Celebrating its 50th anniversary in August, the Woodstock music festival is often, with the benefit of hindsight, hailed as an example of what can go right when hundreds of thousands of young, stoned music fans assemble—in stark contrast to the Altamont Speedway Free Festival just a few months later, where four people died. Here, we round up new, forthcoming, and older releases and reissues, which give adults and young readers a window onto the three-day event in Bethel, N.Y., and the larger culture that gave rise to it.
“Going Down to Yasgur’s Farm”
Barefoot in Babylon
Bob Spitz. Plume, 2019 (reissue)
When this book was first released a decade after Woodstock took place, PW called it “an enticing story,” and the author’s recounting of “the music festival and the months leading up to [it] vivid and exciting.” It’s been newly beefed up for the 50th anniversary with an introduction by Graham Nash, who performed at Woodstock as part of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.
The Road to Woodstock
Michael Lang, with Holly George-Warren. Ecco, 2009
One of several titles released for the 40th anniversary of Woodstock 10 years ago—it’s sold 26,000 copies in hardcover and paperback—this memoir chronicles the festival as devised and experienced by Lang, its producer and co-creator. PW’s review said it provides the “gritty insights of the ultimate insider,” along with “a glimpse of the madness, frustration, happiness, and sheer euphoria that turned Woodstock into a memorable music festival.”
Something’s Happening Here
Mark Berger. Excelsior Editions, 2019
This memoir of one young Brooklynite’s experience of the 1960s culminates in his involvement with Woodstock, where he arrived four days early to help set up, then “worked to calm kids tripping out on bad acid, maneuvered a water truck through a sea of spectators, and fell in love, twice,” according to the publisher.
The Story of Woodstock Live
Julien Bitoun. Cassell, 2019
Bitoun, a musician, is aiming for Woodstock completists with this title, packed with insider-y information about the kind of guitar Country Joe McDonald played at the festival (a Yamaha FG-150), who played when, and what time they were actually supposed to hit the stage, as well as some of the political context surrounding the weekend. With a foreword by Michael Lang.
Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music
Michael Lang. Reel Art, 2019
Billed as the official commemoration of Woodstock’s 50th anniversary, this book, written by festival co-creator Lang (who’s had a hand in several titles on the subject), is heavy on photos and a positive framing of the weekend. “There was a lot of fear among the general population about us,” Lang writes in the introduction, but “once the kids started to arrive and mingled with the townsfolk, and interacted with the businesses and residents of the surrounding towns, suddenly they were just kids.”
Woodstock: 50 Years of Peace and Music
Daniel Bukszpan. Imagine, 2019
Music critic Bukszpan set out to compile a true accounting of what happened at the festival through conversations with, as he details in the introduction, “members of the technical crew, promoters, performers, and anyone else who was there and wanted to talk about it,” as a way to counter negative talk over the years from nonattendees with an ax to grind. He also focuses attention on underappreciated performers such as Nancy Nevins of Sweetwater and Dan Cole of Quill, who, he writes, “were there as much as Jimi Hendrix was.”
Woodstock 50th Anniversary: Back to Yasgur’s Farm
Mike Greenblatt. Kraus, 2019
The author, who writes for the record collecting and music memorabilia magazine Goldmine, combines personal musings about attending the weekend with a timeline of acts, photos, and remembrances from those who performed and those who took in the scene.
Woodstock: The Oral History
Joel Makower. Excelsior, 2009 (reissue)
“Woodstock comes alive here,” according to PW’s review of this title (originally published in 1989), which praises the author, another music journalist grabbing the Woodstock mic, for “setting it squarely within its historical context and interviewing scores of participants, among them musicians, neighbors (both the hostile and the amicable), and employees at the food concessions.”
Woodstock: Three Days That Rocked the World
Edited by Mike Evans and Paul Kingsbury, Sterling, 2019 (reissue)
When this book first pubbed in 2009, PW’s review called it a “coffee-table tribute” offering “a balanced, moving, and chronological pictorial of each of the 31 acts” who performed over the course of the festival. Also of interest to avid Woodstock fans, PW noted, are firsthand accounts from attendees, crew, farm workers, and musicians including David Crosby, who said, “It looked like an encampment of a Macedonian army on a Greek hill, crossed with the biggest batch of gypsies you’ve ever seen.”
“Everywhere Was a Song and a Celebration”
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
David Browne. Da Capo, 2019
The supergroup lasted only a short while—Woodstock was their second live performance as a quartet, and they broke up two years later. But interest in the band endures, as evidenced by two hefty bios this spring. PW’s review called this one “the most comprehensive biography of the group to date.”
Peter Doggett. Atria, 2019
English music critic Doggett contributes an “honest, occasionally laudatory history,” PW’s review said, of the band whose musical legacy includes the song “Woodstock.” The book addresses the festival in four sections—the plan, the performance, the aftermath, and the backlash—the last of which mostly documents the negative associations that Stephen Stills and Neil Young had with the festival for years after.
Holly George-Warren. Simon & Schuster, Oct.
Janis Joplin appeared at Woodstock one year before her death from an overdose. This biography, which PW’s starred review called “excellent” and “moving,” spends time with the singer at the festival, covering her tawdry liaisons upon arrival and then her exhausted performance during an hour-long 3 a.m. set. “The photos of her on stage show how tired she is, but they also show how she gives everything she has in that performance,” George-Warren told PW in June. “Ellen Willis, then the music critic at the New Yorker, said she wasn’t willing to keep applauding Janis to bring her out for more since Janis gave too much of herself.”
Jim Marshall: Show Me the Picture
Amelia Davis. Chronicle, Aug.
San Francisco photographer Jim Marshall, who died in 2010, documented many iconic American moments—and the musical stars who helped to make them so—including Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and others who performed at Woodstock. Davis, Marshall’s assistant turned archivist, devotes a chapter to images of the festival. Variety, in a review of a 2019 documentary related to the book, noted that Marshall’s “shots from the Woodstock stage are marked by their unique wide-angle sprawl.”
Ellen Sander. Dover, 2019 (expanded reissue)
Ahead of Woodstock’s 50th anniversary, the author, an eyewitness to the festival and many other seminal musical events of the 1960s, refreshed this title, originally published by Scribner in 1973. (We spoke with Sander for “Camaraderie and Rapture”)
“I Came upon a Child of God”
Max Said Yes!
Abigail Yasgur and Joseph Lipner, illus. by Barbara Mendes. Change the Universe Press, 2009; IPG, dist. Ages 5–7.
Coauthor Yasgur is a cousin of the dairy farmer who allowed his acreage in Bethel, N.Y., to be used as the staging ground for Woodstock when the official venue balked. She and her husband self-published this simple rhyming story, punched up with trippy illustrations by Mendes, as a way to “share the ideals of kindness, generosity, peace and love with future generations,” she told the Los Angeles Times when the book released.
Summer of ’69
Todd Strasser. Candlewick, 2019. Ages 16–up.
YA veteran Strasser mines his teenage experience of the summer of 1969 in a novel showcasing, as he told PW, “that momentous time of revolution and reform.” (We spoke with Strasser for “Generation Next”)
Three Day Summer
Sarvenaz Tash. Simon & Schuster, 2015. Ages 12–up.
“It’s going to be a long weekend,” one of the protagonists muses at the beginning of this novel as she prepares to care for bad-tripping concertgoers in the Woodstock medical tent. PW’s review found that throughout the story, the author’s “love for the era and this defining musical moment shines through.” (We spoke with Tash for “Generation Next.”)
What Was Woodstock?
Joan Holub, illus. by Gregory Copeland. Penguin Workshop, 2016. Ages 8–12.
Part of the popular What Was...? series, which offers context for historical and contemporary events and figures, this title has sold 10,000 print copies since its publication, per NPD BookScan. “Many thought the festival would be a flop,” Holub writes. “It wasn’t. It was exactly the opposite. It was out of sight, which in the 1960s meant awesome.”
Spencer Wilson. Doubleday, 2019. Up to age 3.
This counting book encourages the youngest flower children to tally up bell-bottoms, psychedelic VW vans, peace signs, and more.
Woodstock Paper Dolls
Tom Tierney. Dover, 2019 (reissue). Ages 10–up.
Originally released for the festival’s 40th anniversary, this collection of 16 plates offers costume changes for performers including Joan Baez, Roger Daltry, Jerry Garcia, and Grace Slick.