Billed as “an Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music”, the Woodstock music festival was held August 15-18 1969 and attracted an audience of over 400,000 to Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York. One of the biggest rock festivals of all time and a cultural touchstone for the late 1960s, the festival was one of the definitive events in the history of Rock and Roll and the phrase “the Woodstock generation” has become part of the common lexicon. Tributes to the festival began almost as soon as the festival concluded and it influenced an entire generation of musicians. Thirty-two acts performed during the sometimes rainy weekend of the festival including Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Santana, Canned Heat, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Who, Jefferson Airplane, The Band, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, and Jimi Hendrix.
Songwriter and activist Joan Baez was the final performer on the first day of Woodstock. She performed fourteen songs embodying the festival’s peace, love and anti-materialism ethos and expressing her commitment to political and social activism in the fields of nonviolence, civil rights, human rights and the environment. Baez’s contemporary, and one-time romantic interest Bob Dylan declined the invitation to perform at Woodstock, despite the fact that he was a resident of the town of Woodstock.
The second day of Woodstock featured performances by Santana, Janis Joplin, and the Grateful Dead who performed the songs ‘Mama Tried’, ‘Dark Star’, and ‘High Time.’ Known for their eclectic style which fused elements of rock, folk, bluegrass and psychedelic rock, the Grateful Dead was founded in the San Francisco Bay Area amid the rise of the counterculture of the 1960s by Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir and came to be widely considered “the pioneering Godfathers of the jam band world” (Reebe, 219).
The fourth Grateful Dead studio album, Workingman’d Dead was recorded in February 1970 and released on June 14, 1970. The album and its studio follow-up, American Beauty, were recorded back-to-back using a similar style, eschewing the psychedelic experimentation of previous albums in favor of Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter’s Americana-styled songcraft. In 2003, the album was listed on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
The English rock band The Who performed that same day with a 25-song set list including ‘I Can’t Explain’, ‘Pinball Wizard’, ‘Summetime Blues’ and ‘My Generation’. Considered one of the most influential rock bands of the 20th century, The Who’s classic line-up consisted of lead singer Roger Daltrey, guitarist and singer Pete Townshend, bass guitarist John Entwistle and drummer Keith Moon. The group’s fourth album, 1969’s rock opera Tommy and their appearance at Woodstock cemented their reputation as a respected rock act.
Tommy was acclaimed upon its release by critics, who hailed it as the Who’s breakthrough. Its critical standing diminished slightly in later years; nonetheless, several writers view it as an important and influential album in the history of rock music. The Who promoted the album’s release with an extensive tour, including a live version of Tommy, which lasted throughout 1969 and 1970. Key gigs from the tour included appearances at Woodstock, the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival, the University of Leeds, the Metropolitan Opera House and the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival.
The performances at Woodstock left an enduring legacy on the history of Rock and Roll and marked an important moment in the counterculture and hippie movements of 1960s America. Widely considered the essential book of the hippie movement, Ken Kesey’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test chronicled the bus trip of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters during which they met many of the guiding lights of the mid-1960s cultural movement and presaged what are commonly thought of as hippies with odd behavior, tie-dyed and red, white and blue clothing, and renunciation of normal society. Browse the many other singed vinyls and first editions related to 1960s counterculture currently in our collection.