Woodstock Impresario Michael Lang Dead at 77

Michael Lang, the concert entrepreneur who helped conceive the generation-defining 1969 Woodstock music festival, died Saturday night at New York’s Sloan Kettering Hospital. He was 77 years old.

Michael Pagnotta, a representative for Lang and a longtime friend of the family, confirmed the promoter’s death to Rolling Stone, He added that the cause was a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Along with entrepreneurs John Roberts and Joel Rosenman and music industry promoter Artie Kornfeld, Lang, who had previously promoted the 1968 Miami Pop festival, co-created the Woodstock Art and Music Fair the following year. Known as “Three Days of Peace and Music,” the upstate New York festival drew 400,000 people to Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York and featured dozens of rock’s biggest names, including Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Jimi Hendrix and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young.

Lang was just 24 when he helped conceive the festival, which would become a highly influential counterculture touchstone, thanks in part to a documentary about the event released the following year. Over the years, Lang’s name became synonymous with the Woodstock brand, as the promoter helped direct subsequent iterations of the festival in 1994 and 1999 (when Pollstar asked Lang in 2019 what it’s like to be the ” Woodstock poster kid for eternity, “he replied:” Life is full of experiences, and not everything works. But you keep trying or nothing works … That has always been my attitude “). A 50th anniversary concert in 2019 was mired in controversy and legal issues and was canceled earlier. I could go on

Lang, a native of New York, moved to Coconut Grove, FL in the late 1960s and opened a toiletries store. “The weather is perfect, people are interested in an exhilarating variety of artistic things and there was no place for them to gather,” Lang said in author Ellen Sanders’ 1973 book. Travel: Rock Life in the sixties. He applied that same spirit to music festivals, beginning with the Miami Pop fest in May 1968. The festival, which was attended by 25,000 people, featured sets by Jimi Hendrix, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry and Mothers of Invention, among others. .

After returning to New York, Lang met Kornfeld, then vice president of Capitol Records, and started Woodstock Ventures with Roberts and Rosenman. After a series of planned locations failed, the quartet was able to host the festival on the 600-acre farm of Max Yasgur, a Bethel, New York dairy farmer, immortalized in the 1970 hit Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. , “Woodstock”. in 2004, the event earned a spot in Rolling Stone“50 moments that changed the history of rock and roll”.

“We thought we were all scattered, individual hippies,” said David Crosby. Rolling Stone in 2004. “When we got there, we said, ‘Wait a minute, this is a lot bigger than we thought.’ We flew there by helicopter and saw the New York State Highway at a dry stop for 20 miles and a gigantic crowd of at least half a million people. You couldn’t really understand how many people were there. It had never happened before, and it was like having aliens landing. “

“It was incredible,” added Carlos Santana. “I will never forget the way the music sounded bouncing off a field of bodies.”

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