The original Woodstock Music and Art Fair: An Aquarian Exposition — more familiarly known as just “Woodstock” — has become such a cultural touchstone that people who weren’t even alive in 1969 feel like they were there.
The “3 Days of Peace & Music,” as it was billed, spawned a classic movie, several albums and a couple of neo-Woodstock festivals in the ’90s. The event, which actually took place in Bethel, NY, featured artists who have become legends — from Jimi Hendrix to the Who, the Grateful Dead to Santana, Janis Joplin to the Jefferson Airplane. (Many other seminal artists of the era — including the Doors, Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones — did not play for one reason or another, although most were invited.)
As the biggest and best known of the first wave of giant rock festivals, Woodstock epitomizes the combination of logistical ambition and zeitgeist that was later professionalized in events such as 1985’s Live Aid.
The Rock Hall celebrates the 40th anniversary of the original festival — which took place August 15-17, 1969 — with a new exhibit in its main exhibition hall, opening July 3 and running through November 29.
It includes both intriguing and revealing artifacts like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s contract for their performance and the original plan for the event handwritten by co-promoter Michael Lang. It also includes oddities like the vest worn at the festival by Lang and John Sebastian’s tie-dye cape and jacket.
To truly capture the spirit of the event, it really should include fences you can crash (most of the crowd of 500,000 got in free because of chaos at the gates), smelly port-o-potties and lots of rain. —Anastasia Pantsios