Four books to read ahead of 50th anniversary of Woodstock

07 Aug 2019 / 11:45 H.

FIFTY years ago, the Woodstock Music and Arts Festival attracted more than 400,000 people in Bethel, New York, for three days of rock ‘n’ roll and hippiedom.

Last spring, co-founder Michael Lang announced a multiday anniversary celebration, dubbed Woodstock50, set to take place on August 16-18 – the same weekend as the original Woodstock.

Although the event has since been canceled, here is a selection of four recently published books that will let you delve into the music festival that became the high point of 1960s counterculture.

Woodstock: 50 years of Peace and Music by Daniel Bukszpan (Imagine)

Daniel Bukszpan offers insights on how the festival, originally dubbed “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music,“ became one of the most storied events in music history.

The writer has assembled a collection of never-seen-before images of the festival by renowned photographers, including Amalie R. Rothschild and Elliott Landy.

This anniversary book also features original interviews from performers, staffers and audience members. Among them are Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, The Who and Joe Cocker.

History buffs will be delighted to discover lesser-known anecdotes about Woodstock, such as the fact that organizer John Morris sent a coded “F*ck you” message to American band Iron Butterfly when they demanded a helicopter from LaGuardia airport.

Woodstock: A Photographic Look at the Movie that Shook Up the World and Defined a Generation by Dane Bell (Rare Bird)

This photography book goes behind the scenes of the landmark 1970 documentary Woodstock, Three Days of Peace and Music directed by Michael Wadleigh.

Film producer Dane Bell has brought together a collection of remembrances and perceptions from the film crew members who created the Academy Award-winning documentary.

At the time, Wadleigh and his crew filmed everything they saw during the music festival, gathering more than 1,210 hours of footage.

The book also includes insights from musicians who took part in the festival, including Janis Joplin, David Crosby, The Who, Joan Baez and Merv Griffin, among others.

Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music by Michael Lang (Reel Art Press)

This 50th anniversary illustrated book was created by the festival founder and co-organizer Michael Lang, who recently made headlines over the cancellation of Woodstock50.

Woodstock buffs will be delighted to discover unseen archive documents including set lists, correspondence, information on artists’ fees as well as the original designs and plans for the three-day event.

Lang also shares memories and insights about the organization of Woodstock, which was more chaotic than commonly assumed by nostalgic festivalgoers.

“I reached out to John Lennon through Apple, the Beatles’ management company. In May, immigration officials had denied him entrance into the United States purportedly because of previous drug charges but in reality because of his public antiwar stance,“ he recalls.

The book includes hundreds of photographs by famous and unknown photographers such as Ralph Ackerman, John Dominis, Bill Eppridge, Dan Garson, Barry Z. Levine, Elliott Landy, Lee Marshall and Henry Diltz.

Pilgrims of Woodstock: Never-Before-Seen-Photos by John Kane (Red Lightning Books)

For his debut book, John Kane decided to focus on the overlooked stars of Woodstock: the 400,000 people who traveled across the US to gather on the 600 acres of Max Yasgur’s farm in Sullivan County.

He has brought together a collection of firsthand narratives of concertgoers, who will later be called the “Woodstock Nation.”

Among them are Mary and Allen, two 18-year-old high school graduates who describe the festival as “their love story.”

Kane’s interviews are accompanied by never-seen-before photographs by Richard Bellak, along with a foreword by Woodstock legend and member of the Hog Farm commune, Tom Law. - AFP

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