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By Elliot Tiber

Reprinted with permission from The Times Herald-Record and Mr. Tiber Woodstock Commemorative Edition Text copyright 1994 The Times Herald-Record

The last bedraggled fan sloshed out of Max Yasgur's muddy pasture more than 25 years ago. That's when the debate began about Woodstock's historical significance. True believers still call Woodstock the capstone of an era devoted to human advancement. Cynics say it was a fitting, ridiculous end to an era of naivete. Then there are those who say it was just a hell of a party.

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969 drew more than 450,000 people to a pasture in Sullivan County. For four days, the site became a countercultural mini-nation in which minds were open, drugs were all but legal and love was "free". The music began Friday afternoon at 5:07pm August 15 and continued until mid-morning Monday August 18. The festival closed the New York State Thruway and created one of the nation's worst traffic jams. It also inspired a slew of local and state laws to ensure that nothing like it would ever happen again.

Woodstock, like only a handful of historical events, has become part of the cultural lexicon. As Watergate is the codeword for a national crisis of confidence and Waterloo stands for ignominious defeat, Woodstock has become an instant adjective denoting youthful hedonism and 60's excess. "What we had here was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence," said Bethel town historian Bert Feldman. "Dickens said it first: 'It was the best of times. It was the worst of times'. It's an amalgam that will never be reproduced again."

Gathered that weekend in 1969 were liars and lovers, prophets and profiteers. They made love, they made money and they made a little history. Arnold Skolnick, the artist who designed Woodstock's dove-and-guitar symbol, described it this way: "Something was tapped, a nerve, in this country. And everybody just came."

The counterculture's biggest bash - it ultimately cost more than $2.4 million - was sponsored by four very different, and very young, men: John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Artie Kornfeld and Michael Lang. The oldest of the four was 26. John Roberts supplied the money. He was heir to a drugstore and toothpaste manufacturing fortune. He had a multimillion-dollar trust fund, a University of Pennsylvania degree and a lieutenant's commission in the Army. He had seen exactly one rock concert, by the Beach Boys.

Robert's slightly hipper friend, Joel Rosenman, the son of a prominent Long Island orthodontist, had just graduated from Yale Law School. In 1967, the mustachioed Rosenman, 24, was playing guitar for a lounge band in motels from Long Island to Las Vegas.
Woodstock Festival 1969
Roberts and Rosenman met on a golf course in the fall of 1966. By winter 1967, they shared an apartment and were trying to figure out what they ought to do with the rest of their lives. They had one idea: to create a screwball situation comedy for television, kind of like a male version of "I Love Lucy".

"It was an office comedy about two pals with more money than brains and a thirst for adventure." Rosenman said. "Every week they would get into a different business venture in some nutty scheme. And every week they would be rescued in the nick of time from their fate. "

To get plot ideas for their sitcom, Roberts and Rosenman put a classified ad in the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times in March 1968: "Young Men With Unlimited Capital looking for interesting, legitimate investment opportunities and business propositions. " They got thousands of replies, including one for biodegradable golf balls. Another seemed strange enough to work as a real business venture; Ski-bobs, bicycles on skis that were a fad in Europe. Roberts and Rosenman researched the idea before abandoning it. In the process, the two went from would-be television writers to wanna-be venture capitalists. "Somehow, we became the characters in our own show," Rosenman said.

Artie Kornfield, 25, wore a suit, but the lapels were a little wide and his hair brushed the top of his ears. He was a vice president at Capitol Records. He smoked hash in the office and was the company's connection with the rockers who were starting to sell millions of records. Kornfeld had written maybe 30 hit singles, among them "Dead Man's Curve," recorded by Jan and Dean. He also wrote songs and produced the music for the Cowsills.

Michael Lang didn't wear shoes very often. Friends described him as a cosmic pixie, with a head full of curly black hair that bounced to his shoulders. At 23, he owned what may have been the first head shop inthe state of Flordia. In 1968, Lang had produced one of the biggest rock shows ever, the two-day Miami Pop Festival, which drew 40,000 people. At 24, Lang was the manager of a rock group called Train, which he wanted to sign to a record deal. He bought his proposal to Kornfeld at Capitol Records in late December 1968.
Woodstock Festival 1969
Lang knew Kornfeld had grown up in Bensonhurst, Queens, like he had. Lang got an appointment by telling the record company's receptionist that he was "from the neighborhood." The two hit it off immediately. Not long after they met, Lang moved in with Kornfeld and his wife, Linda. The three had rambling, all-night conversations, fueled by a few joints, in their New York City apartment.

One of their ideas was for a cultural exposition/rock concert/extravaganza. Another was for a recording studio, to be tucked off in the woods more than 100 miles from Manhattan in a town called Woodstock. The location would reflect the back-to-the-land spirit of the counterculture. Besides, the Ulster County town had been an artists' mecca for a century. By the late 1960s, musicians like Bob Dylan, The Band, Tim Hardin, Van Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin were moving to the area and wanted a state-of-the-art studio.

Lang and Kornfeld were searching for seed money for the festival and money to build the recording studio. They never saw the "young men with unlimited capital" ad, but their lawyer recommended they talk to Roberts and Rosenman. The four met in February 1969. "We met with them in their apartment on 83rd Street in a high-rise," Lang recalls. "They were kind of preppy. Today, I guess they'd be yuppies. They were wearing suits. Artie did most of the talking, because I think they seemed puzzled by me. They were curious about the counterculture, and they were somewhat interested in the project. They wanted a written proposal, which we had but we didn't bring with us. We told them that we would meet again with a budget for the festival.

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