Peace, Love & Happiness at the 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair

Woodstock couple
Everett Collection

Billed as “3 Days of Peace & Music” — Woodstock was the most important musical event of the decade with the biggest lineup of musicians ever to appear at one concert. From Aug. 15-18, 1969, New York dairy farmer Max Yasgur allowed his 600-acre plot of land to be turned into the site for what would be the apex of the countercultural revolution of the ’60s. The festival boasted a now-legendary lineup that included Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Joe Cocker and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, among many others. Cost-conscious event promoters didn’t even bother asking popular groups like the Beatles and Rolling Stones as they knew they couldn’t afford them. Creedence Clearwater Revival was the first to be signed up, prompting other well-known groups to follow.

WOODSTOCK, Roger Daltrey (The Who), 1970.

Warner Bros/Courtesy Everett Collection

Nearly 200,000 tickets were sold, but word of this not-to-be-missed event reached far and wide, and by Friday evening ticketing gates couldn’t handle the crowds, and the festival gates were thrown open as a free event, eventually admitting over 400,000 young people from across the country to its rain-soaked pastures. Good intentions carried far at Woodstock, and for many in attendance, it was an unforgettable and life-changing experience. In spite of torrential rains, the mud, the notorious brown acid and the unfortunate death of at least one hapless attendee who camped too close to a tractor, the weekend lodged itself in the public consciousness as the zenith of the youth movement — a symbol of what ideals, music and young people could do.

People on their way to the Woodstock Music Festival, 1969

Owen Franken/Getty images

People waiting for the music at the Woodstock Music Festival, 1969

Owen Franken/Getty images

It was a bright moment of hope, and those who were there and who could actually remember it would forever be touched by its magic. Yasgur summed it up best when the farmer came onstage on Sunday saying: “I’m a farmer. I don’t know how to speak to 20 people at one time, let alone a crowd like this. But I think you people have proven something to the world. … This is the largest group of people ever assembled in one place. … We had no idea there would be this size group. … The important thing that you have proven to the world is that a half a million kids can get together and have three days of fun and music, and have nothing but fun and music and may God bless you for it.”

Were you there? Let us know in the comments!