Back on August 15, 1969, an iconic pop cultural event began. The event—the Woodstock Music & Art Fair—helped define the Sixties era. The Sixties was a decade well known for the Vietnam War, political protest, peace and love, and a youth culture of hippies with a new, louder voice.
Fashion, music, art, and design moved from appealing to an adult audience to cater instead to an emerging youth market. This was revolutionary. The hold youth culture first would have on popular culture in the Sixties remains today. And rock ‘n’ roll music was front and center in this revolution.
Four promoters got together to put on a festival to highlight the music, art, and youth culture of the day. It was scheduled to last three days over the weekend of August 15, 1969, but due to rain delays it stretched into Monday.
Some of the biggest performers of the era showed up to play at Woodstock. The lineup included: Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, the Who, Jefferson Airplane, The Band, Sly and the Family Stone, Santana, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (CSNY), among many others. Folk artists like Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie also performed. Renowned Indian musician Ravi Shankar played sitar, an instrument George Harrison, guitarist of The Beatles, had popularized in the West.
Hendrix was scheduled to headline the festival Sunday night. The headliner plays last and is the most honored concert position. However, rain delays made Woodstock stretch into Monday morning. His performance of a solo guitar version of the National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” is still regarded as a high-point of rock ‘n’ roll.
Several of the performers at Woodstock had also played at the Monterey Pop Festival two years before, at the epicenter of hippie culture in California. Joplin in particular wowed the crowd there, becoming an instant sensation. At Woodstock, she played with a full band, but it was terribly late. She started at 2:00 a.m. Nevertheless, her performance at Woodstock is important in rock history.
The festival’s opening ceremony
Over 400,000 people gathered to celebrate music, art, and youth culture at Woodstock. This was a massive amount of people to gather for a single event, at the time. For example, Monterey Pop in 1967 had fewer than 100,000 in attendance. Woodstock was held on a dairy farm in upstate New York in the town of Bethel, in the Catskill Mountains. Today there is a museum at the festival site. A film was also made of the concerts, preserving all of the amazing performances so they can still be seen today.
Joplin Image Source: Ashley Famous Agency
Joplin Image License: public domain
Opening Image Source: Mark Goff
Opening Image License: public domain