Three days of peace and music appeared to be just what the world needed at a time when Americans were deeply divided on issues ranging from traditional societal structures to foreign wars. In the summer of 1969, one of the most famous music festivals in history was held in a field in Bethel, New York. The Woodstock Music Festival, which took place on August 15, 1969, has become a symbol of the 1960s counterculture movement.
A Concert On A Dairy Farm
The Woodstock festival, which took place between Friday, August 15, and Monday, August 18, 1969, is estimated to have drawn over 400,000 people. The 1969 festival was held on farmer Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York, as the original venue fell through at the last moment. One million people arrived in Bethel, clogging the roads and forcing many to abandon their vehicles and walk the rest of the way. About half a million people attended the event.
Hurdles Didn’t Stop The Festival
Woodstock was organized by four inexperienced promoters who nevertheless signed a who’s who of current rock acts, including Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, the Jefferson Airplane, Country Joe and the Fish, and Ravi Shankar. Few tickets were sold, but 400,000 people showed up, mostly demanding free admission, which they got because security was virtually nonexistent. Rain turned the festival site into a mud puddle, but the event went on and created history!
So Who Performed?
The first artist opened just after 5 p.m. on Friday with singer-songwriter Richie Havens and continued on Saturday with The Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, The Who, and Jefferson Airplane. Sunday began with a memorable performance by Joe Cocker, followed by The Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young before Jimi Hendrix arrived around 9 am on Monday. He opened on that beautiful Monday morning and ended with his famous Purple Haze. Fun fact: The couple on the album cover and film poster are still together!
More Than Just A Festival
The Woodstock crowd was diverse and reflected the rapidly changing times. Some were hippies who felt alienated by a materialistic society. The country was deep into the contentious Vietnam War in 1969, a conflict that many young people vehemently opposed. It was also the time of the civil rights movement, which caused widespread unrest and protest. Woodstock allowed people to escape into music while also spreading a message of unity and peace. Despite bad weather, muddy conditions, a lack of food, water, and adequate sanitation, the overall vibe at Woodstock was harmonious. Despite requests to revive the festival in 1970, Yasgur returned to his dairy farm, selling the site in 1971. He passed away in February 1973.