Black Music Month: Woodstock remembered

Last updated on June 28th, 2019 at 03:07 pm

Visit the Jimi Hendrix exhibit at the Musicans Hall of Fame & Museum to learn all about Jimi and his career from Nashville to Woodstock (photo by Cass Teague)

Woodstock was a music festival held between August 15 and 18, 1969, which attracted an audience of more than 400,000. Billed as “An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music,” it was held at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm near White Lake in Bethel, New York, 43 miles southwest of Woodstock, New York. Over the sometimes rainy weekend, 32 acts performed outdoors. It is widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history, as well as the definitive nexus for the larger counterculture generation.

The Woodstock lineup is one of the most legendary in history. The hottest and most diverse collection of bands of 1969 gathered there and created a playlist that would forever shape music to come. The American music scene of the era was defined by this music festival, and what is now known as world music stemmed from the diversity of performers that played at Woodstock. The careers of many artists there, particularly of Santana and of Sly & the Family Stone, would be forever enshrined and elevated in popular music culture.

Jimi Hendrix’s spectacular psychedelic rendition of the U.S. national anthem “The Star-Spangled Banner” occurred about three-quarters into his set (after which he segued into “Purple Haze”). The song would become part of the sixties Zeitgeist, as it was captured forever in the Woodstock film. Hendrix’s image performing this number wearing a blue beaded white leather jacket with fringe and a red head scarf has since been regarded as a defining moment of the 1960s. The event was captured in the Academy Award-winning 1970 documentary film Woodstock, an accompanying 3-LP (later 2-CD) soundtrack album. It has since been followed up by another 2-disc album, and many other albums have since been released with Woodstock performances by various artists. The definitive collection will be released on August 2, 2019, a 38-CD boxset with many extras, encompassing performances by every artist who played the festival, each on their own CD; the limited-edition (1,969 copies) 432-song collection will set you back $800.

The highest paid artist at the festival was indeed the highest paid artist of the time, the one and only Jimi Hendrix, one of several African American artists among the artists of color who played the festival, including Richie Havens, Ravi Shankar, Santana, and Sly & the Family Stone. Here’s how much each of the acts at Woodstock were paid (keep in mind this was 50 years ago, when you could buy several gallons of gas for a dollar):

1. Jimi Hendrix – $18,000; 2. Blood, Sweat and Tears – $15,000; 3. Joan Baez – $10,000; 4. Creedence Clearwater Revival – $10,000; 5. The Band – $7,500; 6. Janis Joplin – $7,500; 7. Jefferson Airplane – $7,500; 8. Sly and the Family Stone – $7,000; 9. Canned Heat – $6,500; 10. The Who – $6,250; 11. Richie Havens – $6,000; 12. Arlo Guthrie – $5,000; 13. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – $5,000; 14. Ravi Shankar – $4,500; 15. Johnny Winter – $3,750; 16. Ten Years After – $3,250; 17. Country Joe and the Fish – $2,500; 18. Grateful Dead – $2,500; 19. The Incredible String Band – $2,250; 20. Mountain – $2,000; 21. Tim Hardin – $2,000; 22. Joe Cocker – $1,375; 23. Sweetwater – $1,250; 24. John B. Sebastian – $1,000; 25. Melanie – $750; 26. Santana – $750, 27; Sha Na Na – $700; 28. Keef Hartley – $500; and 29. Quill – $375.

The first day officially began at 5:07 pm Friday, August 15, with Richie Havens and featured folk artists. Between 5:07 pm and 6:00 pm, Havens played these songs: 1. “From the Prison” 2. “Get Together” 3. “From the Prison” (reprise) 4. “I’m a Stranger Here” 5. “High Flying Bird” 6. “I Can’t Make It Anymore” 7. “With a Little Help from My Friends” (The Beatles cover) 8. “Handsome Johnny” 9. “Strawberry Fields Forever” / “Hey Jude” (The Beatles covers) and 10. “Freedom (Motherless Child).”

The music on Saturday opened at 1:20 pm, and featured some of the event’s biggest psychedelic and guitar rock headliners. Between 2:00 pm and 2:45 pm, Santana played these numbers: 1. “Waiting” 2. “Evil Ways” 3. “You Just Don’t Care” 4. “Savor” 5. “Jingo” 6. “Persuasion” 7. “Soul Sacrifice” and 8. “Fried Neckbones and Some Home Fries.”

Late Saturday night / Sunday morning from 3:30 am – 4:20 am, Sly & the Family Stone played this set: 1. “M’Lady” 2. “Sing a Simple Song” 3. “You Can Make It If You Try” 4. “Everyday People” 5. “Dance To The Music” 6. “Music Lover” 7. “I Want to Take You Higher” 8. “Love City” and closed with 9. “Stand!”

Sunday, August 17, the last day of the festival was closed out by a set by Jimi Hendrix that actually ran from 9:00 am – 11:00 am on Monday morning. After being introduced as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hendrix corrected the new group’s name to “Gypsy Sun and Rainbows” for short it’s nothin’ but a band of gypsies,” he said. Later during the set he introduced them as “Sky Church.”

Hendrix and his bandmates played: 1. “Message to Love” 2. “Hear My Train A Comin’”2. “Get My Heart Back Together” 3. “Spanish Castle Magic” 4. “Red House” (Hendrix’s high E-string broke while playing, but he played the rest of the song with five strings.) 5. “Mastermind” (written and sung by Larry Lee. The recording has never been officially released as the Hendrix estate has prohibited it for “aesthetic reasons”). 6. “Lover Man” 7. “Foxy Lady” 8. “Jam Back at the House” 9. “Izabella” 10. “Gypsy Woman” / “Aware of Love” (These two songs written by Curtis Mayfield were sung by Larry Lee as a medley. The recording has never been officially released as the Hendrix estate has prohibited it for “aesthetic reasons”). 11. “Fire” 12. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” / “Stepping Stone” 13. “The Star-Spangled Banner” 14. “Purple Haze” and 15. “Woodstock Improvisation” / “Villanova Junction”. He played “Hey Joe” for an encore, and that was the final performance of the most iconic music festival in history.

James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix would die the following year at the early age of 27, on September 18, 1970, leaving an unparalleled legacy as the greatest guitarist in history. Sly & the Family Stone, formed in 1966, would continue to make music, but the band split up in 1983 due to Sly’s drug-addiction issues. Santana, led by Mexican-American guitarist Carlos Santana, is still touring and recording; his latest album “Africa Speaks” was released June 7, 2019 to universal critical acclaim, and celebrates the melody, sounds, and rhythms of African music; the band is scheduled to headline the 50th Anniversary festival Woodstock 50 Friday, August 16 – Sunday, August 18 in Watkins Glen, New York.