Michael Lang, the live performance impresario who assisted conceive the landmark, generation-defining 1969 new music festival Woodstock, died Saturday evening at Sloan Kettering clinic in New York. He was 77.
Michael Pagnotta, a rep for Lang and longtime family mate, verified the promoter’s death to Rolling Stone, incorporating that the cause was a uncommon sort of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Alongside businessmen John Roberts and Joel Rosenman and tunes field promoter Artie Kornfeld, Lang, who had beforehand promoted the 1968 Pop and Underground Festival in Miami, co-created the Woodstock Music and Artwork Truthful the adhering to year. Famously billed as “Three Times of Peace and Music,” the upstate New York pageant drew up to 400,000 individuals to Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, NY from August 15-18, 1969 and showcased dozens of rock’s biggest names, including Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Who, Jimi Hendrix and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.
“There’s a moment when Michael Lang changed the entire world,” the Lovin’ Spoonful frontman John Sebastian tells Rolling Stone. “At Woodstock I was standing upcoming to him when just one of his minions way in the distance came managing towards the phase and we considered, “This simply cannot be great.’ He will get to Michael and says, ‘The fence is down. People are coming about the best.’ And Mike will take this extended search about the entire situation and practically to himself he says, ‘Well, I guess we now have a free competition.’ It was the unique, ‘What could probably go completely wrong,’ but he could pivot and see the light-weight.”
Carlos Santana stated in a statement to Rolling Stone Sunday, “Michael Lang was a divine architect of unity & harmony. He gave delivery to Woodstock, the competition that manifested 3 wonderful times of peace & independence. He will no doubt be orchestrating a further celestial occasion in Heaven. Thank you Maestro. You and Invoice Graham are now united in the gentle of our divinity and are supreme really like.”
Lang was only 24 when he assisted conceive the pageant, which would go on to become a massively influential counterculture touchstone, many thanks in portion to a documentary on the party unveiled the next yr. Over the many years, Lang’s title turned synonymous with the Woodstock brand, as the promoter aided helm subsequent iterations of the pageant in 1994 and 1999. (When Pollstar questioned Lang in 2019 what it is like to be the “Woodstock poster little one for eternity,” he replied, “Life is complete of activities, and not every little thing operates out. But you hold attempting or nothing operates out … Which is constantly been my perspective.”) A 50th anniversary concert in 2019 was mired in controversy and legal concerns and was canceled before it could go on.
Lang, a indigenous New Yorker, moved to Coconut Grove, FL in the late 1960s and opened a head shop. “The weather is great, people today are into a stimulating range of inventive factors and there was no put for them to get together,” Lang said in writer Ellen Sanders’ 1973 e book Excursions: Rock Lifetime in the Sixties. He applied that exact same ethos to tunes festivals, starting up with the Pop and Underground Festival in May well 1968. The pageant, attended by 25,000 individuals, showcased sets by Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry and the Mothers of Creation, amongst other individuals.
Right after moving again to New York, Lang fulfilled Kornfeld, then a vice president of Capitol Information, and began Woodstock Ventures with Roberts and Rosenman. Right after a collection of planned destinations fell by, the quartet was famously able to organize the festival at the 600-acre farm of Max Yasgur, a dairy farmer in Bethel, NY immortalized in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s 1970 deal with of Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock.” In 2004, the party earned a place on Rolling Stone‘s “50 Moments That Changed the Heritage of Rock and Roll.”
“Woodstock arrived at a truly dim second in The usa,” Lang informed Rolling Stone in 2009. “An unpopular war, a authorities that was unresponsive, loads of human rights challenges — factors were being starting up to edge towards violence for men and women to make their details. And alongside arrived Woodstock, which was this second of hope.”
“We considered we were being all person, scattered hippies,” David Crosby instructed Rolling Stone in 2004. “When we received there, we said, ‘Wait a minute, this is a great deal even larger than we believed.’ We flew in there by helicopter and noticed the New York Condition Thruway at a useless prevent for 20 miles and a gigantic group of at the very least 50 % a million folks. You could not genuinely wrap your head around how quite a few persons were being there. It had in no way took place just before, and it was type of like obtaining aliens land.”
“Everybody was insane,” Joan Baez, who performed the festival, advised Rolling Stone in 2009. “I guess the collective recollections that people have, I have in a sense. It’s the mud and the cops roasting incredibly hot pet dogs and persons wandering around in the nude. And the reality that, wanting back again, it was in actuality a substantial offer. It was like a great storm and I realized that Woodstock was like the eye of the hurricane because it was diverse. It was this weekend of like and intimacy and attempts at splendor and at caring and at getting political.”
The unique Woodstock was, in Kornfield’s terms, “a monetary catastrophe.” Having said that, in Michael Wadleigh’s 1970 documentary that captured the fest, Kornfield and Lang are revealed smiling when talking about the competition with a information reporter. “Look at what you bought there. You could not get that for nearly anything,” Lang reported.
Graham Nash mentioned in a assertion to Rolling Stone Sunday, “This male played an crucial position in the enhancement of the ‘Musical Festival.’ His aspect in bringing the Woodstock country to the forefront of American new music is very well identified and he will be missed by his household and close friends.”
Just after Woodstock, Lang was recruited at the last moment to support help with what became the notorious Altamont Cost-free Live performance in California in December 1969, in which audience member Meredith Hunter was stabbed to demise for the duration of the Rolling Stones’ established. “My belief of Altamont is that it was a skipped chance and the consequence of a absence of arranging,” Lang claimed in a Reddit Q&A in 2014. “It was thrown collectively at the final minute, it experienced to transfer at the very last moment, and seriously was not considered throughout. There really wasn’t any protection, and the Hells Angels have been pressed into a job they weren’t suited for. And so what could have been a wonderful working day of new music degenerated into a horror clearly show.”
Lang afterwards turned the manager for Rickie Lee Jones and Joe Cocker — the latter providing a person of Woodstock’s famous performances — and started Just Sunshine Records, which introduced albums by Karen Dalton and Betty Davis, among the others.
20-5 decades right after the iconic festival, Lang returned to Woodstock — albeit in Saugerties, New York, and not Yasgur’s farm — to generate Woodstock ’94, billed as “2 More Days of Peace and New music.” The 1994 lineup was a “bridge” amongst the initial fest and a lot more present-day songs, Lang mentioned, with first Woodstock functions like Cocker, Santana, Crosby, Stills & Nash, users of the Grateful Useless and the Band, Place Joe McDonald and additional becoming a member of Purple Sizzling Chili Peppers, Eco-friendly Working day, Aerosmith, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails and Bob Dylan.
When not as historic as its predecessor, the achievements of the 1994 fest — coupled with its MTV broadcast and the increase of audio festivals in typical — led Lang and his fellow producers to host another fest 5 decades later. That was Woodstock ’99, which finally hewed closer to the chaos of Altamont than the peace and enjoy of the previous two installments.
“My takeaways from Woodstock ’99 are a little bit intricate,” Lang said in the Reddit Q&A. “A good deal of men and women had an awesome time. There was loads of wonderful music. It was however an extremely sizzling weekend, and getting on that air force foundation in which the heat was reflected from that tarmac was seriously problematic. Without having the rain in all that heat was a trouble. And frankly, as I reported before, a whole lot of the new music was form of indignant, and the audience was young and of the exact same headspace, so I’m a little little bit conflicted about Woodstock ’99.”
In the mid-2010s, immediately after the aftermath of the maligned Woodstock ’99 experienced mostly dissipated, Lang commenced envisioning a 50th anniversary pageant, with Watkins Glen, New York — internet site of festivals like 1973’s Summer season Jam and Phish’s Magnaball in 2015 — the meant web page. The fest’s cross-generational lineup was declared in March 2019, bringing alongside one another Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus and the Killers with Woodstock vets like Santana, Useless & Business, David Crosby and John Fogerty, whose Creedence Clearwater Revival was the very first band booked for the first Woodstock.
“I was searching forward to viewing how it would get reworked 50 years afterwards,” John Fogerty, who had performed Woodstock with Creedence Clearwater Revival, told Rolling Stone. “What the young people would assume about it and what the youthful artists would feel. It is not each working day you get to go again to a 50-calendar year reunion.”
Having said that, quickly soon after the fest was exposed and tickets product sales ended up postponed, one of Woodstock 50’s main traders — worldwide media organization Dentsu Aegis — declared the fest had been canceled, sparking a lawful battle with Lang and other producers that ultimately permitted the fest to proceed. However, the fest’s location in Watkins Glen, New York next nullified its deal with organizers, creating Woodstock 50 to try out unsuccessfully to move the pageant to Vernon Downs, New York and Maryland’s Merriweather Publish Pavilion. One by 1, the booked acts dropped off the monthly bill, and Woodstock 50 was ultimately canceled just two weeks prior to it was scheduled to start.
“I assumed he bore that burden remarkably effectively,” Sebastian says of Lang carrying the Woodstock identify. “We would do these numerous Woodstock events, telling stories, and he experienced that smile – not tension, but a kind of sadness that is section of figuring out about life. I would see that now and then.”
Adhering to the cancelation of Woodstock 50, Lang was requested whether or not he was worried that the unsuccessful fest experienced tarnished the legacy of the brand. “It’s not one thing I look at,” Lang explained to Rolling Stone in 2019. “What we did in 1969 was in 1969 and that is what has endured and will continue on to endure. We’re not likely absent.”
Supplemental reporting by David Browne