Michael Lang, who organized and co-created the famed 1969 music festival Woodstock and its follow-ups, has died at the age of 77. Family spokesperson Michael Pagnotta confirmed to Variety that Lang passed away at New York City’s Sloan Kettering hospital yesterday due to a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
Lang was born on December 11, 1944 in Brooklyn. One of his first forays as a promoter was the 1968 Miami Pop Festival, which drew approximately 25,000 to witness performances by The Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Mothers of Invention and others. He then moved to Woodstock, New York and was inspired by his past experience to put together the Woodstock Music And Art Fair, aka Woodstock, in 1969 with co-creator Artie Kornfeld. Financed by Joel Rosenman and John P. Roberts, Woodstock was held on Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York from August 15-18, 1969 and helped define a generation and influenced many music festivals that followed.
Woodstock drew over 400,000 attendees to witness performances from an impressive array of musicians that included The Who, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, Sly & The Family Stone, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, CSNY and more. The festival was the subject of the 1970 documentary Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music, which featured a number of scenes with Lang.
Michael Lang went on to co-produce Woodstock ’94 with Roberts and Rosenman at Winston Farm in Saugerties, New York and the violence-marred Woodstock ’99 in Rome, New York. In 2019, Lang aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the original event with a festival in Watkins Glen, New York that was canceled due to permitting and financial issues weeks before it was supposed to take place.
Lang also operated and owned a record label from 1971 through 1974. His Just Sunshine Records imprint put out albums by Karen Dalton, Betty Davis, Mississippi Fred McDowell and more. More recently, Lang served as associate producer of the 1996 Wes Anderson film Bottle Rocket. Social issues were always close to Michael Lang’s heart and in 2019 he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 7th annual Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards ceremony.