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With all the off-stage antics — free love, full frontal, mud baths — it’s easy to forget that Woodstock was first and foremost a concert. While the audience certainly stole some of the spotlight, the professionals provided their share of entertainment — musical and otherwise. Here, a rundown of the show’s rock ’n’ rollers, including tiffs, riffs, should’ves, would’ves, what they wore and where they are now. — Jessica Iredale
Peaceful Protests: Joan Baez interrupted her Friday night performance with the story of her draft-dodging husband David Harris’ imprisonment. Meanwhile, Country Joe McDonald kicked off his set with “Give me an F! Give me a U” and so on before launching into the antiwar anthem “Feel Like I’m Fixing to Die.”
This story first appeared in the August 11, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Not-So-Peaceful Protests: Pete Townshend clocked Abbie Hoffman with a guitar after the Yippie activist ambushed The Who’s performance to appeal the imprisonment of White Panther leader John Sinclair.
Dazed and Confused: Among the admittedly “affected” performances: Arlo Guthrie copped to being drunk and high (see page 6); Carlos Santana was tripping on mescaline; Janis Joplin reportedly spent the 10-hour wait leading up to her performance shooting heroin, and the Grateful Dead were so stoned during their rambling, incoherent set, which included a 50-minute version of “Turn on Your Love Light,” they put the crowd to sleep.
Improbable Career Turns: Carlos Santana, shoe and bag designer; Jerry Garcia, immortal ice cream flavor (Cherry Garcia).
Breakout Stars: Santana, the Latin rock band, which had yet to release an album and was virtually unknown before Woodstock; Joe Cocker, the Englishman whose gut-wrenching rendition of “With a Little Help From My Friends” nearly stole the show — and made his 1982 cheese-fest duet with Jennifer Warnes, “Up Where We Belong,” forgivable.
Almost Played: Joni Mitchell was scheduled to perform, but her manager pulled her to do “The Dick Cavett Show.” Mitchell’s then-boyfriend Graham Nash’s account of the event inspired her to write the song “Woodstock,” later rerecorded and made a hit by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
Also Played: Some acts were lesser known than others. Among them, Tim Hardin, Quill, The Incredible String Band and Bert Sommer, who was left off the Woodstock memorial plaque.
Star-Spangled Shocker: Woodstock was full of creative cover songs — Joan Baez on Bob Dylan, Joe Cocker on The Beatles. But Jimi Hendrix’s electric guitar solo version of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” during his show-closing set (which more than half the audience had already packed up for) took the cake.
Forever Young: Among the dearly departed: Jimi Hendrix died from a drug overdose just a year after Woodstock, and Janis Joplin a month after Hendrix. Canned Heat’s guitarist, Al Wilson, also OD’d in 1970; singer Bob Hite died of a heart attack in 1981. Tim Hardin overdosed in 1980. Mountain’s bassist, Felix Pappalardi, was shot and killed by his wife in 1983. Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Tom Fogerty succumbed to AIDS in 1990, and Jerry Garcia suffered a fatal heart attack in 1995.
Fringe Festival: Grace Slick, Sly Stone, Roger Daltrey and Jimi Hendrix all strutted on stage in swingy, stringy getups.
The Misfits: Woodstock’s musical acts crossed genres from folk (Joan Baez, Melanie) to rock (Jimi Hendrix, The Who), funk (Sly and the Family Stone), blues (Ten Years After) and psychedelic jam (The Dead, Jefferson Airplane), but none must have seemed as outré as Fifties nostalgia outfit Sha Na Na.
Still Truckin’: For all the Woodstock acts that have disbanded (Sweetwater, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Band) or died (see “Forever Young”) in the last 40 years, there are plenty who are still active if not completely intact. Consider John Sebastian, Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Melanie, Santana and Richie Havens, all of whom still tour. Mountain’s Leslie West and Corky Laing continue to perform together, as does Blood, Sweat & Tears, which has seen some turnover since ’69. The remaining members of The Grateful Dead just wrapped their 2009 tour, while Crosby, Stills & Nash are in the midst of one.
Sleeper Hits: Creedence Clearwater Revival drew the short slot following the Grateful Dead’s drowsy performance. They played for a mostly unconscious crowd on Saturday, much to the dismay of the notoriously difficult John Fogerty. Jefferson Airplane took the early shift — 6 a.m. on Sunday — waking the audience with what Grace Slick called “morning maniac music.”