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Woodstock - 50 Years Later

Woodstock - 50 Years Later

CAB Legacy Honoree: Woodstock - 50 Years Later

Woodstock, arguably one of the most influential events in history was held August 15–18, 1969, and attracted an audience of more than 400,000. Billed as "an Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music", it was held at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York, 43 miles southwest of Woodstock. It was alternatively referred to as the Bethel Rock Festival or the Aquarian Music Festival. Thirty-two acts performed outdoors despite sporadic rain. It has become widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history, as well as the definitive nexus for the larger counterculture generation.

 In April 1969, Creedence Clearwater Revival became the first act to sign a contract for the event, agreeing to play for $10,000 (equivalent to $68,000 in 2018). The promoters had experienced difficulty landing big-name groups prior to Creedence committing to play. Creedence drummer Doug Clifford later commented, "Once Creedence signed, everyone else jumped in line and all the other big acts came on." Given their 3 a.m. start time and omission from the Woodstock film (at Creedence frontman John Fogerty’s insistence), Creedence members have expressed bitterness over their experiences regarding the festival.

 Woodstock was designed as a profit-making venture. It became a "free concert" only after the event drew hundreds of thousands more people than the organizers had prepared for. Tickets for the three-day event cost $18 in advance and $24 at the gate (equivalent to about $120 and $160 today). Ticket sales were limited to record stores in the greater New York City area, or by mail via a post office box at the Radio City Station Post Office located in Midtown Manhattan.. Around 186,000 advance tickets were sold, and the organizers anticipated approximately 200,000 festival-goers would turn up. Actual attendance has been estimated as over 400,000.

 Everyone remembers the star studded line-up that included: The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Crosby, Stills and Nash, Santana and much more. But the list of those invited to perform but for one reason or another couldn’t or wouldn’t appear resembles the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. That list includes: The Rolling Stones. The Doors, Led Zepplin, Chicago (then known as Chicago Transit Authority), Jethro Tull and the Moody Blues.

 Jimi Hendrix was the last act scheduled to take the stage that Sunday and by his 3:30 am Monday start time, the crowd of 400,000 had dwindled to 30,000, all of them waiting for a glimpse of Hendrix before leaving.

 Hendrix’ psychedelic rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” occurred about three-quarters into his set (after which he segued into “Purple Haze”). The song would become “part of the sixties Zeitgeist” as it was captured in the Woodstock film: Hendrix’s image performing the number wearing a blue beaded white leather jacket with fringe and a red head scarf has since been a defining moment of the 1960’s.

 “We were ready to rock out and we waited and waited and finally it was our turn…there were half million people asleep. These people were put out. It was sort of like a painting of a Dante scene. Just bodies from hell, all intertwined and asleep, covered with mud.

 And this is the moment I will never forget as long as I live. A quarter mile away in the darkness, on the outer edge of this bowl, there was some guy flicking his Bic, and in the night I hear: Don’t worry about it John. We’re here with you. ‘I played the rest of the show for that guy.”

John Fogerty


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