In August 1969, an estimated 400,000 people traveled to the little-known town of Bethel, New York, to attend Woodstock, a rock and folk festival held on a property belonging to local farmer Max Yasgur.
Organizers initially anticipated no more than 50,000 attendees, but that number quickly doubled, tripled, quadrupled and so on before reaching the whopping final tally. Additionally, the event was originally marketed as “Three Days of Peace and Music,” but it ended up lasting four days.
Thirty-two acts performed over the course of the festival, with many of them rocking out until the wee hours of the next morning. Friday night’s headliners included Richie Havens and Joan Baez; Saturday featured Janis Joplin, The Who and Jefferson Airplane; Sunday boasted Joe Cocker and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; and Jimi Hendrix closed out Monday with a two-plus-hour set starting at 9 a.m.
Many artists passed on what would have been the opportunity of a lifetime. Simon & Garfunkel were busy recording an album, Led Zeppelin had another show scheduled at Asbury Park Convention Hall in New Jersey, The Doors worried Woodstock would be a “second-class repeat of Monterey Pop Festival” (in guitarist Robby Krieger’s words) and Joni Mitchell canceled to appear on The Dick Cavett Show.
For those who couldn’t make it out to the festival site (which is now on the National Register of Historic Places), Woodstock was memorialized in an Oscar-winning eponymous documentary and a soundtrack album. Events have also been held to commemorate the 25th, 30th and 40th anniversaries.
Woodstock 50 had been planned to take place in Bethel, New York, in August 2019 with headliners including The Killers, Miley Cyrus, Dead & Company, Chance the Rapper, Jay-Z and Imagine Dragons. However, it ended up being canceled in the wake of various production issues.
In honor of the 50th anniversary, take a look at where some of the top 1969 headliners are now.