Woodstock: History, Facts, Performers & Bands

Instructor: Colleen Cleveland

Colleen has taught college level Game Development and Graphic Design and has a Master's in Interactive Entertainment and Masters in Media Psychology.

This lesson explores Woodstock, a 3-day music festival held in the summer of 1969. We will explore the movers and shakers on Woodstock's main stage and the general atmosphere that placed Woodstock in the annuls of history.


It was 1969. Vietnam was raging, civil rights became a homegrown battle in the South, and the whole nation was divided over the turmoil of politics. But there was a point where 1969 wasn't about war. A small cluster of investors decided to create a music retreat based on peace. It was a radical idea. The idea was to bring together some local artists in the area for a studio jam session. What they did not see coming was that their idea of an intimate gathering grew from a small group of local artists to a 3-day outdoor festival.

Major acts started to jump in, such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Grateful Dead, and The Who. Music was playing around the clock. People were sleeping in the mud. The attendance was as high as 500,000 people. Woodstock became a symbol of the hippie culture of the day. Hippies, otherwise known as 'Flower Children,' were peace-minded individuals that countered the war with the mantra of 'Can't we all get along?'. Woodstock became the symbol of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. To the fading tunes of Jimi Hendrix at the close of the show, Woodstock went down in the history books as legendary.

Woodstock Peak Attendance


Did you know that Woodstock did not actually take place in Woodstock, New York? It was moved to a dairy farm in Bethel, New York after the conservative town of Woodstock nearly had a heart attack at the thought of being overrun by hippies. Despite the fact that the promoters promised only 50,000 people would attend, nearly half a million people showed up to be at Woodstock.

Now, the concert wasn't originally free. Days before the festival started, roughly 50,000 people had already gathered. Since it was impossible to get these people to leave the area and pay for a ticket, or repair the gaping holes in the fences to prevent more people from sneaking in, the organizers decided to cut their losses and make the festival a free event. No one anticipated that nearly half a million people would show up for the festival. As highways quickly became parking lots, many people deserted their cars and walked the rest of the way. The effort was huge in order for performers to get in and out of the festival. They had to be airlifted by the local Air Force Base to get to the stage.

In total, 32 bands performed during the festival. In 1970, a documentary entitled Woodstock was released. It was an instant success and went on to win an Academy Award for best Documentary Feature. A live album of the festival was also released in 1970. After the festival, the organizers of the event were in considerable debt and had over 70 lawsuits against them. Due to the success of the film, they were able to pay off the majority of their debts.

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