Michael Lang Created Woodstock and Destroyed It

Steve Bloom
4 min readJan 9, 2022
Michael Lang at Woodstock Festival in 1969
Michael Lang on stage at Woodstock in 1969 (photo by Elliot Landy)

For better or worse, Michael was the face of Woodstock. With his curly Jew-fro, paisley shirts and fringed vests, he epitomized the ’60s as much as Hollywood icons like Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper.

Lang, who passed away on January 8 in New York at 77 after a bout with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, teamed up Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts and Joel Rosenman to throw the Woodstock Music & Art Fair in August of 1969 in Bethel, NY. The story of the festival has been told many times, first in the original movie and soundtrack, then in the followups to those and subsequent documentaries like Barak Goodman’s excellent Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation.

In 2019, upon the 50th anniversary of Woodstock, I traced my connection to the festival in the article, “By the Time I Didn’t Get to Woodstock.” That goes into the details. The short version is I was too young to attend Woodstock (I was 14). I lived in New York City; Bethel, where the festival took place, is about two hours away.

I saw the movie and listened obsessively to the triple-album set. By the time I did get to Woodstock, it was in 1994 at the 25th anniversary event held in Saugerties, NY. I covered it for High Times.

We left the night before and stayed with grow expert Kyle Kushman. Harry Crossfield, High Times’ ad rep, also came along for the ride. The next day, August 12, we drove to the festival site and I set up camp not too far from the two stages. By the next morning the site was packed.

The Woodstock miracle in 1969 would fuel Lang’s future delusions.

Woodstock ’94 was a watershed event for the ’90s rock world. Every major band played and plenty of newer ones like Green Day, Blues Traveler, Cypress Hill, Blind Melon and Sheryl Crow were on the undercard. Headliners included Metallica, Peter Gabriel, Aerosmith, Nine Inch Nails and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Woodstock and ’60s veterans like Santana, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Traffic, the Allman Brothers Band and Joe Cocker connected to the past.

That was the good news. The bad news was the event was poorly organized by Lang and his ’94 team. There were food shortages, questionable sponsors like Pepsi and lack of options for a crowd estimated at…

Steve Bloom

I'm a longtime journalist and author with 30+ years covering cannabis. I'm a former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of "Pot Culture.”