A Brief History
On August 15, 1969, the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, touted to be “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music” opened in the Catskills region of New York State. The 3 day weekend blast saw 32 music acts perform rock and folk music, with just about all forms of rock (of the time) represented. About 400,000 people attended, and the event is often considered one of the most important and famous musical events in rock and roll history.
Located on a farm owned by Max Yasgur near Bethel, New York, the site is actually about 43 miles from the town of Woodstock. The promoters had never organized a show this big, but once Creedence Clearwater Revival signed to play many other acts jumped on the band wagon (so to speak). (See Wikipedia article “Woodstock” for a list of performers.)
Advance tickets cost $18 (about $120 in today’s money) and paying at the gate would set you back $24. With about 186,000 advance tickets sold, organizers calculated about 200,000 total music fans would attend, and when twice that number showed up facilities were overwhelmed. Traffic swamped the local roads, and not enough food, shelter, and bathroom facilities were provided. To top off the problems, it rained on and off. Despite the pandemonium, peace generally reigned and only 2 people at the event died, one by a drug overdose and one accidentally run over by a tractor while he slept in a field.
The crowd, weather, and insufficient planning caused the event to run over to a 4th day, when Jimi Hendrix became the final performer Monday morning, with only about 30,000 fans still in attendance. Of course, like other major historical events, many times that number claim to have been present for Hendrix’s final act. Hendrix was the highest paid performer at $18,000, a lot of cash for that time, but many acts got paltry sums as low as under $500 with only a few topping $10,000.
A film documentary released in 1970 titled Woodstock won an Academy Award, and of course the soundtrack was a massive hit as well, having spawned 3 albums and later a 4 CD set. The festival itself lost about $1.4 million, which was made up by revenue from the film and albums. Unfortunately, the movie and albums do not feature the music of CCR as band leader John Fogerty was dissatisfied with the band’s performance.
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For more information, please see…
Wadleigh, Michael. Woodstock: Three Days of Peace & Music. Warner Home Video, 2009.
You can also watch a video version of this article on YouTube: