Michael Lang, the co-creator and organiser of the original Woodstock festival, has died aged 77.
The news was confirmed by Michael Pagnotta, a spokesperson for the music promoter’s family. He revealed that Lang had Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and passed away at New York City’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “He was absolutely an historic figure, and also a great guy,” Pagnotta said. “Both of those thing go hand in hand.”
Alongside Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman, Lang organised Woodstock in 1969. Billed as “three days of peace and music”, the festival became legendary as those in attendance embraced a free lifestyle as the Vietnam War left the country disillusioned.
A massive 400,000 people headed to a small farm in Bethel, New York, to catch a wonderful lineup: Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, Jefferson Airplane, and The Who were just some of the big names to perform at the festival.
Lang was a noticeable presence in the 1970 documentary about Woodstock, which won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. In 1996, The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
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He also produced Woodstock ’94 with previous partners Roberts, Rosenman and new co-producer John Scher, and Woodstock ’99 alongside John Scher and Ossie Kilkenny. The latter proved to be much more controversial and chaotic, with security issues and two deaths at the event.
In 2019, he attempted to put on a 50th anniversary concert to commemorate the original Woodstock but it ultimately failed due to financial and venue issues.
Lang wrote an acclaimed memoir in 2009 about his experience creating Woodstock, titled The Road to Woodstock. “From the beginning, I believed that if we did our job right and from the heart, prepared the ground and set the right tone, people would reveal their higher selves and create something amazing,” he wrote.
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