Woodstock Musicians - Where Are They Now?
If there's anything that defined the 60s, that'd be Woodstock. Over the course of 3 days, nearly 400,000 spectators attended the festival. The angst of a generation, the discontentment, the teenage rebellion, all reached its dramatic climax at the end of the decade, at Woodstock. But it's more than that - musicians and speculators alike joined in together, to celebrate peace and music, and dreamt of a different future. And now, more than 50 years later, let's look back on some of the performances that defined the decade that day, and remember those who brought us together through music.
The festival was opened by none other than Richie Havens, a much revered American singer-songwriter though relatively unknown at the time. He later recalled that he wasn't even supposed to be the opening act - because the other acts were late at the time, he decided to take up the responsibility and did a 3-hour set before the next lineup showed up. He started his set with the song "From the Prison" and ended it with a symbolic song "Freedom" in the end.
Richie Havens rose to fame after Woodstock. His artistic work also branched into different areas, including TV commercials, while performing at different concerts. In 2006, he was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame and remained active till 2010. Unfortunately, he rarely performed after that due to health issues. He passed away in 2013, with his ashes scattered over Woodstock, making no time and space within a dream.
Towards the evening, revered folk musician Tim Hardin took over the stage. He started his set with a somber yet emblematic song "How Can We Hang On to a Dream", as the darkness befell upon the first day of the festival. It was then followed by his other hits, such as the melancholic love song "If I Were A Carpenter" and "Speak Like a Child". He then ended his set with a poignant love tune "Misty Roses."
After Woodstock, Tim Hardin went on to release a few albums, such as Painted Head, recorded in England and released in 1972. However, things went a bit out of control for Tim Hardin during the 70s, which led to his untimely passing in late December 1980, shortly before the new decade, whilst still hanging on to his own dream.
As the clock ticked past midnight, folk singer Melanie Safka came to the stage. A relatively new face at the time, she greeted the crowd with her song "Close to It All." Softly singing "If I had my dream I would fill a hall, and tell all the people tear down the wall..." like a calm lullaby as the night drew on. She later did a cover of Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man", playing a song for those who couldn't sleep, and take them on a trip upon her magic swirlin’ ship.
Melanie achieved much commercial success after Woodstock, releasing several hits throughout the 70s, such as "Lay Down," "Brand New Key," and the ironic hit "What Have They Done to My Song Ma." Her popularity slowly faded out in the coming decades, though remaining relatively active in the music industry. In 2015, an entire series of collaborations took place between her and Miley Cyrus...not turning the songs upside down this time.
As the night grew longer, the son of folk legend Woody Guthrie took over the stage. Only 22 at the time, he sang with a raw, youthful vibe, much like the Woodstock itself. He started his set with his more upbeat hits "Coming into Los Angeles," a song that signifies the hippie subculture. He performed a few more songs, including a cover of Bob Dylan's "Walking down the line," and a devout cover of "Amazing Grace."
Arlo Guthrie remained active in music to this date. After Woodstock, he regularly performed with fellow musicians such as folk legend Pete Seeger, and actively took part in politics for a few decades, much like his own father. One of the most famous hits from him that came out after Woodstock included a cover of late Steve Goodman's "City of New Orleans." And good news - he is still touring these days...soon he'll be comin' into Los Angeles, and bringin' in a couple of keys.
The time is now 3 am, the first day of the concert is drawing to a close, as Joan Baez gracefully stepped onto the stage. Already pregnant at the time, her performance that night still resonates for years that follow. She kicked off with a religious tune "Oh Happy Day", followed by more political tunes such as "Joe Hill", dedicated to labor activists martyr Joe Hill. The night was drawn to a close as she delivered the most symbolic and defining performance of Woodstock, by singing Pete Seeger's "We Shall Overcome, " with the message echoing through the endless fields.
Like Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez also remained relatively active in the music business, but more so in the political scene. Musically speaking, she released numerous protest songs in the decades that followed, following the tone of her own political stance...but it wasn't until the release of "Diamond and Rust," a song recalling her lost romance with Bob Dylan, that truly peaked the chart. Focused on political activism these days, she had her farewell tour recently...no longer there for fortune.
The second day of the performance was more eccentric than the first - the music became more aggressive, fueled with the energy of a lost generation. Carlos Santana was among one of the most famous performers on the second day, delivering some of the most iconic performance of Woodstock. He started his set with the funky "Waiting," then later the much-revered version of "Soul Sacrifice", with an explosive drum solo by drummer Michael Shrieve.
Carlos Santana was a great musician even back then, but Woodstock truly launched the band into stardom. Soon after Woodstock, they released their second studio album Abraxas, named after a quote from counterculture figure Hermann Hesse's book Demian. Santana's style would evolve over the years, changing from a rock-based style to a more diverse, fusion-oriented style. Apart from his solo projects, he also made several collaborations with modern artists in the last two decades, including Shakira and R&B duo The Product G&B.
Following Santana was John Sebastian, who wasn't actually scheduled to perform at the festival. Upon request from the organizers, who needed an acoustic performer due to the wet venue after the rain, he took up the offer. The rest, as they say, is history. He kicked off his set with his soft tune "How Have You Been, " followed by other mellow tunes such as "I Had A Dream," a song that symbolized those who came throughout the land to attend the festival. He ended his set with a slightly more upbeat tune "Younger Generation."
Before Woodstock, John Sebastian spent a considerable amount of time with his own band The Lovin' Spoonful, but left the band in the late 60s, only to return on a few occasions. He pursued a solo career for the majority in the decades that followed, publishing his eponymous solo album shortly after Woodstock. He also did some session recordings on Roadhouse Blues, an album by The Doors, playing together when all of the heavies were light as a feather...
As the night drew nearer, rain and darkness befell upon the crowd - but that didn't stop the festival, nor the passion of the crowd. It was then that the Grateful Dead came on stage. Already a big name at the time, they were warmly welcomed by the audience. Their set started with "St Stephen," a classic rock tune. The set also came with some hiccups - the band reportedly was getting electric shocks from the instruments due to the rain. The band ended their set with a staggering 47-minute long "Turn on Your Lovelight."
Grateful Dead is a big enough name that doesn't require much explanation from us. However, here is a small recap of what happened to the band in the decades that followed. In 1973, the guitarist from the band, Ron "Pigpen" McKernan, passed away at the age of only 27. They then founded their own record label, Grateful Dead Records, that lasted for three years. Several band members passed away in the two decades that followed, including the vocalist Jerry Garcia, in 1995.
Creedence Clearwater Revival
Ah...CCR. The voice of the decade, Creedence Clearwater Revival's music has always been closely associated with war, as the world was smoldering in havoc. John Fogerty's anguish voice symbolized the entire generation, expressing the anger and frustration of the counter-culture movement against the establishment. They kicked it off with the electrifying "Born on the Bayou," followed by hits after hits such as "Green River" and "Bad Moon Rising." They ended their set with their classic hit "Suzie Q."
After Woodstock, within the same year, they would release the period-defining song "Fortunate Son." However, the rain came down on a sunny day soon after... the hit "Have You Ever Seen The Rain" that was released in 1970 would foreshadow the departure of Tom Fogerty, the brother of vocalist John Fogerty. Ultimately, the group was disbanded in 1972.
Janis Joplin and the Kozmic Blues Band
It is now two in the morning. On stage came the queen of soul, Janis Joplin, and the Kozmic Blues Band. One of the best female blues/soul vocalists ever lived, she delivered a show at Woodstock we would never forget. It was one captivating tune after another, first with Eddie Floyd’s “Raise Your Hand,” then Bee Gees "To Love Somebody," her soulful rendition of jazz standard "Summertime," followed by her first-ever cover of Kris Kristofferson's iconic tune "Me and Bobby McGee," and of course, her own hit "Piece of my Heart." Feelin' good was easy, Lord, when she sang the blues...
And little did we know that it would be just a year before her untimely passing. In the one year that followed, between Woodstock and her passing, she released different songs and albums within a short period of time, including the album I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama! and hits such as "Mercedes Benz." In October 1970, she was found unconscious in a hotel room, passed away at the age of 27, taking a piece of our heart with her.
"Who are you? Who, who, who, who?" Of course, it's The Who. The iconic English band was also among the lineup that performed at Woodstock. Already a big name at the time, their performance was much anticipated. Raw, powerful, and pure rock n' roll, they started their set at five in the morning, singing a dozen of their famous hits. Including "Heaven and Hell," "Amazing Journey," "Summertime Blues, " and course, "My Generation." By the time their set was over, the dawn was breaking, and a brand new day was approaching...
The Who as a band would go down in history as one of the best rock bands of our time. The 70s was great for the band, they released albums such as Who's Next and The Who by Numbers, with the former that became their only UK number one album. However, tragedy struck in 1978 - the passing of drummer Keith Moon. The band continued performing on and off afterward, breaking up in the 80s and had a few reunions in the years that followed. The Who just wasn't the same without Keith Moon...however, the good news is that they are touring this year.
It's now eight in the morning, the sun tore through the darkness, as Woodstock unofficially stepped into its third day. If there's a band that represented the 60s apart from CCR, it would be Jefferson Airplane, and they were there to break the dawn. Already earned a name for themselves in the San Francisco scene, they were one of the biggest stars of the show. As the vocalist Grace Slick put it, the audience is in for some maniac music - and they were right. They broke the dawn with hits like "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit," paving ways to the last day of the festival.
The story of Jefferson Airplane is much like the counterculture movement itself that it represented - the 60s was the highlight for them, yet disillusion soon followed in the 70s for the band and its members. Spencer Dryden, the drummer, left the band in 1970. The group disbanded in 1973, leading to the creation of Jefferson Starship. It was not until 1989 that a short reunion occurred. Some of the original members have passed away in the last two decades, including Spencer Dryden and Marty Balin.
Joe Cocker and the Grease Band
For all we care, all the sets before Joe Cocker was simply a warm-up show for him. Don't get us wrong, we love the other performers, but Joe Cocker is in a league of his own. He started his set with hits such as "Something's Coming On" But when he started doing his cover of Beatles' "With a Little Help From My Friends," opening with that mellow line "What would you think if I sang out of tune?"...it touches the very depth of your soul. But it didn't stop there, something monumental happened that day when Joe Cocker came on stage.
Joe Cocker remained relatively active after Woodstock, despite a few hiatus that took place. 10 years after Woodstock, he, along with Woodstock performers Richie Havens and Arlo Guthrie, performed on the Woodstock in Europe tour. He also released a few hits, such as a cover of "You're So Beautiful" that was featured in Brian De Palma's Carlito's Way, starring Al Pacino, and "Up Where We Belong" with Jennifer Warnes, a soundtrack to the movie An Officer and a Gentleman. Unfortunately, he passed away in 2014, and the world lost one of the finest voices there was.
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Some of the most beautiful harmonies that came out from a band, their voice pierced through the darkness that was dwelling upon them, like some ancient, forgotten lullabies. Their performance was yet another highlight at Woodstock, kicking off their acoustic set with Stephen Still's love song to Judy Collins, "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes," followed by their cover of Beatles' "Blackbird." A few songs later they changed to their electric set, with more lively songs such as "Wooden Ships." They finished their set with an encore, with a symbolic tune "Find the Cost of Freedom."
And guess what, Woodstock was actually the first time the group has performed together (Stephen Stills and Neil Young were part of Buffalo Springfield before that). Being a supergroup, to begin with, each member has a solo career of their own, with Neil Young being the most prominent. After several separations and reunions, they do perform together these days. They continue touring well into the 2000s and 2010s, with Neil Young joining occasionally.
Considered to be the greatest guitarist of all time, the festival of a generation was drawn to a close by the guitar god himself. His most famous stunt might have been his rendition of the US National Anthem - being a veteran from the 101st Airborne Division and an icon of the counterculture movement at the same time, this was seen as a profound statement of a generation. He also performed other electrifying hits such as "Voodoo Child" and "Purple Haze" with much ferocity. After Jimi Hendrix, the curtain was drawn, as the dream ended quietly, without waking a single soul.
Like Janis Joplin, Woodstock was only about a year before him joining the infamous 27 club. Already a guitar legend at the time, the 60s, in general, was the peak of Jimi Hendrix's career - or as some might say, he himself defined the 60s. He was actively performing after Woodstock, releasing multiple albums in a single year, including Band Of Gypsys, and I'm A Man "Live". However, in September 1970, the greatest guitarist of our times passed away...as the wind whispers "no, this will be the last."
Here you are! Yes, that's a long read, but here are the things that happened to those who played at Woodstock that fateful weekend. If you have the chance, would you attend the festival? Who would you like to see? Who do you miss the most? If you enjoyed reading this, why not share it with someone you know who would have attended Woodstock if they can?