General Michael Lang, Woodstock Organizer and Co-Creator, Dies at 77

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Michael Lang, organizer and co-creator of the legendary 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair, died on Saturday (January 8) at Sloan Kettering hospital in New York City, Rolling Stone and Variety report. Michael Pagnotta, a longtime family friend and representative for Lang, confirmed the news to both publications, stating that the cause of death was a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Lang was 77 years old.

Lang was born in Brooklyn in 1944. He attended New York University briefly before dropping out and heading to Coconut Grove, Florida, where he opened a head shop around 1967. The year after, Lang and Richard O’Barry helmed promotion for the Miami Pop Festival, which featured performances from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Chuck Berry, Frank Zappa’s group the Mothers of Invention, John Lee Hooker, and others. The event drew 25,000 attendees—a fraction of the crowds that would pour into Woodstock the following summer.

Lang was only 24 years old when he envisioned Woodstock alongside co-founders Artie Kornfeld, John Rosenman, and John P. Roberts. The four-day festival took place August 15-18, 1969 on a 600-acre dairy farm in upstate New York owned by Max Yasgur. Roughly 400,000 people attended, a rush that caused a massive traffic jam and eventually shut down the New York State Thruway.

The Woodstock lineup was packed with 1960s icons: the Who, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, the Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix (whose solo performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” became legendary in its own right), Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and many more. Carlos Santana’s blistering set was fueled by psychedelics, which were readily available at the festival. The performance was a breakthrough for Santana, becoming one of Woodstock’s most memorable onstage moments.

 
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