Woodstock Festival Co-Founder Michael Lang Dies at 77: NPR

Michael Lang, co-founder of the Woodstock Music & Art Festival

Charles Norfleet / Getty Images


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Charles Norfleet / Getty Images


Michael Lang, co-founder of the Woodstock Music & Art Festival

Charles Norfleet / Getty Images

Michael Lang, co-founder of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, died on Saturday at the age of 77.

Lang died at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. According to family spokesman Michael Pagnotta, the cause of death was a rare form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Lang planned the famous 1969 festival together with his partners Artie Kornfeld, Joel Rosenman and John P. Roberts on Max Yasgur’s extensive dairy farm in Bethel, NY , Jimi Hendrix and The Who.

Despite weather issues, late venue changes, and far more than expected visitors, Woodstock’s permissive ethos of “peace and music” persisted, making the festival a pivotal moment in the decade’s countercultural movement.

“Woodstock was a test of whether our generation really believed in each other and in the world we were struggling to create,” Lang wrote in his 2009 book The way to Woodstock. “How would we proceed if we were in charge? Could we live as the peaceful community we envisioned?

Born in Brooklyn, NY, Lang attended New York University briefly before moving to Florida. It was there that he came up with the idea for Woodstock after organizing the Miami Pop Festival in 1968, with Jimi Hendrix as headliner.

“I was amazed at the effect music had on the children,” he said poster in 2009. “I went from John Lee Hooker to Jimi Hendrix and they loved everything … and seeing their faces and the way music somehow changed them really got me going.”

Outstanding in the 1970 Oscar-winning documentation Wood storage, who often rode around the stage area on his motorcycle, Lang became one of the most recognizable faces behind the festival.

In later years he continued to produce events based on the legacy of that original Woodstock, including the Woodstock ’94 and Woodstock ’99 festivals. The latter event, a three-day concert in Rome, NY, was notoriously plagued by widespread violence and reported sexual assault.

In 2019, Lang planned to host Woodstock 50, a reinterpretation of the festival with a variety of artists including Chance the Rapper and Carlos Santana, but the festival was canceled after financial setbacks.

In addition to his wife Tamara, Lang leaves behind the sons Harry and Laszlo and the daughters LariAnn, Shala and Molly.


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