Michael Lang, a Force Behind the Woodstock Festival, Dies at 77


Michael Lang, one of the creators of the Woodstock festival, which drew more than 400,000 people to an upstate New York farm in 1969 for a weekend of “peace and music” — plus plenty of drugs, skinny-dipping, mud-soaked revelry and highway traffic jams — resulting in one of the great tableaus of 20th-century pop culture, died on Saturday in a hospital in Manhattan. He was 77.

Michael Pagnotta, a spokesman for Mr. Lang’s family, said the cause was non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

In August 1969, Mr. Lang was a baby-faced 24-year-old with limited experience as a concert promoter when he and three partners, Artie Kornfeld, John P. Roberts and Joel Rosenman, put on the Woodstock Music and Art Fair on land leased from a dairy farmer, Max Yasgur, in bucolic Bethel, N.Y., about 100 miles northwest of New York City.

Since Monterey Pop in California two years before, rock festivals had been sprouting around the country, and the Woodstock partners, then all in their 20s, were ambitious enough to hope for 50,000 attendees. Mr. Lang and Mr. Kornfeld, a record executive, booked a solid lineup, with Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and a new group called Crosby, Stills & Nash (they would be joined at the festival by Neil Young), among others. The show was set for Aug. 15-17.

They sold 186,000 tickets in advance, at $8 a day. On the opening day, traffic snarled much of the New York State Thruway, and many ticket holders did not make it. Others simply entered the field without paying.

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