Michael Lang, the organizer, and co-creator behind the iconic Woodstock festival has died. He was 77.
Lang died on Jan. 8, following complications from a rare form of Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, according to family spokesperson Michael Pagnotta.
“We are very sad to hear that legendary Woodstock icon and long-time family friend Michael Lang has passed at 77 after a brief illness,” read a statement by Pagnotta, posted on Twitter. “Rest In Peace.”
Born on Dec. 11, 1944, in Brooklyn, New York, Lang dropped out of college and moved to Miami in the late ’60s to work in events and organized the 1968 Miami Pop Festival, featuring future Woodstock performer Jimi Hendrix, along with Chuck Berry and John Lee Hooker.
A year later, at the age of 24, Lang, along with music promoter Artie Kornfeld, and businessmen John Roberts and Joel Rosenman, created the Woodstock Music And Art Fair, which featured iconic performances by Janis Joplin, The Who, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Grateful Dead, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Santana, Sly, and the Family Stone and more during the “Three Days Of Peace And Music,” festival in Bethel, New York, which drew more than 400,000 in attendance.
Woodstock was the subject of a 1970 documentary, prominently featuring Lang and continued in more modern iterations with Woodstock ’94, which featured Bob Dylan, Aerosmith, Green Day, Nine Inch Nails, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and more and follow up Woodstock ’99 with Metallica and Rage Against the Machine on the lineup.
The 1969 festival came during a time of unrest in the U.S. in the midst of the Vietnam War as a “hippie” uprising was forming, embodying a more peaceful movement around music and art, film, and more.
“Woodstock offered an environment for people to express their better selves if you will,” said Lang in a 2019 interview. “It was probably the most peaceful event of its kind in history. That was because of expectations and what people wanted to create there.”
A 50th anniversary Woodstock was in the works and planned for August 2019 in Upstate New York with featured artists Jay-Z, The Killers, Miley Cyrus, and more before financial backers pulled out, leading to the eventual cancellation of the event.
“The original festival in ’69 was a reaction by the youth of the time to the causes we felt compelled to fight for—civil rights, women’s rights, and the antiwar movement—and it gave way to our mission to share peace, love, and music,” said Lang in a statement around the planning of the 50th anniversary Woodstock in 2019. “Today, we’re experiencing similar disconnects in our country, and one thing we’ve learned is that music has the power to bring people together.”
Lang is survived by his wife Tamara, their sons Harry and Laszlo, and his daughters Molly, Shala, and LariAnn.
Photo by Eugene Gologursky/WireImage