Michael Lang, a Woodstock co-creator who ‘changed the world’, died at age 77


New York – Half a century later, Michael Lange is still calling for change.

On the 50th anniversary of his landmark 1969 Woodstock Music and Arts Festival, Lang spoke about the need for sensible gun control laws and signed a petition on the original festival stage.

“Fifty years ago, we were protesting Vietnam,” he said in 2019. “Nobody wanted to go out and die in an unpopular war. Now, we see the children being killed here at home.”

For decades, Lange, the event’s co-creator, advocated for the ideals presented at the festival.

Her family has confirmed she died Saturday at the age of 77 at Memorial Sloan Catering Cancer Center in New York. Lang was battling non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“He was a thoroughly historical man and a good man,” family spokesman Michael Pagnotta told the Associated Press. Pagnotta said he had known Lang for about 30 years. “Both of those things go together.”

Opinion: Woodstock is a long way off in the past, but for those of us who have been there, it is always far away

He leaves a legacy as an icon for many generations of music fans, helping to popularize the modern music festival. This is a legacy that includes high-profile failures, such as the 1999 Woodstock Festival and the 2019 incident that ended in prosecution when Lang’s organizing group repeatedly failed to obtain proper licenses and meet the required safety requirements. Modern Music Festival.

Lang and his three partners “changed the world in 1969, even if everything was against them,” Lori Majewski, host of SiriusXM’s volume channel and former “Entertainment Weekly”, told the network in the wake of the Woodstock 50 cancellation. “They came at every turn, but people came away with the feeling, ‘Yes we can, we can change the world.’

However, their original festive anniversary prompted tens of thousands to visit the Sullivan County Bethel Woods Center for the Arts on August 15-18 for a four-day celebration. Lang chose not to attend; The organizers and the organization that held the concert on the land of the original festival had long-standing rifts, and Lang insisted that Woodstock 50 was an official anniversary event.

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‘Three Days of Peace and Music’

Along with partners Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman, Lange declared the summer of 1969 “three days of peace and music,” as the Vietnam War escalated and caused a large number of upset young Americans to move away from traditionalism. Embraced a lifestyle that celebrates more and more freedom of expression.

Approximately 450,000 people descended to Bethel and endured miles of traffic jams, torrential rain, food shortages and excessive sanitation. More than 30 acts performed on the main stage of the concert on the hillside of the land, owned by farmer Max Yasgur, and hosted concerts by artists including Jimi Hendrix, Carlos Santana, The Who and Jefferson Airplane.

Lange, who describes the festival throughout Michael Wadleigh’s documentary in 1970, is sporting a bushy brown-haired head.

“From the beginning, I believed that if we did our work properly and with heart, if we prepared the ground and set the right tone, people would reveal their superiority and create something wonderful,” Lang wrote in his autobiography, “The Road to Woodstock.”

Although Woodstock is generally seen as a template for large-scale music festivals, the first in the US two years ago, the Monterey Pop Festival attracted some 200,000 people to California and followed the 1968 Miami Pop Festival Lange. But Woodstock has an indelible mark on history.

The 1969 festival “created this promise for a better life – a better world, a more compassionate world, and it came at a time when things were very dark,” Lang said.

He described Woodstock as “a miracle in a way.”

“Half a million people gathered, no one followed, everyone came together as one community and family,” he said. “It was a human experience, a remarkably different thing than a routine experience. It was a moment of hope, a testament to what was possible – and it was echoed.

“They came together from a counter-culture that was trying to make the world a better place. It was an opportunity for all of us to see if that could happen when we were in charge – and it did.

Recovering the magic of Woodstock

In the months leading up to the 2019 anniversary, Lang talked about how the country’s political climate is reminiscent of 1969 and the value that another Woodstock might have on society. Notably, Lang and his partners found Yasgur’s farm, the planned site for the original festival in Sagarties, collapsed in March 1969, adding Woodstock’s transcendence as a remedial component.

But because of how the modern music industry has changed, repeated attempts to recapture that magic have proved impossible.

Woodstock ’94 in Saugerties hosted 350,000 people, 100,000 people entered for free, and was perhaps the first indication of Woodstock’s struggle to find its base beyond 1969.

Woodstock ’99 took place five years later at Griffis Air Force Base near Rome, New York. However, the incident is marked by reports of violence, fire and harassment.

In 2009, Lange hoped to host the Woodstock 40th Anniversary Concert at Prospect Park in Brooklyn. But he was forced to drop the show because he failed to find a sponsor to cover the cost of hosting the free concert and the $ 8 million to $ 10 million.

The Woodstock 50’s plans changed many times: After failing to obtain the necessary permits to run the event at the Watkins Glen International Racetrack in Schuyler County, the town of Vernon rejected the event’s planned plan at Vernon Downs. It was finally canceled after a last attempt at an event at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland.

Still, the memory of Woodstock and its ideals continues to resonate.

Contribution: Poughkeepsie (New York) Journal and Associated Press

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