Reading: Music Festivals: Woodstock


Conceived as “Three Days of Peace and Music,” Woodstock was a product of a partnership between John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfield and Michael Lang. Their idea was to make enough money from the event to build a recording studio near the New York town of Woodstock.  The longtime artists’ colony was already a home base for Bob Dylan and other musicians. 

Despite their relative inexperience, the young promoters managed to sign a roster of top acts, including the Jefferson Airplane, the Who, the Grateful Dead, Sly and the Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival and many more. Plans for the festival were on the verge of foundering, however, after both Woodstock and the nearby town of Wallkill denied permission to hold the event. Dairy farmer Max Yasgur came to the rescue at the last minute, giving the promoters access to his 600 acres of land in Bethel, some 50 miles from Woodstock.

By the time the weekend of the festival arrived, the group had sold a total of 186,000 tickets and expected no more than 200,000 people to show up. However, by Friday August 15, more than 400,000 people were clamoring to get in. Fearing they could not control the crowds, the organizers were eventually forced  to make the event free of charge. Close to half a million people attended Woodstock, jamming the roads around Bethel with eight miles of traffic.

Folk singer and guitarist Richie Havens kicked off the event with a long set, and Joan Baez and Arlo Guthrie also performed on Friday night.  Young fans best described as “hippies” euphorically took in the performances of acts like Janis Joplin, Arlo Guthrie, Joe Cocker, Joan Baez, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. The Who performed in the early morning hours of August 17, with Roger Daltrey belting out “See Me, Feel Me,” from the now-classic album Tommy just as the sun began to rise. The most memorable moment of the concert for many fans was the closing performance by Jimi Hendrix, who gave a rambling, rocking solo guitar performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Despite being soaked by rain and wallowing in the muddy mess of Yasgur’s fields, with not enough bathroom facilities and first-aid tents to accommodate them, the fans or “hippies” didn’t stage important episodes of violence and lived up to the festival’s billing of “Three Days of Peace and Music.” And a number of musicians performed songs expressing their opposition to the Vietnam War, a sentiment that was enthusiastically shared by the vast majority of the audience. Later, the term “Woodstock Nation” would be used as a general term to describe the youth counterculture of the 1960s.

Though Woodstock had left its promoters nearly bankrupt, their ownership of the film and recording rights more than compensated for the losses after the release of a hit documentary film in 1970. Later music festivals inspired by Woodstock’s success failed to live up to its standard, and the festival still stands for many as a example of America’s 1960s youth counterculture at its best.

1. Why wasn't the city of Woodstock the place were the festival was held?
Permission to carry out the festival there was not granted.
The town of Bethel was a better place.
There wasn't any suitable place for the festival in Woodstock.

2. What did the organizers managed to accomplish, despite their inexperience?
They managed to sell over 200,000 tickets.
They managed to convince important musicians to be part of the festival.
They managed to get a substantial profit from the festival.

3. Why were the organizers forced to let people in free of charge?
Because they wanted to promote this festival.
Because a lot of people wanted to attend the festival.
Because they were afraid of not being able to control the crowd.

4. What type of songs were enthusiastically shared by the audience?
Songs against the Vietnam War.
Songs of peace and music.
Songs for the Vietnam War.

5. How did the organizers get a return on their investment?
They never got a return on their investment.
They got a substantial profit from the festival.
They owned recording rights so they made money after the release of a docummentary about the festival.

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