road To Travel
I Wondered Where You Be
Things Are Going my Way
And When It’s Over
A Note That Read
Tim Hardin, an hour-long set
If I Were A Carpenter
Ravi Shankar, with a 5-song set, played through the rain
Raga Puriya-Dhanashri/Gat In Sawarital
Tabla Solo In Jhaptal
Raga Manj Kmahaj
Dhun In Kaharwa Tal
Birthday of The Sun
Coming Into Los Angeles
Walking Down The Line
Oh Happy Day
The Last Thing On My Mind
I Shall Be Released
Sweet Sir Galahad
Drug Store Truck Driving Man
(I Live) One Day at a Time
Sweet Sunny South
Warm and Tender Love
Swing Low Sweet Chariot
We Shall Overcome
Baez Source: Arthur Levy, annotator of the expanded editions of the 12 Joan Baez CDs on Vanguard
Saturday, August 16
The day opened at 12:15 pm, and featured some of the event’s biggest psychedelic and guitar rock headliners.
Quill, forty minute set of four songs
They Live the Life
Waitin’ For You
Keef Hartley Band
Believe In You
Rock Me Baby
Just To Cry
Sinnin’ For You
You Just Don’t Care
A Change Is Gonna Come/Leaving This Town
Going Up The Country
Let’s Work Together
Mountain, hour-long set including Jack Bruce’s “Theme For An Imaginary Western”
Blood of the Sun
Who Am I But You And The Sun
Beside The Sea
For Yasgur’s Farm (then untitled)
You and Me
Theme For An Imaginary Western
Waiting To Take You Away
Dreams of Milk and Honey
Blue Suede Shoes
Janis Joplin (Performed 2 encores; Piece of My Heart and Ball and Chain).
Raise Your Hand
As Good As You’ve Been To This World
To Love Somebody
Try (Just A Little Bit Harder)
Can’t Turn you Loose
Work Me Lord
Piece of My Heart
Ball and Chain
Sly & the Family Stone started at 1:30 am
Sing A Simple Song
You Can Make It If You Try
Dance To The Music
I Want To Take You Higher
Dark Star/High Time
Turn On Your Love Light
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Born on the Bayou
Ninety-Nine and a Half (Won’t Do)
Bad Moon Rising
I Put A Spell On You
Night Time is the Right Time
Keep On Chooglin’
The Who began at 3 AM, kicking off a 24-song set including Tommy
Heaven and Hell
I Can’t Explain
It’s a Boy
Eyesight to the Blind
Tommy Can You Hear Me?
There’s a Doctor
Go to the Mirror
Smash the Mirror
Tommy’s Holiday Camp
We’re Not Gonna Take It
See Me, Feel Me
Shakin’ All Over
Jefferson Airplane began at 8 a.m. with an eight-song set, capping off the overnight marathon.
Somebody To Love
The Other Side of This Life
Plastic Fantastic Lover
Won’t You Try/Saturday Afternoon
Eskimo Blue Day
Uncle Sam’s Blues
Sunday, August 17 to Monday, August 18
Joe Cocker was the first act on the last officially booked day (Sunday); he opened up for the day’s booked acts at 2 PM. The day’s events ultimately drove the schedule nine hours late. By dawn, the concert was continuing in spite of attendees’ having left, returning to the workweek and their other normal obligations.
Some Things Goin’ On
Let’s Go Get Stoned
I Shall Be Released
With a Little Help from My Friends
After Joe Cocker’s set, a storm disrupted the events for several hours.
Country Joe and the Fish resumed the concert around 6 p.m.
Rock and Soul Music
Thing Called Love
The “Fish” Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-To-Die Rag
Ten Years After
Good Morning Little Schoolgirl
I Can’t Keep From Crying Sometimes
I May Be Wrong, But I Won’t Be Wrong Always
Hear Me Calling
I’m Going Home
The Band – Set list confirmed via Levon Helm’s book “This Wheel’s On Fire”
Tears of Rage
We Can Talk
Don’t You Tell Henry
Don’t Do It
Ain’t No More Cane
Long Black Veil
This Wheel’s On Fire
I Shall Be Released
Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever
Blood, Sweat and Tears ushered in the midnight hour with five songs.
More and More
I Love You Baby More Than You Ever Know
I Stand Accused
Something Coming On
Johnny Winter featuring Edgar Winter, his brother, on two songs.
Mama, Talk to Your Daughter
To Tell the Truth
Johnny B. Goode
Six Feet In the Ground
Leland Mississippi Blues/Rock Me Baby
I Can’t Stand It (With Edgar Winter)
Tobacco Road (With Edgar Winter)
Mean Town Blues
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young began around 3 a.m. with separate acoustic and electric sets.
Suite: Judy Blue Eyes
4 + 20
You Don’t Have To Cry
Long Time Gone
Sea of Madness
Find the Cost of Freedom
Paul Butterfield Blues Band
Everything’s Gonna Be Alright
Born Under A Bad Sign
Na Na Theme
(Who Wrote) The Book of Love
Duke of Earl
At the Hop
Na Na Theme
Jimi Hendrix had insisted on being the final performer of the festival and was scheduled to perform at midnight. Due to various delays, he did not take the stage until nine o’clock on Monday morning. The crowd, estimated at over 400,000 at its peak, is reported to have been no larger than 80,000 when his performance began. His set lasted two hours — the longest of his career — and featured 17 songs, concluding with “Hey Joe”; but it played to a relatively empty field. The full list of Hendrix’s Woodstock performance repertoire follows:
Message to Love
Hear My Train A Comin’
Spanish Castle Magic
Jam Back At The House
Voodoo Child (Slight Return)/Stepping Stone
Star Spangled Banner
The Jeff Beck Group was scheduled to perform at Woodstock, but failed to make an appearance due to the band’s break-up the week before.
Iron Butterfly was stuck at an airport, and their manager demanded helicopters and special arrangements just for them. They were wired back and told, as impolitely as Western Union would allow, “to get lost”, but in other ‘words’.
Neil Young joined Crosby, Stills & Nash, but refused to be filmed; by his own report, Young felt the filming was distracting both performers and audience from the music. Young’s “Sea of Madness,” heard on the album, was actually recorded a month after the festival at the Fillmore East dance hall.
Joni Mitchell was slated to perform but her agent informed her that it was more important that she appear on “The Dick Cavett Show” on Monday, with its national audience, rather than “sit around in a field with 500 people.” Ironically, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Jefferson Airplane (who both performed at the festival) also made it to the show. She wrote and recorded the song “Woodstock” that was also a major hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and was recorded by Richie Havens on his 2004 album Grace of the Sun.
Ethan Brown was a solo guitarist highly admired by the ‘hippie’ youth, but he was arrested three days before the festival on LSD related charges. He is known best for his earlier childhood friendship with The Doors piano player, Ray Manzarek.
Canadian band Lighthouse was originally scheduled to play at Woodstock, but in the end they decided not to, fearing that it would be a bad scene. Later, several members of the group would say that they regretted the decision.
Mind Garage declined for various reasons but one of the primary reasons is that the band had agreed to a paid gig in Cleveland. Had they known that many of their friends were playing at this concert they would have attended. Read the entire story by clicking here.
The promoters contacted John Lennon, requesting for The Beatles to perform. Lennon said that he couldn’t get the Beatles, but offered to play with his Plastic Ono Band. The promoters turned this down.
The Doors were considered as a potential performing band, but cancelled at the last moment. Contrary to popular belief that this was related in some fashion to lead singer Jim Morrison’s arrest for indecent exposure while performing earlier that year, the cancellation was most likely due to Morrison’s known and vocal distaste for performing in large outdoor venues. There also was a widely spread legend that Morrison, in a fit of paranoia, was fearful that someone would take a shot at him while he was onstage Drummer John Densmore attended and can be seen on the side of the stage during Joe Cocker’s set.
Led Zeppelin were asked to perform, their manager Peter Grant stating “We were asked to do Woodstock and Atlantic were very keen, and so was our US promoter, Frank Barcelona. I said no because at Woodstock we’d have just been another band on the bill.” “Led Zeppelin: The Concert Files”, Lewis & Pallett, 1997, Omnibus Press, ISBN 0.7119.5307.4
Jethro Tull refused to perform, claiming that it wouldn’t be a big deal.
The Moody Blues for unknown reasons declined to perform. They later regretted not performing. They were however promoted as being a performer on the third day on early posters that stated the site being Wallkill.
Tommy James and the Shondells declined an invitation to perform at Woodstock, which they later regretted. Lead singer Tommy James stated later, “We could have just kicked ourselves. We were in Hawaii, and my secretary called and said, ‘Yeah, listen, there’s this pig farmer in upstate New York that wants you to play in his field.’ That’s how it was put to me. So we passed, and we realized what we’d missed a couple of days later.”
The Clarence White-era Byrds were given an opportunity to play, but refused to do so after a melee during their performance at the Atlanta Pop Festival earlier that summer.
Paul Revere & The Raiders declined to perform. They later regretted.
Bob Dylan was in negotiations to play, however he had to pull out as his son was taken ill. He also was unhappy about the number of the hippies piling up outside his house near the originally planned site. He would go on to perform at the Isle of Wight Festival two weeks later.
Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention Quote: “A lot of mud at Woodstock. We were invited to play there, we turned it down” – FZ. Citation: “Class of the 20th Century,” U.S. network television special in serial format, circa 1995.
Jimi Hendrix’s E-string broke when he was playing Red House and played the rest of the song with five strings, which was a remarkable feat.
John Sebastian wasn’t originally scheduled to perform. He was enlisted to perform when several of the acts were late in arriving due to the traffic going to the festival.
Richie Havens’s song “Freedom” was totally improvised. He was called back for so many encores that he ran out of songs to sing, so he just picked up his guitar and started singing “Freedom.” The song includes lyrics from the Negro spiritual, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”
Country Joe McDonald wasn’t scheduled to perform the first day. He was forced into it because many of the acts that were scheduled to perform that day hadn’t arrived yet. He also performed on Day Three with the rest of The Fish.
A 20-year-old man named Stephen Victor Tallarico (later known as Steven Tyler of Aerosmith) attended the festival.
Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young almost didn’t perform at the festival. The helicopter that Graham Nash and the group’s drummer Dallas Taylor were on was less than 25 feet off the ground when the tail rotor failed and it began to spin. The helicopter almost crashed and Nash and Taylor were almost killed.
Michael Lang once said that his original idea was to have Roy Rogers close the festival by singing “Happy Trails.”
The character named “Woodstock” from Peanuts was named for the festival.