Next Thursday will be the 50th anniversary of a music festival that has been widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history and an event Rolling Stone Magazine listed as one of the top moments that changed the history of rock and roll.
Woodstock, a music festival that was billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music" was held on a 240ha dairy farm in Bethel, upstate New York. Funnily enough it was some 70 kilometers southwest of Woodstock.
Over that rainy weekend, 32 acts performed on the outdoor stage to an audience of more than 400,000 people. The festival was the brainchild of Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, Joe Rosenman and John P. Roberts.
Roberts and Rosenman were a couple of New York entrepreneurs who proposed an outdoor concert featuring the kind of artists that were known to frequent the Woodstock area, such as Bob Dylan and Robbie Robinson and The Band.
In April of 1969, Credence Clearwater Revival became the first act to sign up for the event, agreeing to play for US$10,000. After they signed other top acts came on board. Tickets for the three-day festival sold for $18 in advance and $24 at the gate and were sold at record stores in the greater New York City area of by mail. About 180,000 advance tickets were sold.
The event drew a lot of opposition from locals in the Bethel area with signs popping up saying, "Buy No Milk. Stop Max's Hippy Music Festival".
No one expected the crowds that rolled up on opening day, chocking rural roads leading to the venue and eventually the organisers were forced to make the concert a "free event" after hundreds of thousands descended on the farm.
Although the festival was remarkably peaceful given the number of people and the under-foot conditions, there were two recorded deaths. One from insulin usage and another caused in an accident, when a tractor ran over someone sleeping in a nearby hayfield. There were also two births recorded at the event.
The first of the 32 acts to perform over the four days was Richie Havens. The final act was Jimi Hendrix along with Gypsy Sun & Rainbows. Between those two great acts were the likes of Joe Cocker, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Janis Joplin, The Who, Santana, Canned Heat and Jefferson Airplane to name a few.
In March of 1970 the documentary film Woodstock was released, and that film went on to receive an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Two soundtrack albums were also released, and I am happy to say I still have my copy.
As one of the biggest rock festivals of all time, the 1969 event changed the world of music and outdoor concerts and many songs were recorded referring to Woodstock, like Joni Mitchell's Woodstock and Melanie Safka's 1970 hit Lay Down.
Next week I will write about the acts that received invitations to perform but didn't show.