When Woodstock organizers launched their music festival on a dairy farm in Bethel, New York, in August 1969, they had no idea they were creating an event that would become a leading symbol of the “peace, love and music” ethos of the 1960s hippie culture.
The festival “Three Days of Peace and Music” — later called Woodstock — drew hundreds of thousands of attendees to see performers ranging from the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix to Joan Baez, The Who and Jefferson Airplane.
These photos will take you back to the Woodstock days of 1969 and help you feel like you were part of this epic festival.
Hoards Of Hippies
What was expected to draw maybe 200,000 people wound up attracting nearly half a million music- and peace-loving concertgoers.
Those in attendance set up tents and prepared to camp out for the duration of the festival, which lasted from Aug. 15 to Aug. 17.
Concertgoers didn’t seem to mind the rain and mud that came during the festival! In the book “The Road to Woodstock,” Lang reportedly said “rain simply meant it was a good time to meet new people.”
People were forced to huddle together under the open skies, or if they were lucky, makeshift tents, when the rains came. It was all about the music and the message — no matter the weather. (Note: Check out the festival baby on the tent floor in the image below!)
Bring On The Music
When it wasn’t raining, the grass served as the perfect viewing spot for some of the greatest musicians of the era. Spiritual leader Swami Satchidananda opened the festival on Aug. 15.
Iconic performances by artists such as Sly & The Family Stone will not soon be forgotten.
The theme of this musical event — peace, love and rock ‘n roll — became clear as strangers formed friendships over the course of the three days.
While this festival may have originally been all about the music, it wound up having significance on a much larger scale. From the cultural relevance to the fashion, you can still see the impressions the 1960s and 1970s had on the United States. Musician Joe Cocker’s a tie-dye shirt wouldn’t be out of place in 2018.
Four years before Woodstock, President Lyndon B. Johnson had made the decision to send American troops to Vietnam. Millions of Vietnamese and nearly 60,000 American troops ultimately died and many others were injured. This car displayed anti-war messages at Woodstock’s peace-promoting event.
From dressing to dancing, the festival promised freedom from the usual trappings of society. For many attendees, it changed their lives forever.
“It was a truly life-altering experience and one that changed the world,” attendee Annie Birch told The Huffington Post.
When not listening to music, the festival had plenty else to offer, such as Kundalini massage (shown below).
There may not be anything quite like Woodstock around now (or ever again, for that matter), but you can definitely see the influence this festival had on the festivals that are around today, such as Coachella. From flower crowns to fringe, people are still trying to recreate the free-flowing 1970s style in their ensembles.
One thing that will probably never be captured quite the same way again are the musical performances with a stellar lineup of musicians. Below, Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane perform.
Full Of Spirit
The spirit of the event would be impossible to recreate in the same way. It was all about peace, love and rock ‘n roll in a way that it never had been before and never quite will be again — which is likely why it’s remembered to this day.
Reliving Woodstock Days
People have tried to recreate Woodstock. There was a 40th anniversary concert in 2009 that strived to offer folks a chance to experience it again. This image is from the commemorative event, and as you can see with the vintage van and more, the event was reminiscent of the past.
On The Road To Woodstock
Can you imagine the organizers’ surprise when people flocked in by the thousands? It must have been quite the sight to see — lines and lines of VW Beetles and vans on the road to Woodstock.
The Best View
Those cars and buses wound up coming in handy for concertgoers in more ways than one. Some guests sat on top of them to get a better vantage point for the stage. How resourceful!
Looking back, it’s easy to see why so many people would travel to upstate New York to attend this event. It gave them the opportunity to see musicians such as Carlos Santana and David Brown go to town on the guitar and bass in person.
Tickets for the whole weekend sold for $18 in advance or $24 at the gate. Little did concertgoers know at the time, but they were in for the experience of a lifetime. Can you imagine what a concert like this might cost today?
Sense Of Community
When attendees weren’t listening to music, they were making friends, selling art and creating long-lasting memories. One attendee, Howard Loberfeld, who was 15 at the time and attended with his summer camp, told Today.com, he “noticed a lot of music, a lot of fun and a lot of community.”
Loberfeld also noted that what he experienced and what the media reported were entirely different. Media outlets were reporting about drug usage, deaths and lack of food, which clearly worried peoples’ parents back home! While there was some nudity, drug usage and even a few deaths, festival attendees insist the situation was safer than it was depicted in the media.
“There was a lot of drug stuff — overdoses, acting out, puking and drinking,” Joey Reynolds, a 22-year-old DJ at the time of the festival, told Today.com.
He continued, “I was camped out in the woods at the top of the field and there were all these paths with names like Far Out Path and Groovy Way. At the intersection there were people selling pot, acid and hash. But I didn’t see any heroin or cocaine or anything like that.”
Tragedy At Woodstock
Organizer Lang can account for three deaths caused by incidents such as car accidents and overdoses, according to a book he wrote about the festival. The mud made things more dangerous for those sleeping on the ground, and 17-year-old Raymond R. Mizzak was accidentally run over by a tractor and killed at the event.
Peace, Love And Happiness
Although a half million people were in attendance at Woodstock, there were no reported violent crimes or burglaries. A small handful of drug charges were handed out.
Those who attended the festival seem to have nothing but good things to say about it. The official Woodstock website collected statements from those who were on-site in 1969:
“My friend Bob and I drove through mobs of traffic on Friday to park within a few miles of the festival grounds,” a statement from John Bowman read. “We trekked in by foot. By the time we made it, the fences were down, our tickets were unnecessary, and the music was on. But what stopped us in our tracks was the massive size of the crowd, with all its energy and makeshift madness. Through thirst, hunger, rain and song, we bonded as one huge organism. Three days later, after Jimi brought those of us who stayed to a rousing finale, we drove home to lives that would never be the same again.”
Santana On Playing At Woodstock
It’s not just the fans who remember Woodstock fondly, either. The musicians also recall the event as a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience. Santana told Billboard:
“It was like witnessing an ocean of hair, teeth, eyes and hands. If you closed your eyes, you could forget the impact of seeing a moving ocean of flesh. Then you could just feel the sound, which had a different kind of reverberation when it bounced off the people and came back at you … I remember seeing Jerry Garcia; as soon as we landed, he was already playing his guitar on the hill with this beautiful, blissful smile on his face.”
How Much Was Each Artist Paid?
According to Consequence of Sound, Jimi Hendrix was the highest-paid artist of the festival, making $18,000. Other artists, such as Joan Baez made $10,000, The Grateful Dead earned $2,500 and Joe Cocker left with $1,375.
49 Years Since Woodstock
2018 marks the 49th year since the festival took place, and it will be remembered for many years to come for its music, for its message and for it cultural significance. Max Yasgur’s dairy farm where the festival took place is now the Bethel Woods Center for The Arts and is was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2017.
Changes In The Music Industry
While Jimi Hendrix made $18,000 in 1969, Beyoncé likely raked in between $3 to $4 million for her Coachella performance in 2018. So it’s safe to say a lot has changed in the music industry since the Woodstock days.
Coachella Vs. Woodstock
Half a million or more people descended on Woodstock, hugely stressing the available food and water. According to HelloGiggles, around 125,000 people attend Coachella — and even that starts to feel a bit crowded!
Is Coachella The New Woodstock?
Considering the comparison is still being made and Coachella is still striving to live up to the significance of Woodstock, it’s probably safe to say that it’s not quite there yet.
The festival has come to dictate what “festival fashion” should look like, from fringe to flowers to large sunglasses and other items you may not wear everyday.
Why It’s Called Woodstock
Organizers had initially hoped to host the festival in Woodstock, New York. When they couldn’t find the appropriate space there, they settled on a dairy farm 40-some miles away in Bethel, New York. Still, the original name stuck.
Gone, But Not Forgotten
Much has changed in the nearly 49 years since this music fest, but two facts remain: Woodstock left a lasting impression on America, and we’re still chasing after the same things: peace, love, happiness. And oh yeah — great music doesn’t hurt either!