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Rock Hall Anniversary: Woodstock

It is perhaps one of the most famous music festivals, as well as one of the most pivotal moments in music history.

For three days in August 1969, a town in upstate New York became the location for the Woodstock Festival. It was held at a 600-acre dairy farm owned by Max Yasgur, located in the Catskills near the town of Bethel, New York. The festival was organized by Michael Lang, John Roberts, Joel Rosenman and Artie Kornfield, and it was attended by approximately 200,000 people. Initially having tickets sales of $18 to $24, it became a free concert when the fence was torn down by spectators.
Woodstock was captured on film (released in 1970), and some of the moments captured included concertgoers taking part in yoga, rainy weather that resulted in a few delays, as well as a few mud rituals, and Yasgur showing his gratitude for the festival. But of course the most notable moments was the music. It began with a performance from Ritchie Havens, and as the film progressed there with other notable performances including the Who, Sly & the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Ten Years After. Jimi Hendrix was the final performance, and he gave the pivotal performance of doing a psychedelic cover of the Star Spangled Banner.

Other performers at Woodstock but were not included in the film included Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Grateful Dead, Johnny Winter and Blood, Sweat & Tears. There were also a few notable missed connections from other artists including Bob Dylan, the Jeff Beck Group, and Joni Mitchell (who wrote the festival anthem that would be covered by Crosby, Stills & Nash).

A soundtrack was later released, and it would knock the Beatles’ Let it Be from the number one spot. Since then, Woodstock was revered as one of the biggest moments of all time. A monument was placed at the festival’s site in 1984, a museum was opened, and there were concerts commemorating the event, particularly in 1994 and 1999 (the latter ending in disaster). Yasgur and some of the performers may be gone, but Woodstock continues to be a cultural touchstone to this day.

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