Woodstock Impresario Michael Lang Lifeless at 77

Michael Lang, the live performance impresario who served conceive the landmark, technology-defining 1969 music competition Woodstock, died Saturday evening at Sloan Kettering healthcare facility in New York. He was 77.

Michael Pagnotta, a rep for Lang and longtime family members pal, verified the promoter’s demise to Rolling Stone, adding that the bring about was a scarce form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Together with businessmen John Roberts and Joel Rosenman and new music industry promoter Artie Kornfeld, Lang, who had beforehand promoted the 1968 Pop and Underground Competition in Miami, co-designed the Woodstock Audio and Art Truthful the following year. Famously billed as “Three Days of Peace and Tunes,” the upstate New York festival drew up to 400,000 folks to Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, NY from August 15-18, 1969 and featured dozens of rock’s most significant names, together with Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Who, Jimi Hendrix and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Younger.

“There’s a minute when Michael Lang improved the world,” the Lovin’ Spoonful frontman John Sebastian tells Rolling Stone. “At Woodstock I was standing next to him when a person of his minions way in the distance came functioning toward the stage and we imagined, “This just cannot be fantastic.’ He will get to Michael and claims, ‘The fence is down. People are coming more than the best.’ And Mike takes this extended glance around the entire scenario and almost to himself he suggests, ‘Well, I guess we now have a no cost competition.’ It was the authentic, ‘What could perhaps go incorrect,’  but he could pivot and see the mild.”

Carlos Santana stated in a statement to Rolling Stone Sunday, “Michael Lang was a divine architect of unity  & harmony. He gave birth to Woodstock, the festival that manifested 3 wonderful times of peace & flexibility. He will no doubt be orchestrating yet another celestial event in Heaven. Thank you Maestro. You and Bill Graham are now united in the light-weight of our divinity and are supreme appreciate.”

Lang was only 24 when he served conceive the competition, which would go on to turn out to be a massively influential counterculture touchstone, many thanks in section to a documentary on the occasion launched the subsequent calendar year. Over the decades, Lang’s name became synonymous with the Woodstock brand name, as the promoter aided helm subsequent iterations of the festival in 1994 and 1999. (When Pollstar questioned Lang in 2019 what it’s like to be the “Woodstock poster baby for eternity,” he replied, “Life is total of ordeals, and not almost everything is effective out. But you keep trying or almost nothing operates out … That’s often been my attitude.”) A 50th anniversary concert in 2019 was mired in controversy and lawful difficulties and was canceled prior to it could go on.

Lang, a indigenous New Yorker, moved to Coconut Grove, FL in the late 1960s and opened a head shop. “The climate is best, men and women are into a stimulating wide range of inventive issues and there was no spot for them to get together,” Lang mentioned in author Ellen Sanders’ 1973 ebook Visits: Rock Existence in the Sixties. He used that similar ethos to songs festivals, commencing with the Pop and Underground Pageant in Might 1968. The festival, attended by 25,000 folks, highlighted sets by Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry and the Moms of Invention, among many others.

Following transferring back to New York, Lang achieved Kornfeld, then a vice president of Capitol Data, and began Woodstock Ventures with Roberts and Rosenman. After a collection of planned destinations fell by way of, the quartet was famously able to organize the pageant at the 600-acre farm of Max Yasgur, a dairy farmer in Bethel, NY immortalized in Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s 1970 hit “Woodstock.” In 2004, the occasion gained a spot on Rolling Stone‘s “50 Times That Adjusted the Historical past of Rock and Roll.”

“Woodstock came at a really darkish moment in The us,” Lang advised Rolling Stone in 2009. “An unpopular war, a governing administration that was unresponsive, a lot of human legal rights problems — things had been starting up to edge toward violence for men and women to make their points. And alongside came Woodstock, which was this instant of hope.”

“We imagined we were being all specific, scattered hippies,” David Crosby told Rolling Stone in 2004. “When we acquired there, we mentioned, ‘Wait a minute, this is a great deal even larger than we thought.’ We flew in there by helicopter and noticed the New York Point out Thruway at a lifeless end for 20 miles and a gigantic crowd of at the very least 50 % a million people today. You could not really wrap your head all around how a lot of individuals had been there. It experienced in no way took place ahead of, and it was kind of like obtaining aliens land.”

“Everybody was crazy,” Joan Baez, who performed the pageant, explained to Rolling Stone in 2009. “I guess the collective reminiscences that people have, I have in a sense. It’s the mud and the cops roasting sizzling canines and individuals wandering all around in the nude. And the fact that, searching back, it was in simple fact a big deal. It was like a best storm and I recognized that Woodstock was like the eye of the hurricane since it was diverse. It was this weekend of really like and intimacy and attempts at elegance and at caring and at remaining political.”

The unique Woodstock was, in Kornfield’s words, “a fiscal catastrophe.” Even so, in Michael Wadleigh’s 1970 documentary that captured the fest, Kornfield and Lang are demonstrated smiling when discussing the competition with a news reporter. “Look at what you acquired there. You could not get that for anything,” Lang claimed.

Graham Nash said in a statement to Rolling Stone Sunday, “This man performed an crucial part in the progress of the ‘Musical Festival.’ His component in bringing the Woodstock country to the forefront of American music is properly recognised and he will be skipped by his loved ones and pals.”

Right after Woodstock, Lang was recruited at the very last minute to assistance help with what turned the notorious Altamont Absolutely free Concert in California in December 1969, the place audience member Meredith Hunter was stabbed to loss of life throughout the Rolling Stones’ set. “My opinion of Altamont is that it was a missed chance and the result of a deficiency of organizing,” Lang stated in a Reddit Q&A in 2014. “It was thrown jointly at the previous minute, it had to go at the very last minute, and seriously wasn’t believed all through. There truly was not any security, and the Hells Angels had been pressed into a job they weren’t suited for. And so what could have been a terrific day of tunes degenerated into a horror exhibit.”

Lang later grew to become the manager for Rickie Lee Jones and Joe Cocker — the latter providing a single of Woodstock’s legendary performances — and founded Just Sunshine Information, which introduced albums by Karen Dalton and Betty Davis, among the other folks.

Twenty-5 decades after the legendary pageant, Lang returned to Woodstock — albeit in Saugerties, New York, and not Yasgur’s farm — to make Woodstock ’94, billed as “2 Far more Times of Peace and Music.” The 1994 lineup was a “bridge” concerning the unique fest and extra up to date audio, Lang reported, with original Woodstock functions like Cocker, Santana, Crosby, Stills & Nash, associates of the Grateful Dead and the Band, Nation Joe McDonald and far more signing up for Red Very hot Chili Peppers, Inexperienced Day, Aerosmith, Metallica, 9 Inch Nails and Bob Dylan.

Michael Lang in 1969 from ‘Woodstock,’ 2019. © PBS Distribution / courtesy Everett Collection

©PBS/Courtesy Everett Selection / Everett Selection

When not as historic as its predecessor, the results 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 five yrs later on. That was Woodstock ’99, which in the end hewed nearer to the chaos of Altamont than the peace and love of the past two installments.

“My takeaways from Woodstock ’99 are a bit intricate,” Lang said in the Reddit Q&A. “A great deal of men and women experienced an wonderful time. There was tons of astounding audio. It was regrettably an unbelievably incredibly hot weekend, and currently being on that air force base where by the heat was mirrored from that tarmac was definitely problematic. Devoid of the rain in all that warmth was a challenge. And frankly, as I said before, a good deal of the music was type of offended, and the audience was younger and of the exact headspace, so I’m a minimal bit conflicted about Woodstock ’99.”

In the mid-2010s, just after the aftermath of the maligned Woodstock ’99 experienced largely dissipated, Lang commenced envisioning a 50th anniversary festival, with Watkins Glen, New York — web site of festivals like 1973’s Summer season Jam and Phish’s Magnaball in 2015 — the meant web-site. The fest’s cross-generational lineup was introduced in March 2019, bringing with each other Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus and the Killers with Woodstock vets like Santana, Useless & Corporation, David Crosby and John Fogerty, whose Creedence Clearwater Revival was the very first band booked for the original Woodstock.

“I was looking forward to looking at how it would get reworked 50 yrs afterwards,” John Fogerty, who had performed Woodstock with Creedence Clearwater Revival, told Rolling Stone. “What the young people would think about it and what the youthful artists would assume. It is not just about every day you get to go again to a 50-calendar year reunion.”

On the other hand, shortly right after the fest was disclosed and tickets product sales had been postponed, one of Woodstock 50’s chief traders — intercontinental media enterprise Dentsu Aegis — introduced the fest experienced been canceled, sparking a lawful battle with Lang and other producers that eventually authorized the fest to continue. Even so, the fest’s venue in Watkins Glen, New York up coming nullified its deal with organizers, resulting in Woodstock 50 to check out unsuccessfully to move the pageant to Vernon Downs, New York and Maryland’s Merriweather Put up Pavilion. Just one by one, the booked functions dropped off the monthly bill, and Woodstock 50 was eventually canceled just two months ahead of it was scheduled to start out.

“I thought he bore that burden remarkably very well,” Sebastian claims of Lang carrying the Woodstock name. “We would do these a variety of Woodstock occasions, telling tales, and he had that smile – not stress, but a type of sadness that is part of being aware of about existence. I would see that now and then.”

Adhering to the cancelation of Woodstock 50, Lang was asked whether he was fearful that the failed fest had tarnished the legacy of the model. “It’s not some thing I consider,” Lang told 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 heading absent.”

Supplemental reporting by David Browne