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WEB EXCLUSIVE: Woodstock producer, photographer team for new book

Michael Lang & Henry Diltz mark historic rock festival's 40th anniversary

Posted: August 15, 2009 1:54 a.m.
Updated: August 16, 2009 10:24 p.m.
This ultra-rare poster is one of three official posters for Michael Lang's first major rock festival, the Miami Pop Festival at Gulfstream Park racetrack May 18-19, 1968, headlined by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with John Lee Hooker, The Mothers of Invention, Blue Cheer, Chuck Berry, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and more. This ultra-rare poster is one of three official posters for Michael Lang's first major rock festival, the Miami Pop Festival at Gulfstream Park racetrack May 18-19, 1968, headlined by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with John Lee Hooker, The Mothers of Invention, Blue Cheer, Chuck Berry, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and more.
This ultra-rare poster is one of three official posters for Michael Lang's first major rock festival, the Miami Pop Festival at Gulfstream Park racetrack May 18-19, 1968, headlined by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with John Lee Hooker, The Mothers of Invention, Blue Cheer, Chuck Berry, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown and more.
The Hog Farm's Wavy Gravy and festival producer Michael Lang cross paths during the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y., Aug. 15, 16 and 17, as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publication sin June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary. The Hog Farm's Wavy Gravy and festival producer Michael Lang cross paths during the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y., Aug. 15, 16 and 17, as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publication sin June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
The Hog Farm's Wavy Gravy and festival producer Michael Lang cross paths during the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y., Aug. 15, 16 and 17, as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publication sin June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
"The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz was released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark the 40th anniversary of the historic Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y,. Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969. "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz was released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark the 40th anniversary of the historic Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y,. Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969.
"The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz was released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark the 40th anniversary of the historic Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y,. Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969.
Graham Nash and David Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash blend harmonies one of their first gigs in public at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y., as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary. Graham Nash and David Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash blend harmonies one of their first gigs in public at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y., as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Graham Nash and David Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash blend harmonies one of their first gigs in public at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y., as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Jimi Hendrix is surrounded by fans under the stage after his performance on Sunday, Aug. 17, 1969, the third and final day of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y., as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary. Jimi Hendrix is surrounded by fans under the stage after his performance on Sunday, Aug. 17, 1969, the third and final day of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y., as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Jimi Hendrix is surrounded by fans under the stage after his performance on Sunday, Aug. 17, 1969, the third and final day of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y., as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Jimi Hendrix plays at dawn on Sunday, Aug. 17, 1969, the third and final day of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y., as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary. Jimi Hendrix plays at dawn on Sunday, Aug. 17, 1969, the third and final day of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y., as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Jimi Hendrix plays at dawn on Sunday, Aug. 17, 1969, the third and final day of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in White Lake, N.Y., as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Members of the San Francisco-based Hog Farm cooperative traveled in buses like this one to help feed the masses at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009  to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary. Members of the San Francisco-based Hog Farm cooperative traveled in buses like this one to help feed the masses at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009  to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Members of the San Francisco-based Hog Farm cooperative traveled in buses like this one to help feed the masses at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009  to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Richie Havens made history as the first artist to perform at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary. Richie Havens made history as the first artist to perform at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Richie Havens made history as the first artist to perform at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Henry Diltz, official Woodstock photographer in August 1969, was caught looking in 2007. His photos are featured in "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang, the festival's producer, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary. Henry Diltz, official Woodstock photographer in August 1969, was caught looking in 2007. His photos are featured in "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang, the festival's producer, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Henry Diltz, official Woodstock photographer in August 1969, was caught looking in 2007. His photos are featured in "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang, the festival's producer, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Arlo Guthrie holds forth at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz with foreword by Guthrie, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary. Arlo Guthrie holds forth at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz with foreword by Guthrie, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Arlo Guthrie holds forth at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz with foreword by Guthrie, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Intermittent heavy rain soaked 400,000 music fans at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary. Intermittent heavy rain soaked 400,000 music fans at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Intermittent heavy rain soaked 400,000 music fans at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
The stage was a distant spec from the edges of the audience at the Woodstock Music& Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience"; by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary. The stage was a distant spec from the edges of the audience at the Woodstock Music& Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience"; by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
The stage was a distant spec from the edges of the audience at the Woodstock Music& Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience"; by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Shepard Fairey created the cover art for "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. Shepard Fairey created the cover art for "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y.
Shepard Fairey created the cover art for "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released by Genesis Publications in June 2009 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y.
Jefferson Airplane brings San Francisco's sound to the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released in June 2009 by Genesis Publications to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary. Jefferson Airplane brings San Francisco's sound to the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released in June 2009 by Genesis Publications to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
Jefferson Airplane brings San Francisco's sound to the Woodstock Music & Art Fair Aug. 15, 16 and 17, 1969, in White Lake, N.Y. as seen in a photo from "The Woodstock Experience" by Michael Lang and Henry Diltz, released in June 2009 by Genesis Publications to mark Woodstock's 40th anniversary.
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Forty years ago this weekend, on Aug. 15, 1969, the three-day Woodstock Music & Art Fair finally got underway on a sprawling farm in the rolling hills of upstate New York. Several hours late.

To commemorate that epochal moment in rock 'n' roll and pop culture history, original festival producer Michael Lang has collaborated with official Woodstock photographer Henry Diltz on "The Woodstock Experience," a lavish hand-bound limited-edition dual-book multimedia package from London-based Genesis Publications.

Preparations had been going on for weeks, and some 400,000 rock ‘n' roll fans -- mostly young hippies from the counterculture -- converged for three days of peace, love, music, nature and partying, along with traffic jams, rain, mud and shortages of food, fresh water, Port-O-Sans, and just about everything else.

On the other hand, there was an abundance of optimism that they were going to have an epic experience free of parental supervision and police intervention, if only for a weekend.

Donnybrook at dawn
But as day broke and the sun rose that Friday, and the throngs of brightly dressed concert-goers streamed into the festival site -- with and soon without tickets -- stage crews were still hustling to get all the sound, lighting and band equipment wired for the Day 1 performers.

Most of Friday's performers and gear were still ensconced at a motel about seven miles away, waiting for transportation to the site. But as the morning slipped away, the two-lane country roads into the festival site were increasingly jammed with people and cars.

By midday, the roads in were impassable. People drove in as far as they could, then abandoned their cars to walk the rest of the way. Some local residents freaked at this invasion of the great unwashed from all corners of the planet who tromped through their yards and crashed in their barns. Other locals seized the opportunity to cash in on selling the tourists food, beverages, ice, souvenirs. parking, shower/bath facilities and more.

Noon came and went. By then, the only way to get performers and equipment to the site quickly was by helicopter, and fortunately Lang and organizers had the foresight to rent several choppers.

The audience, after slowly packing the hillside in front of the stage, began spilling out around the fringes of the field and into adjacent pastures, as far as the eye could see swelling swelling crowd was increasingly restless for the show to start. Lang had to act.

Havens makes history
Richie Havens, Brooklyn-born singer/guitarist and a rising star on the Greenwich Village folk scene, was scheduled to go on fifth, but wound up going on first because he and his two band members had the smallest entourage and the least gear to shuttle from the motel to the helipad backstage.

"The festival was late -- there should have been music starting at 5:30 that morning," Havens told a Signal editor who asked about it at a concert earlier this year.

Once Havens and his band arrived backstage, Woodstock executive producer Michael Lang and his stage crew begged Havens to go on first and get the festival off the ground.

"Are you kidding?" the singer said.

"‘No, it's OK, please go on,' they said.

"I went, ‘Oh, no!' and disappeared for a while. When I came back, they went, ‘We weren't kidding -- please!'"

Havens looked out at the hundreds of thousands of faces, more than he'd ever seen in one place. He could not see the back of the crowd. What if they didn't dig his unplugged act? He'd really be putting his career on the line for a friend.

"I was like, ‘Look, Michael, if they throw anything at me, you're gonna owe me! I'm saving you, you know that, don't you?'" Havens said.

"We did go on, played our 40 minutes, then turned around and walked off."

The audience roared their approval as Havens headed backstage, where Lang, festival MC Chipmonck and the stage crew -- still needing more setup time -- asked Havens to take an encore.

"They said, ‘Richie, four more?' ‘OK, four more songs,' I said, and went back on. Well, they did that six times, until I didn't have a song left to sing. I sang every song I knew, that I could play."

Havens' two-hour forty-five minute set included "High Flying Bird," "Handsome Johnny" (co-written with Lou Gossett Jr.) and finally, for his final "encore," "Freedom," a powerful anthem of despair and redemption, made up on the fly based on the traditional "Motherless Child."

The crowd erupted. The only thing they threw at him was love and peace signs. It was a defining moment in Havens' career, for Woodstock, and for the counterculture media would tag the "Woodstock Nation."

'The Woodstock Experience' takes off
"Richie Havens, as the person who started the whole weekend off, was unbelievable in the way he connected with the audience," Lang writes in "The Woodstock Experience," a new comprehensive and expensive signed, limited-edition book from London-based Genesis Publications.

"No one wants to start so it was not a surprise that (Richie) was hesitant, but I finally convinced him," Lang continues. "I said, ‘You have to, we have to get this started!' He set the exact right tone for the weekend - that we were in this together and what a miracle this was."

"Richie Havens was a blessing for us and ‘Freedom' was an extraordinary effort, since it wasn't even a song when he walked on," festival emcee Chipmonck adds.

How Havens wound up Woodstock's opening act is just one of the deliriously dramatic scenes that played out as Lang and his new partner Artie Kornfeld smoked and joked and plotted a festival to end them all.

Once underway, Woodstock soon took on a life of its own.

In front of the stage, out in the audience, getting and staying spaced on psychotropic and/or psychedelic drugs was a primary pursuit for many concertgoers, interchangeable with food as a priority.

This was true notwithstanding that 1969 was also the first summer the counterculture experienced a marijuana draught due to skyrocketing demand, decreased production and increased heat from the Nixon administration.

There was not a lot of alcohol at Woodstock; it was not very popular with the counterculture at the time. Backstage, many among the crew were fueled by cocaine.

'Woodstock Experience': completists' ultimate flashback
Lang's "The Woodstock Experience" is a Woodstock completist's ultimate flashback, as he takes the reader along for  the reader back through  that takes the reader on Lang's quest to throw the ultimate counterculture coming-out party.

The books meticulously document everything from the festival's concept and funding to the site's preparation and stage construction, from the three days of performances and tons more drama in the audience and backstage to the short- and long-term cultural, social, political and environmental impact we still see today

Quotes from alums, pics by Diltz and Garson
Following a foreword by Woodstock alum Arlo Guthrie and Lang's introduction, the books' narrative is driven by quotes from Lang and his partners and many of the performers.

Adding vivid recollections are members of the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, David Crosby, Carlos Santana, John Sebastian, Country Joe MacDonald and emcee Wavy Gravy. Many other insiders who played key but previously under-sung roles fill in many fascinating details. Along with stuff you knew, there's lots of stuff about which you had no clue.

With stunning cover art by Shepard Fairey, the books are illustrated by scores of iconic photographs by Dan Garson and the festival's official still photographer, Henry Diltz (first "Crosby, Stills & Nash" cover; The Doors' "Morrison Hotel" cover), whose best original slides and negatives went straight to Life Magazine after the festival.

(Then the magazine of record for life in America and a much-respected media institution, Life ran a few of Diltz's images -- including a striking closeup of Jefferson Airplane's Grace Slick from across the stage -- and lost the rest. The stills remain MIA.)

Augmenting "The Woodstock Experience" text and images reproduce dozens of documents that somehow survived the weekend's chaos and the ensuing four decades, ranging from secret staff memos and confidential contract negotiations to quirky artist riders, with prices and everything. It's a revelation even for those who think they know the subject inside and out.

Lang's road to Woodstock started in Miami
Also author of "The Road to Woodstock" (with Holly George-Warren, HarperCollins), Lang already had a taste of rock concert producing by the time he got to Woodstock.

A native New Yorker, Lang attended NYU in the mid-1960s, then moved to Florida, went to college in Tampa, and in 1966 bailed from academia to hang out in Coconut Grove near Coral Gables, south of downtown Miami, the hippest section of town since the Beat era.

The Grove also hosted one of the first head shops in town; there sprouted Lang's idea to promote and produce a big music festival bringing all the new psychedelic rockers together.

Lang was inspired by the June 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival staged by Mamas & Papas leader John Phillips and the group's producer Lou Adler, among others -- which featured Jimi Hendrix as headliner.

So, in early 1968, Lang got some friends and financial backers on board and produced the first Miami Pop Festival at Gulfstream Park race track on May 18 and 19, headlined by -- The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

(This writer, then a 17-year-old high school junior, attended with friends; tickets cost $5 per day. Seeing Hendrix, Redding and Mitchell swoop into the backstage area in a helicopter, jump out, climb onto a flatbed truck trailer, plug in and kill, was sensational.)

For Michael Lang, Miami proved to be a rehearsal for the bigger show. Its relative success -- and a move that summer with a girlfriend to Woodstock, where the scene was even more artist-friendly than Coconut Grove -- prompted Lang to envision an even bigger event in New York the following summer. All he had to do was line up the backers.

To be continued....check back soon for more.

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