Michael Lang, Woodstock Co-Creator, Dead at 77

Michael Lang at Woodstock, 1969
Photo Credit
Ginny Winn/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Michael Lang, the concert promoter who co-created and organized the legendary Woodstock Music & Art Fair, died Saturday, Jan. 8. He was 77 years old.

Lang had been undergoing treatment for a rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a representative told Variety.

A native of Brooklyn, New York, Lang began promoting concerts after dropping out from New York University. His first major success was 1968's Miami Pop Festival, featuring performances from Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa and John Lee Hooker. A year later, Lang, Artie Kornfeld, John P. Roberts and Joel Rosenman conceived and financed an even bigger festival to be held over multiple days and reflect the apex of the counterculture movements rolling through popular music.

Over 30 acts and about 400,000 fans converged on Max Yasgur's farm, 40 miles southwest of Woodstock, NY on Aug. 15-18, 1969. The resulting festival - including performances by Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stils, Nash & Young; The Who, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin, Sly & The Family Stone, Santana, Joan Baez and others - has since become synonymous with '60s culture. A 1970 documentary featuring performance footage directed by Michael Wadleigh and edited by a team that included up-and-coming filmmaker Martin Scorsese, was both a box office smash and an Academy Award winner. Two accompanying compilation albums - the triple LP Woodstock and double follow-up Woodstock Two - were each Top 10 hits and paved the way for a Grammy-winning 38CD box set in 2019 that featured nearly all the surviving audio from the entire festival in chronological order.

Lang later organized commemorative festivals for Woodstock's 25th and 30th anniversaries in 1994 and 1999. (The latter was remembered for its considerable overpricing, violence and property damage; a documentary about Woodstock '99 was released last year.) Lang also attempted to organize a 50th anniversary festival in 2019, which was beset by multiple cancellations and never took place.

He is survived by his wife Tamara and five children (three with first wife Ann Lang).

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