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.)
“Invaluable…[Lang] wraps up his cinematic reminiscing by taking a seminal thread from Woodstocks historyJimi Hendrixs breathtaking interpretation of The Star Spangled Bannerand linking its poignancy to what some have called the 21st century Woodstock moment: the day Barack Obama became the first black president.” USA Today
“At Woodstock I saw a collective adventure representing something that still holds true today. When the Berlin Wall came down, Woodstock was there. When Mandela was liberated, Woodstock was in there. When we celebrated the year 2000, Woodstock was in there. Woodstock is still every day.” Carlos Santana
“Totally rocking...what elevates this book above the level of most rock memoirs is the inclusion of voices other than Langsincluding scenesters and key Woodstock players like Jimi Hendrix, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Jerry Garcia….Well-written, informative and tons of fun.” Kirkus Reviews
“Reading this inimitable account of how Woodstock really came to passmakes the Manhattan Project seem like whippin up one of my moms custard pies....[This book] he and Holly George-Warrenwill knock you out and once again make you wish that you were there.” Terry Stewart, President of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
“The shelf of books about Woodstock is groaning, but Langs is the best fly-on-the-wall account, tantamount to having had a backstage pass to an iconic event.” New York Post
“Lang, one of Woodstocks organizers, provides details about how the production was put together and kept running. His account is interspersed with interviews with performers and others, including, perhaps most interestingly, Hugh Romney, aka Wavy Gravy, of the Hog Farm, whose group provided order, reassurance and, as we know, granola.” New York Times Book Review, Paperback Row
“There are plenty of juicy tidbits in “The Road to Woodstock,” starting with the compelling opening of Lang sharing his backstage view of Hendrixs sizzling performance at the rain-soaked end of the festival.” Richmond Times-Dispatch
“[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.”
—New York Post
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.
Set on 700 acres of rolling farm hills in Manchester, Tennessee, Bonnaroo is a four-day music and camping festival that draws in over 80,000 fans every summer. Featuring over 120 musical performances, along with comedy, cinema, sustainability workshops, and more, the grounds are converted into a virtual city of music and art. With over 200 photographs of some of the most legendary musical acts of all time, and numerous personal contributions by musicians and patrons, Bonnaroo: What, Which, This, That, The Other
celebrates 10 years of this beloved music festival and the impact it has made on American culture. Whether fans of the Dave Matthews Band, Eminem, Radiohead, or Metallica, all music lovers unite to experience the magic of Bonnaroo.
Praise for Bonnaroo:"How do you get 80,000 fans to spend four days camping in the Tennessee sun? By offering the kind of moments this coffee-table photo book captures." and#8212;Rolling Stone
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.