On August 15, 1969, the music festival that would come to be known as Woodstock began. The festival was headlined by some of the most famous musicians of the time as well as several fledgling artists who would go on to claim rock and roll fame. The festival’s legacy, however, has little to do with who played there and more to do with who attended. Woodstock has become synonymous with the counterculture of the sixties—young people who faced the tumultuous and violent realities of the Vietnam War, the Stonewall Riots, and the Civil Rights Movement and believed that love and music could change the world.
Woodstock was held on tract of land owned by dairy farmer Max Yasgur. When festival organizers John Roberts, Joel Rosenman Artie Kornfeld, and Michael Lang set up a stage on this land they didn’t realize that the festival would see more than 400,000 attendees. Performers at Woodstock included Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, the Who, Jefferson Airplane, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. Despite the rain, the vibe remained peaceful among the throng of concert-goers. Yasgur, addressing the crowd, is recorded to have said, “You’ve proven to the world . . . a half a million young people can get together and have three days of fun and music and have nothing but fun and music and God bless you for it!”
The legacy of Woodstock lives under two perspectives. Some believe it symbolized the worst of that generation—self-indulgence, addiction, and declarations without action behind them. Some believe it was a revolution—young people declaring to the world a desire to change the society they live in and their belief in the power of togetherness and music to do so.
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