Well, I came upon a child of God
He was walking along the road
And I asked him, tell where are you going?
This he told me
Said, I'm going down to Yasgur's Farm
Gonna join in a rock and roll band
I'm going to camp out on the land
I'm going to try an' get my soul free
- Lyrics from the song, “Woodstock” by Joni Mitchell
The original Woodstock Music and Arts Festival took place in a town called White Lake, New York, in 1969. White Lake is just south of the town of Woodstock, New York. The town where folk and bluegrass music artist, Bob Dylan, lived. Dylan was invited to play at the concert, but he declined the invitation and played at a music festival in England, that same weekend.
The promoters were plagued by problems in trying to find a venue to hold the concert. No one wanted over 100,000 hippies roaming the streets of their town nor did the nearby towns, either. They were originally supposed to play in the town of Woodstock, but the residents were against it and it was cancelled there. A couple of other towns had refused to hold the concert as well.
The promoters were then introduced to a local dairy farmer named Max Yasgur and he allowed them to hold the music festival on his 600-acre dairy farm. The dairy farm turned out to be the perfect location, as part of the land was at the bottom of a hill and it kind of formed a bowl shape and there was a freshwater pond at the end of it. The promoters decided to build the stage at the bottom of the hill with the pond as a backdrop.
The concert, billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace and Music”, was finally set. The promoters expected anywhere between 150,000 to 200,000 people in attendance. Over 400,000 people showed up. Most of them got into the concert for free over the weekend as the fence was eventually knocked down by the throng of people showing up.
The Woodstock Music Festival also gave birth to a music legend. Jimmy Hendrix played last at the concert to a number of people that have severely dwindled, by the time Hendrix played. Heavy rains throughout the weekend had caused delays with the concert and Hendrix wasn’t able to play until Monday morning. The music festival was supposed to end on Sunday. A little over halfway into his first of two sets, he introduced everyone still there to his heavy, electric guitar laden, version of the “Star Spangled Banner” and is immortalized in the video documentary of the music festival.
The music and art festival was a pivotal moment in the hippie counterculture and a pivotal moment in music. It would bring two decades of music together. One ending and one just beginning.