A Tribute to Woodstock Music & Art Fair - August 15 to August 18, 1969 - Talking about the Woodstock

Woodstock Music & Art Fair

August 15 to August 18, 1969

I'm going on down to Yasgur's Farm,

I'm gonna join in a rock and roll band.

I'm gonna camp out on the land.

I'm gonna get my soul free.

We are stardust.

We are golden.

And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden.

("Woodstock" by Joni Mitchell)

The Woodstock Music & Art Fair was a music festival, billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music". It was held at Max Yasgur's 600-acre dairy farm in the Catskills near the hamlet of White Lake in the town of Bethel, New York, from August 15 to August 18, 1969 (but ran over four days to August 18). Festival's line up was - Friday, August 15 to Saturday, August 16: Richie Havens, Swami Satchidananda, Sweetwater, Bert Sommer, Tim Hardin, Ravi Shankar, Melanie Safka, Arlo Guthrie, and Joan Baez. Saturday, August 16 to Sunday, August 17: Quill, Country Joe McDonald, Santana, John B. Sebastian, Keef Hartley Band, The Incredible String Band, Canned Heat, Mountain, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, The Who, and Jefferson Airplane. Sunday, August 17 to Monday, August 18: Joe Cocker, Country Joe and the Fish, Ten Years After, The Band, Johnny Winter, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Crosby/Stills/Nash & Young, Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Sha Na Na, and Jimi Hendrix.

Nick and Bobbi Ercoline in Woodstock Festival, New York 1969 (PHOTO © BY BURK UZZLE)

During the sometimes rainy weekend, thirty-two acts performed outdoors in front of 400,000 concert-goers. It is widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history. Rolling Stone listed it as one of the 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll. The event was captured in the 1970 documentary movie Woodstock, an accompanying soundtrack album, and Joni Mitchell's song "Woodstock", which commemorated the event and became a major hit for Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Woodstock was initiated through the efforts of Michael Lang, John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, and Artie Kornfeld. It was Roberts and Rosenman who had the finances. Lang had experience as a promoter and had already organized the largest festival on the East Coast at the time, the Miami Pop Festival, which had an estimated 100,000 people attend the two-day event.

Interviews by Michael Limnios

Elliot Tiber

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?

Nearly everything that has happened to me since I played a part in saving the Woodstock Festival from near - cancellation in 1969 has been interesting — after that summer in 1969, I found everything that a good life has to offer: Stimulating work, a chance to create, and the opportunity to share love with another human being (my lover of 27 years, the late Belgian playwright/director Andre Ernotte, who was a big part of all those great things). In 2007, though, my life was changed entirely when I met director Ang Lee and he decided to make a movie of my life as told in the book Taking Woodstock.

Which memory from Woodstock makes you smile?

I think it was the time that I served my old-world Jewish parents the marijuana-laced cookies! [laughs] It was probably the first (and only) time I ever really saw them both just let down their guards and have joy. That remains a special memory, because there was hardly ever a joyful moment between my parents for nearly all my life – so being able to have given them that brief blast of happiness remains a treasure.

What do you miss most nowadays from the ‘60s?

I miss the sweetness of young people, so many of whom now seem so pessimistic and shut down. I don’t really blame them — with the economy in such a scary place and so much anger floating around, it all must seem fairly hopeless. Then again, growing up a scared gay man as I did, I think you owe the universe a responsibility when it comes to making deliberate decisions about how you’re going to act in this life. Now don’t get me wrong — I remain a big fan of chains and whips and all sorts of heavy S&M activity. But it would be nice if people were maybe a little more adventurous and positive about stuff — we’d all have a much better time of it, I think.

"Woodstock happened in August 1969, long before the Internet and mobile phones made it possible to communicate instantly with anyone, anywhere. It was a time when we weren't able to witness world events or the horrors of war live on 24-hour news channels." -- Richie Havens

Jeryl Abramson, owner of the Yasgur's Farm

Why did you think that the Woodstock spirit and era continues to generate such a devoted following?

The Woodstock spirit espouses love. Who wouldn’t want to follow that?

If you could change one thing in the musical world/people and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I think artists should be able to retain their royalties. Many artists from the past have sold the rights to their residuals without realizing what they were giving up. Some of the greatest contributors to the music world, who are now elderly, are living in poverty as a result.

Why was the Woodstock Festival in ’69 a meeting point for people of love, who are wild at heart and free spirited?

It just happened that way. The perfect storm of people, place, and time.

What is the Impact and legacy of Woodstock and the 60s generation to the racial and socio-cultural implications?

The civil rights movement in this country was well underway when Woodstock happened. Woodstock didn’t raise racial and socio-cultural issues. Woodstock embraced those who were victimized by it. We are inclusive. The world needs that, especially in the United States where so many of us are disenfranchised for arbitrary reasons.

What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from the Woodstock festival of ‘69?

The people camping out everywhere, all over the roads. Cars just stopped, people got out, and there they were. No one could move so everyone just stayed where they were and the party went on. And then the local people who had nothing to gain from Woodstock, came to the assistance of anyone that needed help. We emptied our refrigerators and pantries to feed the hungry. Our wells ran dry giving out water. Everyone pitched in for each other.

"In late 1969, Jimi Hendrix wrote a poem celebrating Woodstock, saying with words what his music had in August: "500,000 halos outshined the mud and history. We washed and drank in God's tears of joy. And for once, and for everyone, the truth was not still a mystery." -- Michael Lang, The Road to Woodstock (Photo: The stage and Max Yasgur's farm in the Catskills, Bethel, New York 1969)

Nancy Nevins of  Sweetwater

What do you miss most nowadays from the ‘60s?

The innocence and the energy of discovery.

Why did you think that “Woodstock Generation”, continued to generate such a devoted following?

Those who love art and music will always follow the genuine thing, no matter how old. There has never been another Woodstock or another time like that. It’s the real deal. Little else is these days. Most music is marketed and planned now.

How has the music business changed over the years since you first started in music?

It IS a business now. We were in rock the first time when the Music Business, per se, was being invented. One thing has been the same throughout the evolution of the music business— musicians almost always get cheated by businesspersons.

Johnny “Jocko” Marcellino of Sha Na Na

How has the music business changed over the years since you first started in music? 

Records mostly disappeared, now a download world…we depend on live shows.

Some music styles can be fads but the rock n’ roll and blues is always with us. Why do think that is? 

Goes back to the blues!!!

Are there any memories from Woodstock which you’d like to share with us?

Waited all weekend at site didn’t get on till Monday morning right before Hendrix who closed.

"I didn't see anybody play, except when I was standing backstage waiting to go on, because it was so muddy. And the weather was so horrible, you literally couldn't get there except by helicopter." -- Grace Slick (Photo: Original three day ticket stubs of Woodstock 1969)

Wavy Gravy, a member of commune Hog Farm

In your opinion what was the events that made 60s to be the center of the political and social conquests?

Genoside and rock and roll. Also, the new age spiritual movement. And vegetables.

Do you feel betrayed or satisfied of your generation?

No and Yes. And No. And maybe...

Which things the hope are be based on?

Peace and carrots.

Which memory from Woodstock makes you smile?

Breakfast in bed for 400,000.

Miller Anderson of Keef Hartley Band

What is the “think” you miss most of the ‘60s?

It was young then ...

Were there any places where you did especially well from ‘60?

Germany is one of the best places for blues.

What do means PSYCHEDELIC music and how close is to BLUES?

Its all good to improvise on!!

"But when I played Woodstock, I'll never forget that moment looking out over the hundreds of thousands of people, the sea of humanity, seeing all those people united in such a unique way. It just touched me in a way that I'll never forget." -- Edgar Winter

Leo Lyons of Ten Years After

Do you have any amusing tales to tell of your gig in Woodstock, who ate the watermelon...?

Nobody in the band ate the watermelon. I think we suspected it might have been laced with LSD!!!

Why did you think that TYA continued to generate such a devoted following? Three words to describe TYA

I often ask that question myself but I don't really know. Three/four words to describe TYA? ‘We’re very lucky’.

What do you miss most nowadays of the ‘60s & ‘70s

The optimism that we could make the World a better place.

Looking back over many years of music is there anything you wish you’d done that you hadn’t?

I signed too many bad contracts.

Freddie Stone 0f Sly & The Family Stone

Are there any memories from Woodstock Festival which you’d like to share with us?

There were 40 toilets for 500,000 people. (laughs) It was a mess. They didn’t expect that. We had to fly in because the traffic was backed up 20 miles. To me, Woodstock goes back to, like the group, what made the group what the group is. Why does the music continue? That’s why I look at Woodstock because I don’t care what you do; you ain’t gonna come close to doing anything like that, that happened then because they didn’t expect that. They weren’t working for that. They thought it was going to be a little thing. That’s the way I look at the group and why the music is still going on today. Truthfully, I ain’t got a clue. (laughs)

"This is the way to hear music, I think, surrounded by rolling hills and farmlands, under a big sky." -- Michael Lang, The Road to Woodstock (Photo: A band on stage of Woodstock Music & Art Fair)

Jorma Kaukonen of Jefferson Airplane

Do you have any amusing tales to tell of your gigs in Woodstock & Monterey?

Organized chaos at Woodstock... new artists at Monterey.

What does the Jeffersons stand for Grace Slick? Signe Anderson or Grace?

Well, they're both so different... Grace set the standard though.

Some music styles can be fads but the blues is always with us.  Why do think that is?

Timeless music. It's truth!!!

Blues is the background to so much modern music. Why do you think that is?

It's incredibly cool!

How is your relationship today with the other bands and musicians of ‘60s?

I don't see many of them often.

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