22 Wild Photos That Tell the Story of Woodstock Festival

EDITORIAL FEATURE

By Google Arts & Culture

Words by Louise Vinciguerra

Woodstock Music & Art Fair (1969-08) by John DominisLIFE Photo Collection

The making of the Summer of Love

What started off as a three-day music and arts fair — organized by four young men as a way to make some quick money — soon became known as one of the most important counterculture moments of the 20th century. Woodstock was not just a concert; according to Rolling Stone, it was a moment which would change rock and roll history forever. Here is a brief history of the weekend that defined the Summer of Love.

Woodstock Music & Art Fair, 1969, John Dominis (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

Woodstock Music & Art Festival (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

The Man Behind the Music

When you think of Woodstock, you probably think of Janis Joplin’s wild scream, or Jimi Hendrix wailing the tune of a generation on his guitar. But you should also think of the man who made the earth-shaking spectacle possible: Max Yasgur, the unassuming farmer who hosted the festival on his 2,000-acre property.

Initially the festival venue was set for Howard Mills Industrial Park in Wallkill, New York until town officials decided to pass a law which prohibited concerts on the land. After a bit of searching, the four founders of Woodstock (John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld, and Michael Lane) found a kindred spirit in a dairy farmer in Sullivan County, Bethel, with a heart of gold and a penchant for fun.

Woodstock Music & Art Festival (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock, Bill Eppridge, 1969-08 (From the Collection of LIFE Photo Collection)

According to Woodstock: The Oral History, Max told the people who objected, “I think [we] have proven something to the world — that a half-a-million kids can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music and I God bless you for it."

Woodstock Music & Art Festival (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

Woodstock Music & Art Fest. (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

The Audience

The original estimate for how many concert-goers would grace the dairy fields was around 50,000. But just two days before the festival was scheduled to begin, there were 100,000 tickets sold and half that many people already camped out on the green.

Woodstock Music & Art Fair (1969-08) by John DominisLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Fair, 1969, John Dominis (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

The festival lasted three full days – from August 15 to August 18, 1969 – and welcomed over half a million people.

Woodstock Music & Art Festival (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

So many unexpected people showed up, that at the time it would have been considered the third largest city in New York state.

Woodstock Music & Art Fest. (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

Woodstock Music & Art Fair (1969-08) by John DominisLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Fair, 1969, John Dominis (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

The Tickets


Presale tickets were sold at $18 each for a three-day pass. If you were a last-minute buyer, tickets on the ‘door’ were sold at $24. At some point security couldn’t cover every angle of the farm, and there may have been one or two gate crashers.

Woodstock Music & Art Fest. (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Fest, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

Woodstock Music & Art Festival (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

Woodstock Music & Art Festival (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

Woodstock Music & Art Festival (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

The Music


The festival saw a total of thirty-two performers, with Richie Havens as the opening act. His set went on for about 45 minutes as the scheduled acts were stuck in traffic. Joan Baez also performed on the first day. The second day of performances had acts that defined the 60s like The Grateful Dead, Santana, Sly and the Family Stone, The Who, Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin. Day three performers included Johnny Winter, Blood Sweat and Tears, Crosby Stills Nash and Young. The festival finished the next morning with a final performance by Jimi Hendrix.

Woodstock Music & Art Festival (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

Woodstock Music & Art Festival (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

Woodstock Music & Art Fest. (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

The Closing Act


Jimi Hendrix’s guitar performance of the Star-Spangled Banner is still today one of his most noteworthy performances, and he has many. But not everyone at Woodstock got to partake in this momentous rendition. Performing at 9AM on morning after the last day, Hendrix had an audience of about 25,000 people. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to want to beat the traffic on the ride back home.

Woodstock Music & Art Festival (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

The Pay


Though the concept of Woodstock often brings to mind the word ‘free’, in every sense of the word, that wasn’t exactly so for the founders of the festival. John Roberts was one of the founders who took out a loan of $1.3 million dollars to pay for debts, some of which were about $300,000 in fees to the musicians. One of the highest paid performances, Hendrix, was oddly enough one of the least seen. He played for a tune of $18,000. Blood, Sweat and Tears was paid a fee of $15,000; Janis Joplin was given a fee of $7500; Joe Cocker was paid $1,375; and (the relatively unknown at the time) Santana, a mere $750.

Woodstock Music & Art Festival (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

Woodstock Music & Art Fair (1969-08) by John DominisLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Fair, 1969, John Dominis (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

The Legend


In order to commemorate the site which marked the free peace and love movement of the Summer of ’69, the area was privately bought, and the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts was built. The 1960s in America will be remembered as the decade that Woodstock left its mark on music.

Bethel Woods Center for the Arts

Woodstock Music & Art Fair (1969-08) by John DominisLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Fair, 1969, John Dominis (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

Woodstock (1969) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

Woodstock Music & Art Festival (1969-08) by Bill EppridgeLIFE Photo Collection

Woodstock Music & Art Festival, 1969, Bill Eppridge (From the LIFE Photo Collection)

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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