ON THIS DAY: Woodstock Begins

August 15, 1969

For thousands of years, humans looked up at the stars and wondered what was going on in the universe. The big moon was the largest body in the sky and people had plenty of mythology about the moon but precious little actual knowledge about it until very recently. Generations of astronomers and telescope makers allowed humans to see the moon better, and understand it’s motion and the effect it has on the earth. And then in July of 1969, only 66 years after the first powered human flight made by the Wright Brothers, actual people set foot on the moon. The moon landings were a crowning achievement of humanity and they were witnessed around the world.

The men who landed on the moon were of what we now call the ‘Greatest’ and ‘Silent’ generations, and they were known for their stoic assumption of risk. The generation to follow is known as the ‘Baby Boomers’ or just ‘Boomers’ now, and they were known for their large size and later, their commitment to a sort of unpredicted cultural change that swept the world and particularly swept across the United States.

Just two weeks after the Greatest and Silent Generation landed on the moon, capping human longing over several millennia, the Boomers converged on a muddy field in update New York for a music festival that they claim defined a their generation. Woodstock set the standard for Boomer self-definition and it’s legend grew to be bigger than anything those few men with the ‘Right Stuff’ did on the moon. Space never took hold of the public appetite or imagination quite like what was put forward at Woodstock.

It began on the 15th and went for three days. It was hastily put together and had many failings, and further, the fields became muddy and people had no place to sleep so many huddled together and slept in the open, often in the rain. But, the good feelings became part of the lore of Woodstock which was prolific. At Woodstock, the Boomers declared their values and habits and tastes. The moon landings were not just the triumph of science; they were the result of the culture values and habits that defined the march of Western Civilization that went back thousands of years. They were in reaction to the launch of Sputnik by the Soviets who offered a counter to the American system of governance. Woodstock, just weeks later, was the first of many triumphs of the ‘counter culture’ that emerged to remake the ‘culture’ that landed on the moon. The counter-culture ultimately triumphed and is the dominate culture in the United States now. Counter-culture values and perspectives have been exported around the world. And obvious manifestation of this coming trend was seen at a muddy field in upstate New York in the rainy summer of 1969.

The musicians (and one speaker) performed in this order:

Richie Havens


Sri Swami Satchidananda

Bert Sommer

Ravi Shankar

Tim Hardin

Melanie Safka

Arlo Guthrie

Joan Baez – Baez was a well-known folk singer and Vietnam War protestor, and she came on at 1:00AM, in the rain.

Quill – this band began the second day which started at 12:15 PM.

Country Joe McDonald

Santana – Santana was not well-known and came on at 2P on the second day.

John B. Sebastian

Keef Hartley Band

The Incredible String Band

Canned Heat


The Grateful Dead – They came on at 10:30PM and played for about 90 minutes.

Creedence Clearwater Revival – they came on at 12:30AM and many people drifted off and went to sleep wherever they could after CCR played.

The Who – At 5:00AM on the third day. the Who played through the entire Tommy album.

Jefferson Airplane this was the headliner band and they played Sunday morning at 8:00

Joe Cocker

Country Joe & The Fish

Janis Joplin

Ten Years After

The Band

Johnny Winter

Sly & The Family Stone

Blood, Sweat & Tears

Crosby, Stills & Nash (and Young) – Woodstock was the second gig this band had ever played.

Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Sha Na Na

Jimi Hendrix – Hendrix was supposed to be the closing band on Sunday night but he didn’t play until Monday morning at 9:00 AM and most people had gone by that time.

The festival opens
Hendrix and his famous Star Spangled Banner guitar solo closed the show