Far from what you would term an ‘ideal festival’, The Woodstock Music & Art Fair ( that took place in Bethel Woods, N.Y) was muddy, short on food and reeked of marijuana. However none of that seemed to matter when some of the greatest and most talented bands (obscure and famous) took stage. Half a million people sat in the mud and watched as their favourite musicians literally created history.
Here is a list of the most moving, soulful and remembered performances of the iconic festival.
1. Santana – Soul Sacrifice
When Santana went took stage on August 16th, 1969 they were one of those acts only a few had heard of until then. Believe it or not, their 45 minute set literally put them on the map for years to come as one of the biggest breakout acts of Woodstock. A song that particularly set the crowd in a frenzy was ‘Soul Sacrifice’ – a funky percussion filled jive.
2. Country Joe & The Fish – I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag
Country Joe & The Fish went on stage right after a massive downpour, that left the audience muddy and drenched, proverbially dampening the mood of the festival. However, Country Joe managed to lift their spirits with a pretty cheery crowd chant of F-U-C-K that gave way to ‘I Feel Like I’m Fixin To Die Rag’ – an antiwar tune that really got the crowd to sing along. This reflected the American youth’s disenchantment with then ongoing Vietnam war. Just watch how he commanded that crowd.
3. Jefferson Airplane – White Rabbit
“Ask Alice, I think she knows.” Jefferson Airplane went onstage on Sunday morning August 17th, when a large chunk of the audience was either asleep or had left. But this didn’t deter these talented bunch of individuals from playing their 100 minute set – something that was so raw and intense. Their iconic performance featured White Rabbit, an ageless and much revered song that references Lewis Caroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’.
4. Richie Havens – Freedom
Breakout artiste Richie Havens’ was another relatively unknown artist prior to Woodstock, but won the crowd’s respect and love with his song ‘Freedom’.
5. Joe Cocker’s cover of ‘With A Little Help From My Friends’
The Beatles didn’t show up, but Joe Cocker and his band played one of the most iconic and soulful covers of “With a Little Help From My Friends” effectively capturing the attention of every single person at the festival.
6. Jimi Hendrix – The Star-Spangled Banner
You have to understand the people’s mindsets, the time and the place when Jimi Hendrix decided to drop his version of the American National Anthem at Woodstock. There was much dissolution and rage against the war in Vietnam, feeding off it Hendrix dived into a electrifying version of The Star Spangled Banner. This literally ‘electric’ version was made to feel like you’re hearing machine guns and bombs exploding. A performance that perfectly encapsulated and defined what Woodstock stood for. Even today, it is remembered as one of the most historic moments in rock music.