The Legacy of the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival

Written by Michele Wheat

Woodstock, arguably the most iconic music festival of all time, was held in August of 1969 on a dairy farm in Upstate New York State. This dairy farm was located just outside the town of Woodstock, hence the festival's name. Thirty-two musical acts performed, and the festival was attended by a crowd of around 400,000 people.

The Idea for the Festival

The original creative minds behind the festival were Michael Lang, John P. Roberts, Artie Kornfield, and Joel Rosenman. Each member of this group had their own strengths which they brought to the project and the combination of music, marketing, and planning experience is what led to the festival being such a huge success, even with some roadblocks they met by along the way.

Roadblocks and Problems Faced by Woodstock Before and During the Festival

The producers of the Woodstock Music Festival initially had a hard time getting bands to sign on to play. However, this was changed when Creedence Clearwater Revival signed a contract to play at 3 am for $10,000. Once other bands heard this, they were much more willing to sign on to be on the Woodstock stage. Still many acts that were invited declined, and others that initially accepted ended up not attending.  While Woodstock was originally meant to be a for-profit event, and tickets were sold for approximately twenty dollars apiece, the lack of fencing and gating made ticketing and crows control extremely difficult, and many fans attended without paying. News media, both local and regional, were quick to point out the muddy grounds and traffic jams resulting from Woodstock and were not initially reporting it as a large success. The crowds were such that performers had to be airlifted to and from the festival, and there was a threat of National Guard presence to handle crowd control.

General Overview of the Festival

The sound at Woodstock consisted of speaker towers on the various hills and speakers spread throughout. The setup was planned to accommodate a crowd of 150,000 to 200,000 people, so when over 400,000 showed up, not everyone could even hear the music. The lighting was a last-minute success, and performers were seen only by spotlights controlled by workers. After a change of venue, much of the lighting work was not used, and even on location, the stage would not hold the lighting as designed. The festival lasted four days and hosted thirty-two acts. The opening act was Richie Havens, who gained this spot after other artists were delayed by traffic and police. Jimi Hendrix was the last performance of the festival and did not have nearly as large of a crowd as people were beginning to head home.

How Woodstock Became Iconic and Left its Impression on Future Generations of Performers and Music Festivals

Warner Bros took on the project of the Woodstock documentary film, which ended up financially saving both the creators of Woodstock and the Warner Bros company. This film was produced in 1970. The festival has come to represent an iconic image of the youth of the time, and many think all teenagers and young adults in the late '60s were hippies. Woodstock has influenced several generations of performers and is still popular today in both literature and film. Many songs have been written about Woodstock or reference it in some manner, and many artists that were there are idolized. There is even a forever stamp issued by the United States Postal Service that commemorates the 50th anniversary of this iconic festival.