Michael Lang, Co-Founder Of Era-Defining Woodstock Festival, Dies At 77

The concert promoter, born in Brooklyn in 1944, will forever be associated with the famous festival of 1969.

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Michael Lang photo: Myrna M. Suarez/Getty Images
Michael Lang photo: Myrna M. Suarez/Getty Images

Michael Lang, the co-creator and organizer of the Woodstock festival, has died at the age of 77. Family spokesperson Michael Pagnotta says that Lang passed away at Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York yesterday (8) from a rare form of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The concert promoter, born in Brooklyn in 1944, will forever be associated with the famous festival of 1969 that he helped to create. He had earlier instigated the Miami Pop Festival of the year before, which featured such artists as Frank Zappa, John Lee Hooker, and Jimi Hendrix.

After moving to the town of Woodstock in upstate New York, and meeting musician-executive Artie Kornfeld, they developed the idea for the “Aquarian Exposition” that became the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. It took place on Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York for an estimated three-day audience estimated at 400,000, captured in a documentary film of 1970 in which Lang featured extensively.

Hendrix, The Who, Santana, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat, Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and The Band were among those to perform at a festival that came to define an entire musical era. Lang co-produced anniversary gatherings in the same name in both 1994 and 1999, but a planned Woodstock 50 event in 2019 was ultimately cancelled.

Lang subsequently managed Cocker in a long association, as well as other artists such as Rickie Lee Jones and Willy DeVille, and ran Just Sunshine Records. His Michael Lang Organization worked with a wide range of stars including Prince, Snoop Dogg, Steely Dan, Shakira, Madonna, and Norah Jones.

“In 1969, the bands at Woodstock were all part of the counterculture,” Lang told Pollstar in 2019. ”They were very much involved in our lives. It wasn’t just entertainment; it was more about the social issues. They were part of our generation.

“Woodstock offered an environment for people to express their better selves, if you will,” he continued. “Give them that, and it seems to work. It was probably the most peaceful event of its kind in history. That was because of expectations and what people wanted to create there.”

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