As one of the biggest music festivals of all time and a cultural touchstone for the late 1960s, Woodstock has been referenced in many different ways in popular culture. The phrase "the Woodstock generation" became part of the common lexicon. Tributes and parodies of the festival began almost as soon as the festival concluded. Cartoonist Charles Schulz named his recurring Peanuts bird character – which began appearing in 1966 but was still unnamed – Woodstock in tribute to the festival (see GoComics archive - 1970JUN22). In April 1970, Mad magazine published a poem by Frank Jacobs and illustrated by Sergio Aragonés titled "I Remember, I Remember The Wondrous Woodstock Music Fair" that parodies the traffic jams and the challenges of getting close enough to actually hear the music. Keith Robertson's 1970 children's book Henry Reed's Big Show has the title character attempting to emulate the success of the festival by mounting his own concert at his uncle's farm.
Early in 1969, Roberts and Rosenman were New York City entrepreneurs, in the process of building Mediasound, a recording studio complex in Manhattan. Lang and Kornfeld's lawyer, Miles Lourie, who had done legal work on the Mediasound project, suggested that they contact Roberts and Rosenman about financing a similar, but much smaller, studio Kornfeld and Lang hoped to build in Woodstock, New York. Unpersuaded by this Studio-in-the-Woods proposal, Roberts and Rosenman counter-proposed a concert featuring the kind of artists known to frequent the Woodstock area (such as Bob Dylan and The Band). Kornfeld and Lang agreed to the new plan, and Woodstock Ventures was formed in January 1969. The company offices were located in an oddly decorated floor of 47 West 57th Street in Manhattan. Burt Cohen, and his design group, Curtain Call Productions, oversaw the psychedelic transformation of the office.
On March 19, 2019, the proposed line-up for Woodstock 50 was announced. This included some artists who performed at the original Woodstock festival in 1969: John Fogerty (from Creedence Clearwater Revival), Carlos Santana (as Santana), David Crosby (from Crosby, Stills & Nash), Melanie, John Sebastian, Country Joe McDonald, three Grateful Dead members (as Dead & Company), Canned Heat, and Hot Tuna (containing members of Jefferson Airplane). The event was to take place at Watkins Glen International, the race track in Watkins Glen, New York, the site in 1973 for the Summer Jam at Watkins Glen which drew an estimated 600,000 people.
There was worldwide media interest in the 40th anniversary of Woodstock in 2009. A number of activities to commemorate the festival took place around the world. On August 15, at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts overlooking the original site, the largest assembly of Woodstock performing alumni since the original 1969 festival performed in an eight-hour concert in front of a sold-out crowd. Hosted by Country Joe McDonald, the concert featured Big Brother and the Holding Company performing Janis Joplin's hits (she actually appeared with the Kozmic Blues Band at Woodstock, although that band did feature former Big Brother guitarist Sam Andrew), Canned Heat, Ten Years After, Jefferson Starship, Mountain, and the headliners, The Levon Helm Band. At Woodstock, Levon Helm played drums and was one of the lead vocalists with The Band. Paul Kantner was the only member of the 1969 Jefferson Airplane lineup to appear with Jefferson Starship. Tom Constanten, who played keyboard with the Grateful Dead at Woodstock, joined Jefferson Starship on stage for several numbers. Jocko Marcellino from Sha Na Na also appeared, backed up by Canned Heat. Richie Havens, who opened the Woodstock festival in 1969, appeared at a separate event the previous night. Crosby, Stills & Nash and Arlo Guthrie also marked the anniversary with live performances at Bethel earlier in August 2009.
In April 1969, Creedence Clearwater Revival became the first act to sign a contract for the event, agreeing to play for $10,000 (equivalent to $80,000 in 2022 ). The promoters had experienced difficulty landing big-name groups until Creedence committed to play. Creedence drummer Doug Clifford later commented: "Once Creedence signed, everyone else jumped in line and all the other big acts came on." Given their 12:30 a.m. start time and omission from the Woodstock film (at Creedence frontman John Fogerty's insistence), Creedence members have expressed bitterness over their experiences regarding the festival.
A rainy day (August 15, 1969)
Photo taken near Woodstock on August 18, 1969
Despite resident opposition and signs proclaiming, "Buy No Milk. Stop Max's Hippy Music Festival", Bethel Town Attorney Frederick W. V. Schadt, building inspector Donald Clark and Town Supervisor Daniel Amatucci approved the festival permits. Nonetheless, the Bethel Town Board refused to issue the permits formally. Clark was ordered to post stop-work orders. Rosenman recalls meeting Don Clark and discussing with him how unethical it was for him to withhold permits which had already been authorized, and which he had in his pocket. At the end of the meeting, Inspector Clark gave him the permits. The Stop Work Order was lifted, and the festival could proceed pending backing by the Department of Health and Agriculture, and removal of all structures by September 1, 1969.
Jimi Hendrix: Live at Woodstock was produced in 2005 as two-disc set that includes all available footage of Hendrix's Woodstock performance, in two different edits. The release also includes a mini-documentary with members of Hendrix's band, and footage of a September 1969 news conference where he discussed his Woodstock set.
Bethel voters did not re-elect Supervisor Amatucci, in an election held in November 1969, because of his role in bringing the festival to the town and the upset attributed to some residents. Although accounts vary, the loss was only by a very small margin of between six and fifty votes. The New York State Legislature and the Town of Bethel also enacted mass gathering laws designed to prevent any more festivals from occurring.
The documentary film Woodstock, directed by Michael Wadleigh and edited by a crew headed by Thelma Schoonmaker, was released in March 1970. Artie Kornfeld (one of the promoters of the festival) went to Fred Weintraub, an executive at Warner Bros., and asked for money to film the festival. Artie had been turned down everywhere else, but against the express wishes of other Warner Bros. executives, Weintraub put his job on the line and gave Kornfeld $100,000 (equivalent to $800,000 today) to make the film. Woodstock helped to save Warner Bros at a time when the company was on the verge of going out of business. The book Easy Riders, Raging Bulls details the making of the film.
The late change in venue did not give the festival organizers enough time to prepare. At a meeting three days before the event, Rosenman was asked by the construction foremen to choose between (a) completing the fencing and ticket booths (without which Roberts and Rosenman would be facing almost certain bankruptcy after the festival) or (b) trying to complete the stage (without which it would be a weekend of half a million concert-goers with no concert to hold their attention). The next morning, on Wednesday, it became clear that option (a) had disappeared. Overnight, 50,000 "early birds" had arrived and had planted themselves in front of the half-finished stage. For the rest of the weekend, concert-goers simply walked onto the site, with or without tickets. Though the festival left Roberts and Rosenman close to financial ruin, their ownership of the film and recording rights turned their finances around when the Academy Award-winning documentary film Woodstock was released in March 1970.
In 1973, the stage show National Lampoon's Lemmings portrayed the "Woodchuck" festival, featuring parodies of many Woodstock performers.
Max Yasgur refused to rent out his farm for a 1970 revival of the festival, saying, "As far as I know, I'm going back to running a dairy farm." Yasgur died in 1973.
In 1984, at the original festival site, land owners Louis Nicky and June Gelish put up a monument marker with plaques called "Peace and Music" by a local sculptor from nearby Bloomingburg, Wayne C. Saward.
The field and the stage area remain preserved and are open to visitors as part of the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts after being purchased in 1996 by cable television pioneer Alan Gerry for the purpose. The center opened on July 1, 2006, with a performance by the New York Philharmonic on a newly constructed pavilion stage located about 500 yards (460 m) SSE of the site of the 1969 stage. (The site of the original stage is vacant except for a commemorative plaque which was placed in 1984.) In June 2008 the Bethel Woods Center opened a museum dedicated to the experience and cultural significance of the Woodstock festival.
Attempts were made to prevent people from visiting the site. Its owners spread chicken manure, and during one anniversary, tractors and state police cars formed roadblocks. Twenty thousand people gathered at the site in 1989 during an impromptu 20th anniversary celebration. In 1997 a community group put up a welcoming sign for visitors. Unlike Bethel, the town of Woodstock made several efforts to capitalize on its connection. Bethel's stance eventually changed and the town began to embrace the festival. Efforts were undertaken to forge a link between Bethel and Woodstock.
Woodstock Diaries was produced by D. A. Pennebaker in 1994 as a three-part TV documentary miniseries. It was intended to commemorate Woodstock's 25th anniversary and includes rare performances and interviews with many of the concert's producers, including Joel Rosenman, John Roberts and Michael Lang.
Woodstock received the Academy Award for Documentary Feature. In 1996, the film was inducted into the Library of Congress National Film Registry. In 1994, Woodstock: The Director's Cut was released and expanded to include Janis Joplin as well as additional performances by Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, and Canned Heat not seen in the original version of the film. In 2009, the expanded 40th Anniversary Edition was released on DVD. This release marks the film's first availability on Blu-ray.
An album titled Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock was also released in August 1994, featuring only selected recordings of Jimi Hendrix at the festival.
Tracks from all three albums, as well as numerous additional, previously unreleased performances from the festival (but not the stage announcements and crowd noises) were reissued by Atlantic, also in August 1994, as a 4-CD box set titled Woodstock: Three Days of Peace and Music.
Two soundtrack albums were released. The first, Woodstock: Music from the Original Soundtrack and More, was a 3-LP (later 2-CD) album containing a sampling of one or two songs by most of the acts who performed. A year later, Woodstock 2 was released as a 2-LP album. Both albums included recordings of stage announcements (many by Production Coordinator John Morris, e.g., "[We're told] that the brown acid is not specifically too good", "Hey, if you think really hard, maybe we can stop this rain") and crowd noises (i.e., the rain chant) between songs. In August 1994, a third album, Woodstock Diary was released, containing music not included on the earlier two albums.
In July 1999, MCA Records released Live at Woodstock, a double-disc recording (longer than Jimi Hendrix: Woodstock) featuring nearly every song of Hendrix's performance, omitting just two pieces that were sung by his rhythm guitarist Larry Lee.
The festival has become widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history as well as a defining event for the counterculture generation. The event's significance was reinforced by a 1970 documentary film, an accompanying soundtrack album, and a song written by Joni Mitchell that became a major hit for both Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Matthews Southern Comfort. Musical events bearing the Woodstock name were planned for anniversaries, which included the tenth, twentieth, twenty-fifth, thirtieth, fortieth, and fiftieth. In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine listed it as number 19 of the 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll. In 2017, the festival site became listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2005, Argentine writer Edgar Brau published Woodstock, a long poem commemorating the festival. An English translation of the poem was published in January 2007 by Words Without Borders.
Notable events since the opening of the center have included an August 2006 performance by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and the scattering of Richie Havens's ashes in August 2013.
Also in 2009, Michael Lang and Holly George-Warren published The Road to Woodstock, which describes Lang's involvement in the creation of the Woodstock Music & Arts Festival, and includes personal stories and quotes from central figures involved in the event.
Taking Woodstock was produced in 2009 by Taiwanese American filmmaker Ang Lee. Lee practically rented out the entire town of New Lebanon, New York, to shoot the film. He was initially concerned with angering the locals, but they ended up being very welcoming and willing to help with the film. The movie is based on Elliot Tiber, played by Demetri Martin, and his role in bringing Woodstock to Bethel, New York. The film also stars Jonathan Groff as Michael Lang, Daniel Eric Gold as Joel Rosenman, and Henry Goodman and Imelda Staunton as Jake and Sonia Teichberg.
In June 2009, complete performances from Woodstock by Santana, Janis Joplin, Sly & the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, and Johnny Winter were released separately by Legacy/SME Records, and were also collected in a box set titled The Woodstock Experience.
In August 2009, Rhino/Atlantic Records issued a 6-CD box set titled Woodstock 40 Years On: Back To Yasgur's Farm, which included further musical performances as well as stage announcements and other ancillary material.
In October 2009, Joe Cocker released Live at Woodstock, a live album of his entire Woodstock set. The album contains eleven tracks, ten of which were previously unreleased.
Time magazine named "The Who at Woodstock – 1969" to the magazine's "Top 10 Music-Festival Moments" list on March 18, 2010.
In May 2014, Michael Lang, one of the producers and organizers of the original Woodstock event, revealed plans for a possible 50th anniversary concert in 2019 and that he was exploring various locations. Reports in late 2018 confirmed the plans for a concurrent 50th anniversary event on the original site to be operated by the Bethel Woods Centre for the Arts. The scheduled date for the "Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival: Celebrating the golden anniversary at the historic site of the 1969 Woodstock festival" was August 16–18, 2019. Partners in the event were Live Nation and INVNT. Bethel Woods described the festival as a "pan-generational music, culture and community event" (including some live performances and talks by) "leading futurists and retro-tech experts".
In 2017, Portland rock band Portugal. The Man released album Woodstock, inspired by the lead singer John Gourley's conversation with his dad about the Woodstock festival ticket stub.
In 2017, the singer Lana Del Rey released a song, "Coachella – Woodstock in My Mind," in order to show her worries about the tensions between North Korea and the United States while she was at Coachella, expressing nostalgia by using the Woodstock festival as a symbol of peace.
In late 2016 New York's State Historic Preservation Office applied to the National Park Service to have 600 acres (240 ha), including the site of the festival and adjacent areas used for campgrounds, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and the site was listed on the register in February 2017.
Woodstock still acts as an economic engine for the local economy. A Bethel Woods report from 2018 indicates that $560.82 million of spending has been generated in New York. With 2.9 million visitors since 2006 and 214,405 visitors in 2018, an equivalent of 172 full-time jobs exist as a result, which includes direct wages of $5.1 million from Bethel Woods in Sullivan County.
Also released in 2019 was Live at Woodstock, an official album of all 11 songs played by Creedence Clearwater Revival, from "Born on the Bayou" to "Bad Moon Rising" and "Proud Mary". John Fogerty had originally thought the band's performance was unworthy but this album was finally released both on CD and as a double vinyl LP.
Creating Woodstock was directed by Mick Richards and produced in 2019. It looks at how the festival came together, with interviews with producers elucidating some of Woodstock's myths, and what it took to get many performers to attend. (Janis Joplin, for example, apparently required a personal supply of strawberries).
Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation is a documentary by Barak Goodman, produced in 2019 by PBS. It focuses on Woodstock's social and political context and contains previously unseen footage supplemented by voice-over anecdotes from festival attendees. It focuses more on the scene in the crowd (and around the country) than on the stage.
On January 9, 2019, Lang announced that the official Woodstock 50th anniversary festival would take place on August 16–18, 2019 in Watkins Glen, New York.
On April 29, 2019, it was announced that Woodstock 50 had been cancelled by investors (Dentsu Aegis Network), who had lost faith in its preparations. The producers "vehemently" denied any cancellation, with Michael Lang telling The New York Times that investors have no such prerogative. After a lawsuit with original financiers, the Woodstock 50 team then announced that it had received help from Oppenheimer & Co. for financing so that the three-day event can continue to take place in August despite the original financiers pulling out.
On July 31, 2019, NPR reported that the concert had finally been cancelled. The Bethel Woods Center for the Arts did organize a weekend of "low-key" concerts.
In August 2019, the United States Postal Service released a Forever stamp commemorating Woodstock's 50th anniversary. The stamp was designed by Antonio Alcalá, Art Director of the USPS and was first issued at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City on August 8, 2019. The museum was hosting Play it Loud, an exhibit co-organized with the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame consisting of vintage rock and roll instruments, posters, and costumes. Attending the ceremony were Woodstock producers Michael Lang and Joel Rosenman. The ceremony began with a "stirring" electric guitar performance of The Star Spangled Banner by "Captain" Kirk Douglas of The Roots—"reminiscent" of Jimi Hendrix's performance at the original festival.
On August 2, 2019, the Rhino/Atlantic released Woodstock – Back to the Garden: The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive, a 38-CD, 36-hour, 432-song completists' audio box set of nearly every note played at the original 1969 Woodstock festival (including 276 songs that were previously unreleased), a "CD collection [co-produced for Rhino by archivist Andy Zax] that lays the '69 fest out in chronological order, from the first stage announcements to muddy farewells." The only things missing from this 38-CD edition are two Jimi Hendrix songs that his estate did not believe were up to the required standard and some of Sha Na Na's music that missed being captured on tape. Due to various production and warehousing issues, the release of the box set was delayed dramatically, causing massive backlash and dissatisfaction toward Rhino and Warner Music. More condensed versions—an album on 10 CDs, and an album on either 3 CDs or 5 LPs—were also released. The full version was limited to a run of only 1,969 copies.
In 2023, a South Korean organiser officially purchased Woodstock's license and tried to hold a festival in Pocheon, but there was a lot of controversy due to insufficient preparation in the process of preparing for the festival, and it was eventually cancelled.