What was supposed to be three days of peace love, and music celebrated on an obscure dairy farm in the town of Bethel, New York in the summer of ’69, turned out to be the most iconic music event of all time. Yes, we’re talking about Woodstock, the pivotal moment in music history that began on August 15, 1969. We’ve collected extremely rare Woodstock photos that capture what it was really like to be there. From 32 iconic performances, over 400,000 excited fans, traffic jams, psychedelic vans, bohemian and hippie fashion, rain, sunshine, and a whole lot of peace and love ― that was the name of the game at Woodstock, and it changed the lives of everyone who was and wasn’t there.
Arts & Crafts
The Woodstock Music & Art Fair festival wasn’t called that for no reason. The festival was a place for young souls to express their creativity and self-expression through music and art, like this bohemian woman adorned with a leather crop top, headband, and arm bracelet.
She parked herself down on the grass to carefully weave her leather-tasseled tapestry. Perhaps she handed it out to other fellow festival-goers or even sold a few. Whichever way, her style was certainly in tune with the spirit of Woodstock.
Sway Your Hair Like You Don’t Care
Advertised as a “weekend in the country,” Woodstock was so much more than that. It was three days of non-stop love, peace, partying, rock and roll, and fun with 32 performances by A-list musicians. As Joni Mitchell said, “Woodstock was a spark of beauty where half-a-million kids saw that they were part of a greater organism.”
Pictured here is one woman showing off her long locks, and literally letting her hair down. Peace, love, and acceptance were photographed from every angle at the music festival. The people in attendance believed music could change the world and that the hippie movement was more than just Kumbayas and daisies.
Food For Love
It was common for the crowds at Woodstock to share their food, water, and clothing with their neighbors and fellow festival-goers, as sharing was one of the main philosophies the festival stood for. This incredibly rare photo captures just that with this young woman preparing food for the rest of the Woodstock community.
Unfortunately, there was a huge shortage of food because the number of people that showed up at Woodstock far exceeded the number anyone could have anticipated. Many people didn’t want to lose their spot on the field or have to trudge through the crowds to find food, so they set up free stands and banded together to feed everyone.
Nearly half a million people attended Woodstock, so it’s no surprise that there were major traffic jams and a lack of space within the confines of Max Yasgur’s dairy farm, where the festival was held. Many people, like this woman, slept on their motorbikes or vehicles because it was too hot to sleep inside them.
The lucky ones built tents and temporary shelters with sleeping bags, but when space ran out, the rest had to retire to their vans and cars if they could reach them. Some even had to stay in their vehicles when the traffic blocked the way.
Rocking with Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix was one of the 32 acts to perform at Woodstock, and boy did he put on one hell of a show donning a white leather and blue-beaded fringed jacket. The icon was actually the last to perform at the festival for a crowd of 30,000 onlookers as many of the music-loving concertgoers had already gone home because of the rain delays.
The ones who waited in anticipation for Hendrix’s two-hour performance with his new band Gypsy Sun and Rainbows were certainly thrilled they waited, as it has gone done in history as a defining moment of the ’60s. Hendrix might have been the last act to perform, but he was the highest paid and earned himself a nice sum of $18,000.
Wrapped Up in Love
Woodstock gave the people something to believe in and hold onto during a very tumultuous political era, which is why this photo became one of the most famous from the festival. Now both 69 years old, Bobbi Kelly and her then-boyfriend Nick Ercoline became the poster children of Woodstock wrapped in an embrace with the sun rising in the background.
The image represented the love, peace, and individuality everyone felt at the three-day festival; a love so strong that this couple went on to marry and have two children. Burk Uzzle of Magnum Agency snapped the photo without the couple noticing. Uzzle recalled how Gracie Slick of Jefferson Airplane was performing at the break of dawn when this couple “magically stood up and hugged.” After they kissed and hugged, Kelly smiled and leaned her head on his shoulder.
Hanging with The Pearl
Otherwise known as The Pearl, Janis Joplin will forever be remembered as one of the best female rockers of all time. Joplin performed on the second day of Woodstock rocking a colorful and psychedelic dress. She didn’t know about the festival until a few days before, but luckily for the crowd, she found out just in time and was one of the biggest names to perform.
Joplin wasn’t aware of how big the festival would be and told her band it’d be just another gig. However, when she and her band, along with a pregnant Joan Baez, were flown into Woodstock by helicopter, she saw the sheer size of the crowds and became giddy with nerves. She remained at the festival until the end.
Peace and Bubbles
Nearly 500,000 people flooded in droves to Woodstock to get a slice of the unique and eclectic experience of unity and love. While most hung out at the festival with a partner or a group of people, others preferred to take part in the fun on their own.
Pictured here is a woman sitting on the ground blowing bubbles into the crowd while enjoying her own company. This free-spirited concertgoer was probably having some fun while waiting for the next performer to appear on stage.
The Who’s Who
Woodstock gained a lot of momentum even before it happened, so it’s no surprise that some famous faces rocked along to the music with the rest of the crowd, such as German actress and model Veruschka von Lehndorff, towering above them at over six feet tall.
Veruschka was extremely popular in the ’60s. She rose to fame at the age of 20 while studying art in Florence, where was discovered by photographer Ugo Mulas. Here we see the model dancing to the beat and having a good time at Woodstock.
Tie-Dye for the Win!
Following the fashion direction of rock stars such as Janis Joplin and John Sebastian in the late ’60s, tie-dye clothing became more than just a fashion trend; it was a lifestyle choice. It’s no surprise then that this psychedelic clothing was prevalent at Woodstock.
This colorful fashion choice was all the craze at the music festival, with any number of pop-up stands selling different kinds of designs and items. If you weren’t sporting your rainbow swirled patterned shirt, then you weren’t part of the crowd!
The Star and the Groupie
With their psychedelic pop-rock tunes, Jefferson Airplane were fixtures of the late ’60s musical scene. Pictured here is lead singer Grace Slick hanging out backstage with Sally Mann, wife of the band’s drummer, Spencer Dryden nearby. Just like the audience enjoyed the music, so too did the other performers.
When talking to the Rolling Stone magazine about her experiences at Woodstock, Slick said she remembers taking a helicopter to get to the music festival because the roads were so jammed. Until Jefferson Airplane performed on the second day, she recalled sitting around smoking and drinking wine with Mann and the other band members.
When Life Gives You Instruments, Make Music!
There was truly a feeling of unity and love for the festival-goers who came to enjoy the rock and roll music and festivities for three days straight, so much so, that when there were breaks between performances they made their own music.
Pictured here is a boy playing the flute to the beating of a drum. You can feel the moment of zen all the way from here, a feeling that everyone around him shared. Peace, love, and partying could be found at every angle you looked at during Woodstock.
Tim Hardin performed his hit “If I Were a Carpenter” solo on the first day of Woodstock, along with other songs performed with his band. For his incredible performance, Hardin was paid $2,000, which wasn’t as much as some of the other artists performing at the music festival.
This epic photograph catches the artist in a moment of inspiration while he’s on stage. Hardin took some quiet time to jot down a couple notes and possibly compose some music and lyrics during his time off stage. He definitely looks deep into his music, that’s for sure!
The Queen of Boho
Concertgoers at Woodstock felt comfortable to express themselves as they saw fit, experimenting with all kinds of hippie and bohemian fashion as well as colors and textures, like this stylish woman. This photo showcases the beauty of accessorizing in all its glory from head to toe.
With her floppy hat, headpiece, bold makeup with sequins, and thick beaded jewelry, this woman represents freedom of expression and individuality. Though the central thread on which Woodstock was based were its musical performances, fashion and art were almost as much an integral part of the experience.
Hail the Almighty Rain Makers!
If you thought that dancing and partying were the only things that took place at the Woodstock music festival, then you’re sorely mistaken. Add to that a spirited series of rain-summoning rituals, and then you can begin to comprehend the culture of the event.
This group of people were performing a tribal rain dance, and it clearly worked because on-and-off torrential rains came down on the festival, giving a blessed break from the hot August afternoon sun and creating a very muddy experience. The hippies didn’t mind much!
A Muddy Business
The outdoor music festival saw lots of wet weather between the bright sunshine. Not only did this cause technical delays, but also quite a messy business as seen in this amazing photograph. This couple is seen performing a bit of team work twisting out the water of their soaked blanket. We can imagine no one got much sleeping done at Woodstock.
The rain caused lots of mud baths and dirt, but that didn’t stop the 32 acts from performing for the tremendously eager audience. Come rain or shine, the crowd didn’t seem to mind the mud at all. Lots of hippies actually threw off their shoes and soaked their feet in the dirt. Some, however, did come prepared with raincoats, umbrellas, and plastic sheets.
If no other photograph captures the sheer joy and ecstasy that was Woodstock, then this one certainly does. The organizers of the festival were worried the hippies and heavy metal music would cause violence, but there was nothing of the sort reported from the music festival.
For three days straight, all that was palpable at Woodstock was unity, peace, happiness, and a sense of freedom. Look at this crowd clapping their hands in the air to the music with massive smiles on their faces. We can feel the excitement emanating from this image.
Rocking the Daisies
Did somebody say daisy? We all know daisies are the ultimate symbol of everything hippie and groovy, but the crowd at Woodstock really believed and stood for peace and love like this happy man, locked in a loving stare. It’s a beautiful snapshot of the flower children generation.
The vibe at this music festival was electric, and anyone who was there has described how they never experienced anything like it again. The Doors and other famous bands forever regretted turning down their invite or not being able to make it to Woodstock.
Besides for the long beaded necklaces and leather clothing and accessories, people at Woodstock let their hair take on a natural and untamed styles. Most of the women sported long hair parted in the middle and sometimes accented with bangs, while the men loved to grow afros or long beards.
This festival-goer exudes a sense of artistic freedom wearing a sleek, denim look complete with a pretty incredible and show-stopping hat. Woodstock was an opportunity for everyone to showcase their individual style, which sometimes included some questionable trends like nudity.
Many of the people who attended Woodstock camped out on the top of their psychedelic vans, as the living conditions at the music festival got pretty tough. We must say it looks pretty fun, whether it was planned or not.
In fact, this pivotal moment in pop musical history is marked by how the concertgoers camped out in their colorful vans. They couldn’t really move because of how many extra people attended and how Woodstock ending up lasting four days instead of three.
While all the magic was happening on stage, there were even more magical moments captured among the crowds at Woodstock. This gorgeously-composed photograph of a couple looking distracted while posing for a picture shows how almost every moment at the festival was fit for a frame.
Was this blonde boho concertgoer staring at a happy couple, just taking in the moment, or looking at a psychedelic painting on the ground? We’ll never know, but we certainly love the burlap dress she was rocking and her groovy accessories.
A Celestial Sound
Sri Swami Satchidananda, an Indian religious teacher and spiritual master, gave the opening speech after Richie Havens performed his act kicking off the Woodstock music festival. He addressed almost half a million people with a very poignant and empowering message.
“My Beloved Brothers and Sisters we can just feel the vibes. Music is a celestial sound, and it is the sound that controls the whole universe, not atomic vibrations. Sound energy, sound power, is much, much greater than any other power in this world. And, one thing I would very much wish you all to remember is that with sound, we can make—and at the same time, break,” he bellowed into the mic.
The roads to Yasgur’s dairy farm became so jammed that many people had to abandon their cars or hitchhike with others. Some even jumped onto the car roofs of moving vehicles just to get to what became a once-in-a-lifetime rock festival.
Here we see two men who are missing out on the famous rock and roll music, but do not seem too phased by the change in programming. Instead they have found a spot that does not seem to be as muddy as the rest of the festivities.
Woodstock wasn’t supposed to be that big of an event, so when over 400,000 people showed up, no one was really prepared for the magnitude of it all. Before the festival, the organizers managed to sell 100,000 tickets which means more than 300,000 showed up without tickets.
The late change in the venue didn’t give the organizers enough time to deal with the influx of people. The audience started to arrive by the tens of thousands two days before the music festival began and walked through the gaps in the fences. The organizers eventually decided to make the concert free. And to think this all went down on a small dairy farm!
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