Woodstock was a career changer for some artists, a sales boost for others. A few slipped into obscurity. But one thing they all did was make history on a farm in upstate New York on a hot and rainy weekend in August 1969.
Both Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix died in 1970 of overdoses. Others died in later years: Canned Heat co-founders Alan Wilson (1971) and Bob Hite (1980); Keith Moon of The Who (overdose – 1978); Felix Pappalardi of Mountain (shot and killed in 1983); Tim Hardin (1980 – overdose); Paul Butterfield (heart disease – 1987); Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Tom Fogerty (1990 – AIDS); Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia (1995) and “Pigpen” McKernan (1973); Bert Sommer (1990 – respiratory disease.)
Gone But (Mostly) Not Forgotten
Jefferson Airplane morphed into Jefferson Starship, then into Starship, with all of the original members except Paul Kantner eventually dropping out.
Creedence Clearwater Revival broke up in 1972, with brothers John and Tom Fogerty pursuing solo careers.
Grateful Dead disbanded following Jerry Garcia’s death in 1995.
The Band broke up in 1976, with a revival in the ’80s and ’90s.
Country Joe and The Fish dissolved in 1971 as “Country Joe” McDonald went solo and Barry “The Fish” Melton became an attorney.
Just a few months after Woodstock, a car crash left Sweetwater’s lead singer, Nancy Nevins, with severe brain and vocal cord injuries, bringing an end to that band.
Quill were not known outside the Northeast and their performance at Woodstock did nothing to change that. They were a crowd favorite, but a technical glitch rendered film of their set unusable in the Woodstock movie that made household names of others. They disbanded when their record label dropped them as a result.
As Sly Stone became more and more immersed in the drug scene, Sly and the Family Stone broke up in 1975. Stone made a few solo albums but his career never regained traction.
Incredible String Band broke up in 1974, but revived for a few years in the early ’00s.
Keef Hartley left the music industry in the mid ’70s and opened a cabinet-making business.
As of Woodstock’s 42nd anniversary in 2011, many of the festival’s headliners are still actively performing, at rates ranging from occasionally to regularly.
Among the most active: Santana, Johnny Winter, Arlo Guthrie, Joan Baez, Joe Cocker, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Blood Sweat & Tears, Canned Heat, Sha Na Na, and Ravi Shankar.
Among those who still perform occasionally: The Who, Richie Havens, Melanie, Mountain ‘s Leslie West, Keef Hartley and John Sebastian.
Thanks to a wealth of audio and video recordings, nearly all of these historic performances are still available. Watch some of the most memorable Woodstock performances.
“Taking Woodstock” by Elliot Tiber and Tom Monte (Square One Publishers, 2009)