Promoter Planned '3 Days of Peace & Music'

Woodstock went beyond Michael Lang's hopeful vision
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 9, 2022 1:05 PM CST
Woodstock Went Beyond Michael Lang's Hopeful Vision
Woodstock co-producer and co-founder Michael Lang in 2019.   (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

Michael Lang, concert promoter and co-creator of the 1969 Woodstock music festival, has died. He was 77. A representative said Lang died Saturday in a New York hospital of a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Rolling Stone reports. Working with promoter Artie Kornfeld and a pair of businessmen, Lang conceived of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, billed as "3 Days of Peace & Music" and held on Max Yasgur's farm in upstate New York. The event drew 400,000 people, overwhelming the region, including the New York State Thruway; people headed to Max Yasgur's farm abandoned their cars and found other ways to reach the festival, per Variety.

The festival featured more than 30 acts performing on the main stage, per the AP, as well as pouring rain, food shortages, insufficient sanitary facilities, and heavy drug use onstage and off. Robin Williams was among those who said, "If you can remember Woodstock, you probably weren't there." Joan Baez, one of the performers, once said she remembers "the mud and the cops roasting hot dogs and people wandering around in the nude," adding, "It was this weekend of love and intimacy and attempts at beauty and at caring and at being political." Financially, Woodstock bombed. In the 1970 documentary, however, Lang is shown telling a reporter at the festival: "Look at what you got there. You couldn't buy that for anything."

The concert produced famous performances by, and in some cases launched, such acts as Santana, the Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Who, Jimi Hendrix, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Despite the problems, "Woodstock's free-wheeling ethos of 'peace and music' endured, making the festival a defining moment in the decade's countercultural movement," Hazel Cills writes for NPR. That's how Lang saw it. "Woodstock came at a really dark moment in America," Lang, who was 24 at the time, later told Rolling Stone. "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." (More obituary stories.)

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