The National Register Woodstock Music Festival site commemorates a three-day music festival that took place on August 15, 1969 - August 18, 1969, on nearly 300 acres of rolling farmland in rural Sullivan County, NY.
Listed on February 28, 2017, Woodstock is nationally significant, under Social History and Performing Arts/Music, as one of the most important cultural and social events of the second half of the twentieth century. The festival was the definitive expression of the musical, cultural, and political idealism of the 1960s and was recognized almost immediately as a watershed event in the transformation of American culture.
The summer of 1969 was marked by three extraordinary cultural events: in June, the Stonewall Riots marked the beginning of the struggle for civil rights by lesbian and gay Americans; in July, the Apollo moon landing awed Americans and provided the entire country with a dose of optimism; and in August, the Woodstock Music Festival, where a gathering of approximately 450,000 people, on Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, became a symbol of fellowship and faith of a generation.
The 1960s was the decade where the baby boom generation formally broke with the past and established its own cultural references. This generation, born after World War II, was shaped by the major themes of America’s post-war history: prosperity, affluence, the decentralization of cities and the shift to suburban living, the promise of higher education, and the security of a world at peace. However, what fostered this lifestyle also allowed this generation to see the stark contrast of their lives with the lives of those who did not enjoy the same advantages and instilled in its members a strong sense of responsibility. Consequently, they were troubled by poverty and injustice and were eager to work towards civil rights, lesbian and gay rights, the elimination of poverty, ending the Vietnam War, women’s rights, and universal voting rights. By the late 1960s, a strong counterculture had emerged that challenged some of the moral and political foundations of the establishment.
Over three days, the festival featured thirty-two individual performers, folk singers, blues, and rock and roll bands who played to an audience that was estimated at more than 450,000. Tickets to the event were $6.00 per day. Some of the most well-known and well-regarded performers of the era included African-American folksinger, Richie Havens, who opened the concert and played until he was out of material. He then improvised the song “Freedom,” which became one of the festival’s signature events. Other performers included Joan Baez, the Grateful Dead, Country Joe McDonald, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, the Who, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. One standout performer and Woodstock’s last performer, was Jimi Hendrix, who played a now epic rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Woodstock was the largest and most memorable of dozens of outdoor music festivals that took place between 1967 and 1969, an era that began with the widely publicized Monterey Pops Concert, Monterey, California, on June 16-18, 1967, and ended tragically, with a concert at the Altamont Racetrack, Altamont, California, on December 6, 1969, just three months after Woodstock.
Woodstock remains a symbol of what was thought possible. The long-lasting impact of the festival on American life is attested to by the fact that the Woodstock and its aftermath helped shape the world views, social consciences, and musical tastes of thousands of people who are now in leadership roles in every segment of American life.