Woodstock, the most famous music festival in rock ‘n’ roll history, took place 40 years ago on August 15-18, 1969. To celebrate, here are 40 things you didn’t know about it…
1. Beatniks, hippies, flower children and rock legends gathered together not in Woodstock, but in the little town of Bethel, rural New York State.
2. The idea for the festival came from band manager Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld, a songwriter turned record company executive. They wanted to raise money to build a recording studio in Woodstock, upstate New York, a haven for artists including Bob Dylan, The Band and Van Morrison.
3. There was no suitable site in Woodstock, so organizers opted for Wallkill, 40 miles away. But residents blocked their plans, so dairy farmer Max Yasgur stepped in to offer his alfalfa field, in the neighboring hamlet of Bethel. A deal was struck for $75,000.
4. Melanie Safka (remember ‘I’ve got a brand new pair of rollerskates’?) failed to get a performer’s pass and had to sing her song, Beautiful People, to the security guards to get backstage.
5. Joni Mitchell wrote the festival’s eponymous song, with the lyrics ‘We are stardust we are golden’, from what she heard of the event from then-boyfriend Graham Nash, ex-Hollies and one quarter of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. But she never made it to Woodstock. Taking the advice of her manager, she chose to guest on the Dick Cavett Show and then watched the festival unfold on TV, tears streaming down her face.
6. Any decent flower child worth their name was there to protest against the Vietnam war abroad and racial tension at home.
7. With storm clouds approaching, the crowd was urged: ‘Let’s think hard to get rid of the rain.’ A chant went up: ‘No rain, no rain, no rain.’ But it didn’t stop the deluge and in three hours, five inches of rain fell and the festival became a mudfest. Joan Baez famously sang ‘We shall overcome’ during a full-on thunderstorm.
8. During the downpour there were fears some artists would get electrocuted. Alvin Lee, of Ten Years After, was warned of the risk as it was still raining when his turn came to go on. ‘Oh come on, if I get electrocuted at Woodstock we’ll sell lots of records,’ he said.
9. The performance of The Star-Spangled Banner by Jimi Hendrix that closed Woodstock was described by the rock critic from the New York Post as ‘the single greatest moment of the Sixties’. Yet it was witnessed by just a fraction of the crowd. Most had gone home by the time Hendrix came on stage, at 9am on a Monday morning.
10. British artists were represented by Ten Years After, The Who, The Incredible String Band, the Keef Hartley Band, Graham Nash and Mitch Mitchell, drummer in Jimi Hendrix’s band. Continue reading »