Book Review: Michael Lang, ‘The Road to Woodstock’

Book Review: Michael Lang, ‘The Road to Woodstock’

I wasn’t at Woodstock. And I’m going to guess that a substantial percentage of the people who will end up reading this review will fit into that category as well. But the importance of Woodstock as a watershed event in the sociological turmoil of the 1960s, as well as a tipping point for the music […]

I wasn’t at Woodstock. And I’m going to guess that a substantial percentage of the people who will end up reading this review will fit into that category as well. But the importance of Woodstock as a watershed event in the sociological turmoil of the 1960s, as well as a tipping point for the music industry in the U.S. is not something lost on those of us born after 1969.

The author is Michael Lang, co-creator of three days of peace, love and music on a farm in upstate New York known as the Woodstock Music and Art Fair. The biggest names in music performed at this landmark festival, including Santana, Grateful Dead, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin and Sly and the Family Stone. The roster even included a massive set by Jimi Hendrix, which contained his iconic performance of “The Star Spangled Banner.” Since then, Lang has continued working as a festival producer with the 1989 concert at the fall of the Berlin Wall and the now infamous Woodstock ’99 under his belt.

This book functions as both a wistful revisiting of a huge music event and a historical analysis of the practicalities of putting it together – and the implications of doing so. Anecdotes from attendees, staff and performers fill out Lang’s own recollections. In addition to black and white photos scattered throughout the pages, there is a complete set list for each performer towards the end of the book.

Regardless of whether you attended Woodstock or are simply interested by the historic event, the realness of this book shines through and draws you in. While it may not feel like you’re getting an “insider’s view” on all the behind-the-scenes dirt, you are getting a widened picture of the realities of successfully putting on a music festival of this magnitude.