1. Gracious Hosts
Max and Miriam Yasgur were the happy hosts in Bethel, New York for the greatest music festival in history. Despite the absolute mess and the fact that his neighbors were so upset (he was no longer welcome in the town’s general store) Yasgur and his wife were happy to be a part of the moment.
Close to the end of the festival, Max Yasgur addressed the masses and summed it up when he said, “You are the largest group of people ever assembled in one place at one time… and you have proven something to the world… that half a million kids can get together for fun and music and have nothing but fun and music.”
2. Kicking it off
The festivities began on August 15th with a performance by Richie Havens followed by Sweetwater at 6:15 p.m. (Sweetwater got stuck in traffic on the way). Perhaps it was the words of spiritual master Sri Swami Satchidananda (who spoke right after Sweetwater) that instilled the spirit that prevailed over the course of the next three days.
“Sound energy, sound power, is much, much greater than any other power in this world. And, one thing I would very much wish you all to remember is that with sound, we can make — and at the same time, break… And with all my heart, I wish a great, great success in this music festival to pave the way for many more festivals in many other parts of this country.”
3. Love in the air
Jefferson Airplane was scheduled to be the headliner for Saturday August 16th, but didn’t end up playing until Sunday morning. Sometime before 8 a.m., weary crowds raised their heads as Jefferson Airplane sang them awake. All of the sudden, the couple below stood up and shared a kiss and a smile before she rested her head on her lover’s shoulder.
This photo became an iconic image of Woodstock embodying the love that seemed to permeate through the air. Bobbi Kelly and her then-boyfriend Nick Ercoline shared this moment and many more, as some years later they married and had two kids together.
Woodstock was a music festival for the ages, featuring legendary bands such as Creedence Clearwater Revival and The Who, and legendary artists such as Santana and Jimi Hendrix. It’s a little surprising that these two women are the only ones moving to the rhythm, but they’re certainly dancing enough for the whole crowd.
The magic of music festivals are sometimes feverish, traveling through the air and infecting everyone with the same sort of energy. Joni Mitchell, who Rolling Stone called “one of the best songwriters ever” said, “Woodstock was a spark of beauty where half-a-million kids saw that they were part of a greater organism.”
Woodstock was advertised as “a weekend in the country” and wasn’t even called Woodstock at the beginning. At first it was “An Aquarian Exposition, Three Days of Peace and Music,” until the namesake of the group that promoted the concert became the name etched into the history books. In fact, Woodstock wasn’t even in Woodstock.
It was held in Bethel, which is almost 50 miles away, and the traffic around the festival was absolutely atrocious, causing delays even to the musicians who performed. Makeshift signs like this may have helped a couple of lost souls find their way, but did nothing to relieve the mechanical mess on the roads.
6. Feelin’ it
Any true festival goer knows that the party only stops when the music ceases to play. These happy festival goers ignored the hint that the concert was over after the music stopped, and are rocking to a drum circle of their own. This photo was probably taken very late at night, as the bands played into the wee hours of the morning.
Joan Baez (who was pregnant at the time) was the last performance on day one and she didn’t start until 1 a.m. The next night, Creedence was the main act, but they didn’t get started until well after midnight. They blamed the Grateful Dead, who played far out into the night and cut into Creedence’s time.
Notice how no one seems to have their own personal space in these photos? Woodstock was absolutely packed, and typically when that many people are put together, something bad happens. But Woodstock was special for many reasons, and one of those reasons is that despite the conditions, not one incident of violence occurred.
Through the sea of people, the photographer has found a beautiful mermaid. She embodies the fashion of the era with her floppy hat, headpiece, and thick beaded jewelry, while showing off the spirit of the festival by using bold makeup with sequins to make her a living work of art.
8. Hardin work
Tim Hardin performed a couple acts after Sri Swami Satchidananda on day one of the festival, and it looks as though he’s scratching down some last minute notes, or hopefully writing some new lyrics. It’s likely the former, as Hardin suffered from stage fright and was had some problems with addiction.
Even so, Hardin played his “If I were a Carpenter” solo and apparently brought down the house. Hardin’s life started declining in 1969, but for Woodstock, he showed up and played one of his best live performances. He sure looks inspired, as the spirit of the festival may have given him the fuel he needed to give his best.
9. The Pearl
Janis “Pearl” Joplin told her band that this was “just another gig,” but when she spotted the crowds, she apparently became giddy with nerves and stayed until the very end. In full tie-dye regale she rocked Woodstock festival goers on Saturday night, and then stayed to party for the rest of the event.
Joplin had already left Big Brother & the Holding Company the previous year, so she played at Woodstock as a solo act. She arrived by helicopter so traffic didn’t hold her up, but she still ended up playing late Saturday night, eventually ending her set at 2 a.m. on Sunday.
10. Jefferson Airplane
Jefferson Airplane may have performed first thing Sunday morning, but they were choppered in much earlier in the festival. The band and its entourage were a tight knit group, and embodied the communal feel and free love that Woodstock boasted. While they waited their turn to perform, they did as musicians do during a festival; listen to music!
Pictured is lead singer Grace Slick and drummer Spencer Dryden’s wife Sally Mann. When Slick was asked what she remembered about Woodstock, she recalled the helicopter ride, and the fact that until they performed, Jefferson Airplane hung out among the crowd all day long.
11. Girls just wanna have fun
Woodstock was such a surprise that many performers and celebrities have kicked themselves over the years for not attending (Jim Morrison, we’re pointing at the heavens toward you!). That wasn’t the case for German model Veruschka von Lehndorff, who can be seen dancing her socks off in this photo.
Standing at 6’3” she would’ve been an easy one to find, and especially easy because she already had a series of cover photos with Vogue magazine, and even a cover with Life magazine in 1967. In true bohemian fashion, when she left the industry, she cited a disagreement with the new editor-in-chief at Vogue saying, “She wanted me to be bourgeois and I didn’t want to be that.”
12. Sheer joy
This photo captures the uninhibited ecstasy felt by the massive crowds at Woodstock. Smiling faces and raised fists of triumph accompany clapping hands and even a lone maraca. Woodstock was the culmination of counterculture that picked up in the middle 1960s, and was best summed up by the words of writer Hunter S. Thompson:
“And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply PREVAIL. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave…”
13. Rain dance
These Woodstock faithfuls are taking a break from the music and participating in a spiritual (or otherwise) rain dance. Because the concert took place in the summer month of August it was extremely hot, and because so many people came to the festival, water was scarce.
This group never subscribed to the maxim of “be careful what you wish for,” because torrential rains thundered down on Woodstock off and on throughout the entire festival. Mud was as rampant as love, and just like love no one seemed to mind the mud. For those who did mind, they can blame these people.
These two can’t find the group that brought the rain, so there was nothing left to do but embrace it. They’re sharing a laugh, and she’s probably saying something like, “the plastic goes on the outside of your coat, dummy!” And he’s probably saying, “go find someone else to bum you a smoke.”
By all accounts, the mud should’ve been a real problem for the festival, but no one seemed to mind. Hippies in the crowd had no problem kicking off their shoes and stomping in the puddles like excited children. Like the saying goes, when life gives you mud, stomp in puddles (fyi, there is no such saying).
15. Mud puddles
Our friend in the jean jacket has found some new friends, and given the vibe at the festival it probably wasn’t hard to make them. They seem a little less concerned about his choice to wear his jacket on the outside, as the couple to the right is barefoot just like him.
The log bridge behind them was a common site to help people navigate the puddles that were as plentiful as lakes in Minnesota. But people really didn’t need them, and the mud was far less of a nuisance than we might think. Just look at the woman in the rear walking away barefoot and wrapped in a blanket.
16. Family friendly
When thinking of Woodstock it doesn’t exactly conjure images of a family friendly environment. But like most festivals, the music could also be enjoyed on the fringe away from the energetic, gyrating masses. Besides, there can be no measure as to how much the kids benefited in future social circles by starting off stories with, “This one time at Woodstock…”
This particular photo was captured by Rolling Stone photographer Baron Wolman, who was one of very few photographers given free reign in the festival. Not every outlet was welcome, but Rolling Stone had already solidified itself as part of the rock ‘n’ roll scene and popular culture.
17. Voodoo child
This little girl isn’t so much on the fringe of the masses as she is right in the middle of it. She looks right at home too, probably dancing in ways at her young age that this writer will never be able to replicate. But again, Woodstock was not the norm when it comes to massive amounts of people collecting in one place, and it was safe enough for kids to be children.
Amazingly, two babies were actually born at Woodstock. One was born in a car outside the venue that was stuck in a traffic jam (no surprise there), while another was born in a nearby hospital after the mother was helicoptered out. We bet they bring that up a lot.
18. Sharing is caring
This photo is more reminiscent of the communal living that was popular in the 1960s and 1970s than a music festival. But just like everything else at Woodstock, there were extreme shortages of food. In the spirit of sharing, festival goers banded together with what they had and set up stands amid the masses to feed their hungry bellies.
The food at this stand was free, just like so many other things at Woodstock. Medical supplies, food, and water had to be acquired and given out to prevent any massive unrest. Besides, try dancing for three days without any food or water (we are being sarcastic; do not actually try that).
19. Monkey business
As evidenced by the photo below, security wasn’t exactly tight at Woodstock. The massive amount of people must’ve presented problems for those who weren’t anywhere close to the front of the stage. These guys are climbing some scaffolding left over from stage set up to obtain a better view of the performance.
Despite the fact that no violent acts were recorded at Woodstock, there were still two deaths. One person died from having a little bit too much fun, while another unfortunate soul got run over by a tractor while wrapped in a sleeping bag in a neighboring field. An unfortunate ending to a fun day.
With the large presence of counterculture in full effect at Woodstock, one must expect that the occult would rear its steely eyed head. The Tarot cards on the stump perhaps don’t reveal enough about the woman on the right, so now she’s receiving a palm reading. Notice she’s not looking at her palm, but at the paisley dressed woman across from her.
Traditional western religions didn’t play much of a role in hippie culture, and many hippies would probably say that their religion was love. It certainly played out well at Woodstock. As John Lennon famously said, “All you need is love.”
21. Pushing daisies
This happy couple is wrapped up in love and holding probably the most iconic flower of the 1960s. Daisies are said to stand for innocence, purity, and cheerfulness, making them the perfect flora to accompany happy couples at the most awesome music festival of all time.
Historians and other masters of their discipline often attempt to quantify claims like the ones that say Woodstock was the best music festival ever. So many concert goers speak about how it was a one-of-a-kind experience they encountered, before or since, that the world has reached the same conclusion. Simply said, they nailed it.
22. Utterly grateful
The Yasgur farm in Bethel, New York was a 600 acre dairy farm, and the animals partied right alongside festival goers. That might include sheep, dogs, cats, chickens, and especially cows. This particular dairy cow is being serviced by one festival goer, while others are simply drawn in by the spectacle.
The ability to milk a cow may have been extremely valuable at the festival given the food and water shortages. But it’s unclear if this person was actually collecting any of the milk or just helping the cow. A dairy cow needs to be milked every one or two days to prevent infection, and it would’ve been difficult for Yasgur to keep track of his herd.
23. No ticket, no problem
Tens of thousands of people showed up for Woodstock even before the concert began. The promoters knew they had a problem at that point because they sold out of tickets when they reached the 100,000 mark. It cost $2.5 million to put the festival on, and it managed to make only $1.5 million.
When they realized how many people were coming (and the fact that they couldn’t stop them) the promoters announced that the concert was free for everyone. It’s estimated that over 300,000 people got into the concert free, which may be one of the reasons why the festival is so eternal; those procrastinating ticket buyers finally found a festival for themselves.
24. Peace and food
This woman has found herself a great vantage point from the shoulders of whatever poor soul is propping her up. Perhaps she’s even sharing a moment with the performer on stage. A closer look at the festival goers reveals that she seems to be the happiest one there.
While the spirit of the festival was very much anti-war, the US army flew in choppers with food to feed hungry festival goers. When the Jewish Community Center in Bethel learned there were food shortages they bought 200 loaves of bread, 40 pounds of cold cuts, and two gallons of pickles. To distribute them, the Jewish Center employed the service of nuns.
Though mosh pits and crowd surfing were still over a decade away, the old catapult by blanket was in full swing. This woman’s expression betrays her at this moment as she looks a little scared, while others look on in extreme jealousy.
If she falls and breaks something, she’d probably be well taken care of. When army choppers starting swooping in, they brought more than food. People began getting a little agitated, so they were reassured with, “They are with us man, they are not against us. Forty-five doctors or more are here without pay because they dig what this is into.”
26. Some casual reading
This is probably the best seat in the house (for the view, not so much on the tush), and because he’s likely not leaving for awhile, he’s brought his book with him. This kind of impromptu action was a hallmark of Woodstock, and the same feeling was felt by the performers. John Sebastian wasn’t even supposed to play, but after feeling the vibe of the crowd, he was persuaded to get on stage.
Likewise for performers who didn’t end up making the venue. Bob Dylan stayed with his son, who was hospitalized over the weekend, while John Lennon was stuck in Canada because he couldn’t get a visa in time. The Jeff Beck group was also scheduled to perform, but split up the night before the festival.
This young woman emerged from her teepee (perhaps that’s why she’s grinning) and looks like she’s having a great time. The flying pig emblem on her waist was a defining symbol of the antiwar movement, as “Pigasus” as he was called was a nominee for the presidency in 1968.
Nominated by the “Yippies,” Pigasus was brought to the 1968 democrat convention, which led to seven people getting arrested when they tried to announce his candidacy. The people and subsequent trial was dubbed the “Chicago Seven.” In testimony by one of the members he claimed an officer told them while they were in jail that, “You guys are all going to jail for the rest of your lives—the pig squealed on you!”
Traffic is somewhat tolerable when at a crawl, and near impossible to bear at a dead stop. Theses folks drove in from New York, and since they came for music, they’d rather than spend his time in traffic this guitar player popped out of the Chevy four door and started jamming, much to the chagrin of his girlfriend it appears.
Only about 50% of cars produced in 1969 had air conditioning, and this car likely does not have it. That August muggy air must’ve been difficult to deal with, especially when you’re stuck in traffic with the concert of the ages going on!
29. Hare Krishna
The term “Flower Power” was introduced in 1965 by none other than Allen Ginsberg, and while Sweetwater plays in the background this young lady is embracing the saying that preaches nonviolence to full effect. But those flowers symbolize more than that, as we can see her sporting the Hare Krishna Flower (look over her right shoulder) as well.
Hippies took to Hare Krishna, and outsiders might’ve lumped them into the same category. That would be incorrect however, and while both supported nonviolence, the chief difference between Hare Krishna and Hippies is that Hare Krishna would not have supported smoking the devil’s lettuce.
30. Drum circle
With all the music making going on in this photo it’s interesting that only about half of them have actual musical instruments. But it just so happens that an oil drum and a 2″ x 4″ will make a fantastic percussion instrument in a pinch.
The man in the center of the drum circle is wearing a Keffiyeh, which may have helped him combat the heat. He also has a bar on his shirt suggesting that either got the shirt at the salvation army, or perhaps he was a private in the army. From everything we’ve seen at Woodstock one gets the impression that the music never stopped. These folks came for music, and music is what they got.
31. The Dead
The Grateful Dead had a decidedly underwhelming performance at Woodstock, as they were on stage for about 90 minutes and only played five songs. The rest of the time was filled with extremely long breaks because of all the equipment malfunctions they faced.
Owsley Stanley was their sound tech and had constructed a monstrosity of a sound system. The Dead came on late while he tinkered with it, and then when the stage flooded from rain the band was in constant jeopardy of electric shock. Who knows what that would’ve done for front-man Jerry Garcia, as his wife later claimed that he had undiagnosed Synesthesia, which is the ability to taste music.
32. Rock it til da wheels fall off
This photo from the back of the stage and facing the festival reveals the revolving stage set up for Woodstock. It was meant to minimize wait times between bands by allowing one to set up while the other rocked it, but instead it caused a whole bunch of headaches.
Owsley’s heavy sound system for The Grateful Dead nearly crushed the stage and caused the wheels to come off. And then there was the added problem best described by a crew member when he said, “Grace Slick and Janis Joplin and everybody were standing on it and you can’t just sweep them off with a broom.”
33. Disaster zone?
This incredible photo gives us an idea of the absolute ocean of people flocking toward the stage. You can see the yellow scaffolding climbed by monkeys trying to get a better view, and understand why that was a great place to listen to the music.
When added up as a whole, the festival’s population equated to the third largest city in the state of New York. Despite the massive success of bringing that many people together it was declared a disaster zone by then Governor of New York, Nelson Rockefeller. It was his intention to scatter the crowd and put an end to Woodstock, but thankfully, last second negotiations by his staff saw him deploy the National Guard to help Woodstock, not to end it. Feelin’ the love!
34. Cuckoo’s Nest
“One travels east, one travels west, one flew over the cuckoo’s nest.” The popular poem at the beginning of Ken Kesey’s 1962 classic novel comes to mind as this young lady picks up the vibe emanating from all those little chicks. Cows, dogs, sheep, and chicks seem to be all over the place at Woodstock.
It’s nice to see that she resembles a “cuckoo” more than a wolf, as the shortage of food might’ve caused folks to take advantage of the many animals on the farm. Fortunately, it appears she just wanted a closer look, which is fitting given the attitude of many hippies toward vegetarianism.
35. “Beautiful People”
The makeshift structure secured with the American flag a left is hardly the focal point in this photograph. The young lady at center is sharing a moment with what we can only presume is her lover, or perhaps just an admirer.
While this may appear to be a beautiful woman, every person there was there was beautiful, as “beautiful people” was also a synonym for “hippie.” Melanie Safka, who played early on the first day, performed her song “Beautiful People” twice; once on stage, and once to security guards who wouldn’t let her in on account of her not having a performer’s pass.
36. Wavy Gravy
The pigs (sorry policemen) were barred from providing security for Woodstock, so the promoters hired hogs. The man pictured below is Wavy Gravy of the Hog Farm, which was a New Mexico commune that served as a “please force” at Woodstock.
Wavy Gravy, as you might imagine by his name, was a bit of an odd ball. His group provided security (and actually did a bang up job), and at one point in the concert Wavy Gravy dressed up like Smokey-the-Bear and threatened to douse troublemakers in “fizzy water” or toss “custard pies” at them. Only at Woodstock would man named Wavy Gravy do a bang up job an enforcer, as there were no reports of any fights.
37. Woodstock MacGyver
You’re in a rainstorm, you need some sleep, and you’re on your own, what would MacGyver do? Woodstock of course predates MacGyver, but this guy is a definite problem solver, balancing his umbrella in his crossed legs while he cops some z’s.
He has mud on his boots, but at least he has his boots on, as a lone shoe behind him seems to have been separated from its owner. When the rain came Joan Baez sang “We Shall Overcome” to try and stop it with the collective conscious, but it seems in this case practicality won out over wishful thinking. Baez should’ve had a talk with those folks we visited earlier who did a rain dance.
38. “Electrocuted at Woodstock”
It’s said that Ravi Shankar was a spiritual singer, but he wasn’t exactly down with all the young, party people of the festival. Perhaps that is evidenced by the fact that he only played 40 minutes and sang only three songs. This really wasn’t his seen, and exposed the rift between Hare Krishna and hippies.
He’s smiling nonetheless even in the face of rain. The water became a problem and stagehands began warning artists to be careful of electrocution. This prompted Alvin Lee of Ten Years After to say, “Oh come on, if I get electrocuted at Woodstock we’ll sell lots of records.”
39. Two hours of silence
Catching any sleep at Woodstock was a difficult task, and those who were unlucky enough to not have shelter had to make do. The music was so constant at Woodstock that between noon on Saturday, and noon on Monday (a 48-hour period) there were only two hours of silence (if we can even call it that, as there’s plenty of evidence to suggest drum circles filled the gap).
The only real gap in the festival was sometime between 3 a.m. to noon on Saturday morning. Indeed, no rest for the wicked, or the happy souls recharging their batteries before the next great ride. With all that good music in one place, they kind of owe it to themselves to make it happen.
Woodstock festival goers didn’t know who Santana was prior to them taking the stage on the second day, but they would remember his performance for the rest of their lives. Emerging out of San Francisco, Santana only released their first album (aptly titled Santana) earlier that month.
But festival goers vibed with Santana as they were the sole Latin flavor added to the Rock n’ roll smorgasbord. They came on mid-afternoon on Saturday and played eight songs with extreme energy that is said to have captured the mood at Woodstock perfectly. If this photo looks a little weird it’s because Santana is holding a bass guitar. Evidently, he and bass guitarist David Mergan switched instruments, because he appears to be holding a guitar.
This collection of car might’ve been great for the festival goers in that they didn’t have to deal with the mud, but they were absolutely trapped. While it’s estimated that 500,000 people attended Woodstock, it’s also estimated that over 1 million never made it in because of traffic.
Hopefully, any of them who had a job called in sick on Monday, August 18th. While Woodstock is often billed as a three-day festival, it actually ran into a fourth day. But those who were trapped would be happy if they stayed, as the final acts scheduled for Sunday night ended up coming on first thing Monday morning.
42. Bringing down the house
Performers kept the festival going all through the night on Sunday and well into Monday morning. Jimi Hendrix was playing with a new band and was the headliner of the festival. Unfortunately, many of the 500,000 people who attended were on their way home when Jimi came on at 9 a.m. and started playing “Message to Love.”
Jimi played the longest set of any other performer at Woodstock with the lone exception of The Who, who were supposed to sing down the night on Saturday but instead sang the sunrise on Sunday morning. Likewise for Jimi Hendrix on Monday, who late in his set played “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which was described by a rock critic for the New York Post as, “the single greatest moment of the Sixties.”