Michael Lang, co-creator and promoter of the historic Woodstock music festival in 1969, who served as a reference for generations of rock music fans, has died at the age of 77.
Michael Pagnotta, a spokesman for the Lang family, said Sunday that the music impresario had been battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and died Saturday at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.
“He was absolutely a historical figure, and also a great guy. Both things go hand in hand,” Pagnotta told the AP agency, and claimed to have known Lang for about 30 years.
Along with his partners Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman, Lang organized the festival billed as “three days of peace and music” in the summer of 1969, at the height of the Vietnam War, which led to an ever-increasing number of disaffected young Americans to turn away from traditional values and adopt a lifestyle that celebrated freedom of speech, sexuality, and more.
Some 400,000 people poured into the village of Bethel, about 50 miles (80 kilometers) northwest of New York City, enduring lengthy traffic jams, torrential rains, food shortages and overwhelmed sanitation facilities to attend the festival.
More than 30 acts performed on the concert’s main stage at the base of a hill on land owned by farmer Max Yasgur, and attendees were treated to iconic performances from the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, The Who Y Jefferson Airplane.
Lang, sporting bushy brown hair, is seen throughout Michael Wadleigh’s 1970 documentary film chronicling the festival.
Woodstock, a festival that set the tone for future music events
“From the beginning, I believed that if we did our job right and from the heart, prepared the ground and set the right tone, people would reveal their higher selves and create something amazing,” Lang wrote in his memoir ‘The Road to Woodstock’ (‘ Road to Woodstock’).
Lang and others sought to stage a concert in 2019 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the original Woodstock, but the effort was ultimately scrapped due to financial problems and difficulties securing a venue. In an interview with AP at the time, Lang called the experience “a really weird trip” and said he still hoped to perform the concert in the future.
Although Woodstock is often considered to have created the template for large-scale music festivals, it was not the first to be held in the US. Two years earlier, the Monterey Pop festival drew an estimated 200,000 people to California, and in 1968 the Miami Pop Festival followed, which Lang also organized. But Woodstock nonetheless occupies an indelible place in history.
“A lot of them are modeled after Woodstock, Bonnaroo and Coachella, in particular,” Lang said of other festivals in a 2009 interview. “There was a ritual that was created and continues to be replicated.”
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Michael Lang, one of the creators of the legendary Woodstock rock festival, has died