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The Road to Woodstockby Michael Lang
Synopses & Reviews
August 15, 1969. Richie Havens, the first act of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, takes the stage and welcomes a crowd of several hundred thousand to the green fields of Max Yasgur's farm—which is quickly becoming the second-largest city in New York State. People are dancing, imbibing, meeting, and helping the ever-increasing stream of new neighbors set up camp. Beyond the fields, the roads are jammed with cars and people, some of whom have been traveling for days to reach the festival site. Havens enthusiastically delivers folk-blues standards and Beatles songs, then begins to improvise, riffing on the refrain "Freedom." Freedom is at the heart of the harmony of this landmark cultural event—along with brotherhood, love, and peace. The next three days are the realization of months and years of dreaming and planning, the result of miracles and crises and coincidences.
The story of the festival begins with Michael Lang, a kid out of Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, who liked to smoke a joint and listen to jazz and who eventually found his way to Florida, where he opened a head shop and produced his first festival—Miami Pop, featuring Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, and others. In the late sixties, after settling in Woodstock, he began to envision a music and arts festival where folks could come and stay for a few days amid the rural beauty of upstate New York. The idea crystallized when Lang talked it over with Artie Kornfeld, a songwriter and A & R man, and with two other young men they formed Woodstock Ventures. They booked talent, from Janis Joplin and the Who to the virtually unknown Santana and Crosby, Stills and Nash; won over agents and promoters; brought in the Hog Farm commune to set up campgrounds; hired a peacekeeping force; took on fleets of volunteers; appeased the Yippies; and were run out of one town and found another site weeks before the festival.
On the ground with the talent, the townspeople, and his handpicked crew, Lang had a unique and panoramic perspective of the festival. Enhanced by interviews with others who were central to the making of the festival, The Road to Woodstock tells the story from inspiration to celebration, capturing all the magic, mayhem, and mud in between.
"For three days in August 1969, half a million music lovers happily braved torrential rains, endured lack of food and clean water, and grooved to the cosmic blues of the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, danced all night to the funky soul of Sly and the Family Stone and witnessed the birth of a new band called Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Held at Max Yasgur's dairy farm in Bethel, N.Y., the first Aquarian Exposition, or the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, grew far beyond the expectations of its creators. In this lively memoir, Lang, one of the festival's cocreators, retells the story — some of it already well-known — of the halting steps that he and his partners took to develop the greatest rock concert of all time. After a stint at NYU, Lang moved to Coconut Grove, where he opened a head shop and, with the help of some of his friends, organized Miami Pop in 1968, one of the first outdoor music festivals drawing major acts. Burned out on Miami, Lang headed to Woodstock, N.Y., to settle into the bohemian community of artists and craftsmen, and opened a recording studio. With a storyteller's verve and energy, Lang regales us with the tales of struggles with smalltown political leaders who opposed the festival, the kindness of Max Yasgur and the gargantuan task of feeding and taking care of a community the size of a large city. With the gritty insights of the ultimate insider, Lang weaves interviews with performers and others into his memoir, providing a glimpse of the madness, frustration, happiness and sheer euphoria that turned Woodstock into a memorable music festival. (July)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“[A] vivid and lively account of those hectic and historic three days….The best fly-on-the-wall account, tantamount to having had a backstage pass to an iconic event.”
The Woodstock music festival of 1969 is an American cultural touchstone, and no book captures the sights, sounds, and behind-the-scenes machinations of the historic gathering better than Michael Langs New York Times bestseller, The Road to Woodstock. USA Today calls this fascinating, entertaining, and blissfully nostalgic look back, “Invaluable.” In The Road to Woodstock, Michael Lang recaptures the magic for the generation that was there…and for the generations that followed.
About the Author
Michael Lang has produced festivals in East Berlin, the concert at the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, Woodstock '94, and Woodstock '99, among many other events worldwide. He is the head of the Michael Lang Organization, producing live events; is a partner in Woodstock Ventures; and, with Sam Nappi, runs Harmony Entertainment, producing film and theater. He lives in upstate New York.
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