Sad news for the rock world today, as Michael Lang, one of the organizers of the Woodstock festivals, has died. He was 77 years old.
According to a representative, Lang died of complications from non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at Sloan Kettering hospital in New York City. He is survived by his wife Tamara and his five children Shala, Lariann, Molly, Harry and Laszlo.
In 1968, after producing the highly successful Miami Pop festival, Lang moved to Woodstock, New York, where he met Artie Kornfeld, a former Capitol Records employee and writer of over 150 Billboard-charting songs. Lang and Kornfeld created Woodstock as a festival event with which to unite the social movements of the ’60s around them. Woodstock soon became a festival that represented the 1960s in a nutshell, with its infamous performances by Jimi Hendrix and Jefferson Airplane helping shape rock and roll’s identity for generations to come.
“At Woodstock, we would focus our energy on peace, setting aside the onstage discussion of political issues to just groove on what might be possible,” wrote Lang alongside Holly George-Warren in the book The Road to Woodstock. “It was a chance to see if we could create the kind of world for which we’d been striving throughout the sixties: That would be our political statement—proving that peace and understanding were possible and creating a testament to the value of the counterculture. It would be three days of peace and music.”
Lang also produced the Woodstock ’94 and Woodstock ’99 festivals. The latter will forever remain infamous for the fires, assaults, and wanton destruction that accompanied it alongside performances by acts like Limp Bizkit and Red Hot Chili Peppers. He also produced albums by Billy Joel and Joe Cocker, and was a producer on Wes Anderson’s career-launching 1996 film Bottle Rocket.
Everyone at The Pit sends their heart out to Michael’s family, friends, and collaborators during this difficult time.
Words by Chris Krovatin