Woodstock principal Michael Lang has died at 77
Michael Lang (Photo: Debby Wong / Shutterstock.com)
MICHAEL LANG, the visionary organizer and producer of WOODSTOCK, the 1969 music festival that became a cultural touchstone for a generation, died of complications from lymphoma in NEW YORK CITY at the age of 77.
While LANG enjoyed a long career in music as a producer of rock concerts and manager of artists such as BILLY JOEL and JOC COCKER, he will always be remembered as the idealist with curly hair, shirtless and motorcyclist with the smile of a cherub. who envisioned a weekend of peace, love and music that personified the cultural and political idealism of the baby boomers marching for civil rights and against war in VIETNAM.
LANG told me in 2019, “In 1969, the bands in WOODSTOCK were all part of the counterculture. They were very involved in our lives. It wasn’t just entertainment; it was more about social issues. . They were part of our generation. WOODSTOCK provided an environment for people to express themselves better, if you will. Give them that, and it seems to work. It was probably the most peaceful event of its kind in the story. And that was because of the expectations and what people wanted to create there. ”
Music was the method and LANG always said he always dreamed of creating a concert somewhere in the countryside, where friends could get together and enjoy the music like he did. What LANG, ARTIE KORNFELD and their partners – JOEL ROSEMAN and JOHN ROBERTS – originally planned as a concert for no more than 50,000 people quickly became a three-day event with over 450,000 people, which spawned to a successful documentary and three platinum records. set of albums.
As LANG himself told me in 2019 around the time of the 50th anniversary, “The thing with the first WOODSTOCK … it seemed like there were forces at work beyond our knowledge.”
WOODSTOCK marked the beginning of the modern era in the promotion of rock concerts and music, with innovations in lighting and sound from CHIP MONCK and BILL HANLEY, respectively, security and recording technologies and videos that were born at WOODSTOCK and continue to this day.
NEW YORK TIMES reporter BARNEY COLLIER noted that LANG’s “supernatural calm and unruffled demeanor” kept all 400 staff calm in the face of one potential calamity after another.
LANG didn’t have as much success with WOODSTOCK ’94 or WOODSTOCK ’99, despite both festivals making money. LANG also produced a show in BERLIN, the night after the fall of the Wall, with people from WEST and EAST BERLIN coming together for the first time in a generation. LANG was in BERLIN with singer JOE COCKER, continuing the ongoing negotiations with the authorities of EASTERN GERMANY for the right to produce a concert on this side of the wall.
LANG had high hopes for WOODSTOCK’s 50th anniversary in 2019, but failed to organize the anniversary festival. The anniversary was marked by books and documentaries from around the world as well as other musical celebrations. In SEPTEMBER 2019, he was honored with the MUHAMMAD ALI FOUNDATION LIFE ACHIEVEMENT AWARD.
Reflecting on the cultural influence of the first WOODSTOCK, especially at the start of SILICON VALLEY, LANG said to me, “Build it and they will come. MAX YASGUR’s was our own dream domain. This was not the original intention of WOODSTOCK. It was a corporate advertisement intended to make money for our partners. I was keen to do something that married art and commerce at a time when the counterculture said this music was theirs and paying for it was a scam in a fair and balanced way, which you received more than what you gave. I thought people would agree with that. Our original motto was that you could come whether you had the money or not. Of course, it didn’t turn out that way because everyone entered for free. ”
LANG is also the author of the NEW YORK TIMES bestseller “The Road to WOODSTOCK”, with HOLLY GEORGE-WARREN.
LANG is survived by his wife TAMARA and their five children, SHALA, LARIANN, MOLLY, HARRY and LASZLO. Shala,
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