Michael Lang, a co-founder of the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival that became a landmark event of 1960s counterculture, died on Monday at his home in Parrot Cay, Turks and Caicos. He was 77.
The cause was pancreatic cancer, said Janis Schacht, Mr. Lang’s former wife, and a longtime family friend.
Mr. Lang was a visionary real estate developer when he and three partners created Woodstock, which took place on his family farm in Bethel, N.Y., over the course of three days in August 1969 and drew an estimated 400,000 people — nearly twice as many who attended the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival last weekend. Participants included Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, the Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix, who famously burned his guitar as the festival’s finale.
The festival was a cultural touchstone: widely credited for giving hippies and other counterculture adherents their first mass gathering; criticized for having little or no security; and denounced for a variety of purported sins, including bad vibes and bad drugs.
But Mr. Lang always said that Woodstock should be remembered for the music, noting that more than 32 acts were performed over those three days without a single reported incidence of violence or illegality. In the decades after the festival, he promoted New Age events around the world under the name United States of Mind.
Janis Joplin’s band Big Brother & the Holding Company made their one and only appearance with Janis at Woodstock, one of the most important concerts in rock history. Not only was Janis becoming a leading figure on the emerging rock scene, but her band had also just released their 2nd album “Cheap Thrills” to rave reviews and their first, self-titled album was still getting massive radio play.
After another band’s equipment van caught fire en route to the festival, Janis Joplin loaned them her gear for the second day of the festival – which turned out to be one of her last appearances with Big Brother.
Janis Joplin and Big Brother at Woodstock:
“With the band’s equipment truck destroyed by fire, Janis loaned her backup Marshall amps and guitars to the group that played before her — San Francisco’s own Jefferson Airplane. With no time to test her gear or sound-check, she took the stage in front of the biggest audience of her career. As Grace Slick launched into “Somebody to Love,” Janis charged in head down and screaming out the words at the top of her lungs. The sound was deafening.” ( wiki )
Janis Joplin didn’t like Jefferson Airplane’s version of Somebody To Love; she thought it was too tame.
Jefferson Airplane (with Marty Balin, Spencer Dryden, Jorma Kaukonen, and Jack Casady) closed out the first day of Woodstock on 16 August 1969; they were one of six bands to play at the festival on that historic Saturday. Other performers included Richie Havens, Country Joe & The Fish, Joan Baez, The Who, and Janis Joplin’s band Big Brother & The Holding Company.
David Crosby, then a member of the Byrds, had been scheduled to perform with Crosby, Stills & Nash at Woodstock but canceled at the last minute due to a drug bust conviction.
“I look back on those years and I believe that all of us, as we were changing the world, were not fully aware of how effective we were. We arrived out of nowhere with our music and it had an impact on millions and millions of people all at once. Of course, it made a lot of people angry as well as many others inspired.