Why Woodstock Has Been Written Into Music Folklore
Music3 Minutes Read

Why Woodstock Has Been Written Into Music Folklore

January 19, 2022 Share



WOODSTOCK 1969 was a totally different beast to the modern music festivals. Health and safety were nowhere near as much of an issue, there was an estimated one porta potty for 800+ people, and tickets only cost $18 for the three-day event. 53 years later, Coachella 2022 tickets are $549 for general admission.

Despite several logistical nightmares, Woodstock was a turning point in music history and its legacy is one of huge cultural significance. Massive food shortages and torrential rain didn’t stop at least 400,000 descending on a farm in Bethel, New York, and what took place was a manifestation of the peace and love movement soundtracked by some of the most revered musicians of all time.

Last week, Michael Lang, the concert promoter who helped conceive Woodstock, passed away aged 77. Michael Pagnotta, a spokesperson for Lang’s family, said: “He was absolutely a historic figure, and also a great guy. Both of those things go hand in hand.”

Lang, along with partners Artie Kornfield, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman, is credited with putting the festival together in the summer of 1969, billing the event as “An Aquarian Experience: 3 Days of Peace and Music”.

The famous poster that advertised the festival, made by Arnold Skolnick

At the time, the Vietnam war was raging and had left the disillusioned youth of America looking for an alternate lifestyle that put freedom of expression above adhering to traditional values.

Lang himself told Rolling Stone in 2009: “Woodstock came at a really dark moment in America. An unpopular war, a government that was unresponsive, lots of human rights issues — things were starting to edge toward violence for people to make their points. And along came Woodstock, which was this moment of hope.”

Despite scores of people turning up without tickets and squalid living conditions, the vibe was largely harmonious according to those that were there, with most people just looking for a musical escape and to spread a message of unity and peace.

Woodstock attendee Glen Weiser said: “Love had beaten the odds. The miracle of a multitude at peace with one another had occurred, and no one who was there will ever forget it.”

Another attendee Carl Porter, who still owns a family home close to the festival site, said: “Peace and love was the prevailing mood for my generation at that time. We were very tuned in to that wavelength and that vibe. The music reflected it and having all those people on the same page was an extraordinary experience.”

Elliot Landy was asked by Lang to document the festival with his camera, and his images have played an important role in cementing Woodstock’s legacy. “It was very much a place where no one had control,” he said, “And the success of it depended on the integrity and the altruism and the goodwill of the people there.

“Under dire circumstances, when there really wasn’t enough food or enough shelter, it was raining and muddy and cold, people found that through sharing and caring for each other everything worked out.”

Woodstock was, for the Age of Aquarius that was there, a moment of unity and harmony that showed what life could be like as views on freedom of expression were changing.

For younger generations who have only heard the folklore, it represents an anti-establishment counterculture that continues to resonate heavily within contemporary society. It was a snapshot of the 1960s hippie movement, but more importantly, it was proof that people had the power to alter the course of history, with the music at the heart of the movement.  

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Author: Tom Cramp
elliot landy
michael lang
New York
Rolling Stone
summer of '69