Michael Lang death: Woodstock organiser dies, aged 77

Festival co-creator died from a rare form of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma

Ellie Harrison
Sunday 09 January 2022 17:54
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Jefferson Airplane performing at Woodstock in 1969
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Michael Lang, the co-creator and organiser of the Woodstock Music & Art Festival, has died aged 77.

According to family spokesperson Michael Pagnotta, Lang died in New York on Saturday 8 January from a rare form of Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Lang grew up in Brooklyn before entering a career in concert promotion in the 1960s.

He promoted the 1968 Miami Pop Festival, which drew 25,000 attendees and had a line-up including Jimi Hendrix and Frank Zappa.

Lang then moved to Woodstock, in upstate New York. Along with co-founders John Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld and John P Roberts, he went on to create the famous musical festival named after the town, the first edition of which was held at farmer Max Yasgur’s dairy farm in Bethel, New York, in 1969.

A whopping 400,000 people showed up to watch artists such as The Grateful Dead, The Who, Santana, and Sly and the Family Stone.

Entry to the festival became so congested that organisers decided on a whim to turn it into a free event. The New York State Thruway was shut down and the festival – which was put on at the height of the hippie movement – has gone down as one of the most seminal events in the history of music.

Michael Lang, pictured in 2010

A popular 1970 documentary, Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music, was made about the festival.

Woodstock was revived in 1994 and 1999, but a planned Woodstock 50 festival in 2019 was cancelled after a series of permit and production issues, venue relocations, and artist cancellations.

Lang also owned and ran the label Just Sunshine Records and managed such artists as Joe Cocker and Rickie Lee Jones.

He is survived by his wife Tamara, their sons Harry and Laszlo, and his daughters LariAnn, Shala, and Molly.

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