Michael Lang’s “Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music” book celebrates the 50th anniversary of the world’s most iconic music & arts festival

By on August 15, 2019

Earlier this summer, Michael Lang — co-creator and founder of the original Woodstock Music & Arts Festival and a longtime friend of Night Flight’s founder, Stuart S. Shapiro — released a brand new book, Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the world’s most iconic music & arts festival, capturing the enduring legacy of the most famous festival in history, three days that changed the world.

The large-format illustrated coffeetable tome — published by London’s Reel Art Press (July 2019) — is filled from cover to cover with hundreds of photographs and original documents that you won’t be able to see anywhere else, conveying the vision, hard work and elusive magic that made up “three days of peace and music.”

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Here’s what Michael Lang recently said about Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music:

“At Woodstock, we would focus our energy on peace, setting aside the onstage discussion of political issues to just groove on what might be possible. It was a chance to see if we could create the kind of world for which we’d been striving throughout the Sixties: That would be our political statement – proving that peace and understanding were possible and creating a testament to the value of the counterculture. It would be three days of peace and music.”

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The photographs featured herein are by both famous and unknown photographers, including Ralph Ackerman, John Dominis, Bill Eppridge, Dan Garson, Barry Z. Levine, Elliott Landy, Lee Marshall, Rolling Stone‘s first photographer Baron Wolman, and, most notably, there’s a ton of great photos from the archive of Henry Diltz, a longtime Night Flight fave.

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Hippies sliding in the mud, photo © Henry Diltz, Woodstock, August 1969

Diltz was the only official photographer at Woodstock and he was there for two full weeks, shooting photos of the bucolic setting (lots of cows standing around in grass fields), the construction of the stage, the arrival of the huge crowd, and all of the bands and artists’ onstage performances, including Jimi Hendrix, the Who, Crosby, Stills Nash & Young, Richie Havens, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Santana, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Country Joe McDonald and the Grateful Dead, to name just a few.

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““It was the first time many of the bands had met and saw each other perform,” said Grace Slick of the Jefferson Airplane, “so we were all really marveling at each other. It was just one good group of people after another. And different kinds of music.”

Diltz also captures lots of behind-the-scenes moments with many of the artists involved, as well as photos shot early in the morning on August 18, in the aftermath of the event (there’s a page in the back of the book listing partial captions and credits for all of the photos).

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This 288-page illustrated edition is the most definitive statement on Woodstock yet, particularly because it contains Lang’s fascinating and insightful comments and memories about the 3-day event, as well as legal documentation that Lang provided for publication, including original designs and plans for the event, correspondence, set-lists, information on artists’ fees and much, much more.

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It’s very interesting to note that how little some of the top artists made for appearing at Woodstock in 1969: Joan Baez–$10,000, Tim Hardin–$2,000, the Grateful Dead–$$6,750, Janis Joplin–$15,000, CSN&Y–$5,000, and so on.

The chapters here are divided into separate easy-to-find categories (sample chapter headings include “50 Years Ago,” “Yasgur’s Farm,” “The Poster,” “Building Woodstock,” “The Locals,” “Hog Farm,” “The People,” “The Rain,” and “Filming Woodstock,” among others).

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Stuart S. Shapiro and Michael Lang

Michael Lang (b. 1944, Brooklyn, New York) has had quite an interesting career, and — in addition to co-creating and producing the Woodstock Music & Art Festival in 1969, and its two sequels, Woodstock ’94 and Woodstock ’99 — he also produced the one-day Miami Pop Festival in 1968, attended by approximately 25,000 people.

Night Flight’s Stuart S. Shapiro produced the Woodstock.com live 72-hr stream for Woodstock ’99, at the time the largest internet stream in of the 20th Century.

Lang has also worked as a music producer and manager, overseeing the musical careers of a diverse group of artists including Rickie Lee Jones, Joe Cocker and Willie DeVille, in addition to working with Outkast, Missy Elliott, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and many more.

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Lang also owned Just Sunshine Records, who released over forty albums, and was the associate producer of Wes Anderson’s 1996 film Bottle Rocket.

In 2009, Lang launched woodstock.com, which celebrates the history of the Woodstock festivals.

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Lang:

“One of the miracles of Woodstock was the bridging of a generation gap. People were generally afraid of our generation – there was little communication with our parents; people were put off by our lifestyle, sexuality, music, our position against the Vietnam War, and our penchant for marijuana and psychedelics.”

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“Consequently, there was a lot of fear among the general population about us … once the kids started to arrive and mingled with the townsfolk, and interacted with the businesses and the residents of the surrounding towns, suddenly they were just kids.”

“And barriers fell: the local women were making sandwiches; farmers were pulling cars out of ditches. It turned into a big lovefest … it shows what can happen when communication is improved, when stereotypes are squashed, and people become just people.”

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Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music is available from Amazon and wherever you buy your music, art and photography books.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.