Woodstock promoter Michael Lang passes, aged 77
Michael Lang, the promoter behind the iconic 1969 Woodstock music festival, has passed away.
The 77-year-old had non-Hodgkin lymphoma cancer and died on Saturday (8 January) in New York City, according to a spokesperson for Lang’s family.
Brooklyn-born Lang launched his career as a promoter in the 1960s following a move to Miami. In 1968, Lang (along with Marshall Brevetz) produced the Miami Pop Festival which featured Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, John Lee Hooker, Arthur Brown, and Blue Cheer.
The following year, 24-year-old Lang, alongside businessmen John Roberts and Joel Rosenman and music industry promoter Artie Kornfeld, created Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
We are deeply saddened by the death of our partner Michael Lang. He was a producer, father, environmentalist, friend, husband and most of all, one-of-a-kind dreamer whose mark on the world is undeniable. He will be missed pic.twitter.com/ZvNJkEOzxl
— WOODSTOCK (@woodstockfest) January 9, 2022
The festival drew more than 400,000 attendees to Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York, for performances from Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grateful Dead, The Who, Sly and the Family Stone, Joe Cocker and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Billed as “three days of peace and music,” Woodstock arrived at a time of great social upheaval in the United States, which was still engulfed in an unpopular war in Vietnam. The festival is said to have been a ‘haven’ for the hippie movement.
“[Woodstock ’69] was probably the most peaceful event of its kind in history”
“Woodstock offered an environment for people to express their better selves, if you will,” Lang told Pollstar in 2019. “It was probably the most peaceful event of its kind in history. That was because of expectations and what people wanted to create there.”
Lang also produced Woodstock ’94 (which featured the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Green Day and Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Woodstock ’99 (with Limp Bizkit, Metallica and Rage Against The Machine). In contrast to the previous Woodstock festivals Lang organised, Woodstock ’99 proved to be chaotic and violent.
Lang was also involved in the planning of Woodstock 50, which was set to take place in August 2019 and feature performances from the likes of Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, The Killers and Halsey.
Michael Lang was one of the nicest people. All my encounters with him were always upbeat and positive, he was great.
📸 Henry Diltz pic.twitter.com/DqKfPkxB5L
— Cʜʀɪs Sᴛᴇɪɴ (@chrissteinplays) January 9, 2022
However, after losing its primary financier, two production partners, two venues and its entire line-up, the organisers pulled the plug on the troubled anniversary festival before a single ticket went on sale.
During his music industry career, Lang also managed artists like Rickie Lee Jones and Joe Cocker, created Just Sunshine Records and in 2015, opened a music school for college-aged students in the town of Woodstock.
Lang is survived by his wife Tamara, two sons, Harry, and Laszlo and three daughters, Shala, Molly and LariAnn.
Get more stories like this in your inbox by signing up for IQ Index, IQ’s free email digest of essential live music industry news.