Looking back at Woodstock

By Ahmet Abdulaziz ….

Just mention the name “Woodstock” to any music lover from my generation (1950s-1960s), and you will see a glowing sparkle in their eyes.

Yes I am referring to the music festival, running over 4 days from 15th to 18th August, 1969, in Woodstock, in the outskirts of New York. This four day music festival has gone down in music history as one of the most remarkable musical events, which had not just shocked the music world, but had also made its mark in every field world over. Those were the days when the world in general and the Americans in particular were passing through the tiring Vietnam war.  The American youth in particular were frustrated. There were people who had started taking a stand against the American policies in Vietnam.

With this background, the idea of organising a music festival had come up. Initially it was not destined to be something very special. It was planned and organised just like any other music festival.

However ultimately, the “Woodstock music festival”, showed the world the real strength of music. It has become widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history, as well as a defining event for the “counterculture generation”

There were no political statements or campaigns attached to it, yet it became a source of unity of music lovers world over. Woodstock had put up a grand scene of harmony and unity among the youth.

The festival designed for an audience of less than 50,000 people, ultimately got recorded with more than 400,000 people at a time, listening the music at Woodstock, against all odds.

The festival was organised at the 300 acres Industrial Park in the town of Wallkill of New York. The venue was leased to the Woodstock ventures. That’s why the festival was named Woodstock music festival.

The four day festival was marked by sporadic rain, and problems of all sorts. The organisers had not planned it for such a large audience. Originally the tickets were sold out, but as the numbers of those wishing to attend increased, the organisers were not left with any other choice but to declare it as a free event. There were hundreds and thousands of young music lovers who spent days and nights in the open field, where sporadic rains had made everywhere muddy. Yet they stayed there, and enjoyed the music.

Initially the organisers suffered a big loss as they had made it a free festival, but later on they earned a lot more by making film of the event. A number of books and documentaries have been written and released about this particular music festival. The film “Woodstock” was released in 1970. The film received the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. In 1996 the film was inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry.

A couple more films were also produced regarding the Woodstock Festival.

Two soundtracks were later released to mark the 25th anniversary of  the music festival. Subsequently, the 30th, 40th  and 50th anniversaries were marked with releases of films and soundtracks etc, to keep the spirit of “Woodstock” alive for the next generation of music lovers.

In total 32 acts of musical performances were presented. A number of artists however could not turn up, due to non-availability of transport and other facilities.

Hereunder is the complete list of 32 bands that took the stage during the festival.

Day 1:

Richie Havens


Sri Swami Satchidananda

Bert Sommer

Ravi Shankar

Tim Hardin

Melanie Safka

Arlo Guthrie

Joan Baez








Day 2


Country Joe McDonald


John B. Sebastian

Keef Hartley Band

The Incredible String Band

Canned Heat


The Grateful Dead

Creedence Clearwater Revival







Day 3:

The Who

Jefferson Airplane

Joe Cocker

Country Joe & The Fish

Janis Joplin

Ten Years After

The Band

Johnny Winter

Sly and the Family Stone

Blood Sweat & Tears

Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young)

Paul Butterfly Blues Band

Sha Na Na

Jimi Hendrix