It was a time of eye-popping, hand-painted VW buses, love beads, psychedelic tee-shirts—a time filled with the smell of patchouli oil with brownies on the side. It’s hard to believe that this month, a little outdoor summer party turned 50 years old.
Were it not for a country dairy farmer named Max Yasgur, who helped get the idea off the ground and pitched in for a weekend, the iconic party never would have been started.
Some acts, like Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Sly & the Family Stone, were already established artists, while others like Country Joe and the Fish, were just starting out.
With spin offs including an album, a film and even a United States postal stamp to follow, the party was a big hit.
The hippie caravan didn’t quite make it to Woodstock itself—it did make it to Yasgur’s farm, reaching half a million strong.
After Richie Havens, the lineup was impressive indeed, with some of the most iconic images and musical performances in rock history. The legendary extravaganza took place Aug. 15-18, 1969.
Despite a muddy mess at times, 32 acts gave it their all, come rain or come shine. After Richie’s sunrise celebration, the musicians seemed to get stronger and stronger all the way. The Incredible String Band was originally scheduled the first day following Ravi Shankar, backed down due to the mud and rain but performed on day two. All was forgiven after a riveting performance by Santana, followed by John Sebastian who could have been the festival’s fashion poster boy, dressed in tie-dye, head to toe.
The musician wasn’t even on the bill, but he made a surprise mini concert. It was followed by extraordinary performances by Canned Heat and the Grateful Dead.
The next day there was Joe Cocker’s famed version of “With a Little Help From my Friends.” Saturday night, the evening turned electric with The Band, Johnny Winter, Blood Sweat & Tears, memorable performances by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Sha Na Na and then the big finale—Jimi Hendrix burning it up with a sizzling version of the “The Star Spangled Banner.”
Let’s face it, Woodstock was one of a kind and there won’t be another—or, as Joni Mitchell (bummed out she didn’t perform) sang, “We are stardust, we are golden, and we’ve got to get ourselves back to the garden.”