40 Years Post-Woodstock: Who’s Still Rockin’ and Who Went Rollin’?

Forty years ago, over 400,000 people from across America crowded a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York to attend what was to become the most famous music festival to ever take place in rock ‘n’ roll history. From August 15 to 17, 1969, a bedlam of mud-drenched hippies, along with some of the most influential rock artists of the twentieth century, came together in the spirit of peace, music and free love at Woodstock’s Music and Art Fair. Mud, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, Rolling Stone magazine deemed Woodstock ‘69 one of the “50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll”. Here’s a look at some of the Woodstock greats, what happened to them and where they are now.


The Who

Mercenaries in the art of instrument destruction, The Who’s influence on rock ‘n’ roll is as present today as when Keith Moon loaded his bass drum with explosive charges and detonated his drum set on the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967. Selling over 100 million records, The Who have been called the “Godfathers of Punk”, with many karaoke songs online, setting the stage for bands like The Clash, The Stooges, The Ramones, The
Sex Pistols and an inspiration to many bands today.


Of the four original members, guitarist Pete Townshend and vocalist Roger Daltrey are still rocking, last touring four Japanese cities and nine North American cities in October of 2008. Moon passed away in 1978, after overdosing on Clomethiazole (Heminervin), a sedative prescribed to alleviate alcohol withdrawal symptoms. He was succeeded by drummer Kenny Jones, with whom the band produced two more albums, Face Dances (1981) and It’s Hard (1982). In quintessential rock star spirit, bassist John Entwistle was found dead of a cocaine-induced heart attack, by the stripper he spent the night with in a hotel room at the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in 2002.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

The folk-rock group that formed from three prominent 60’s bands (The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield and The Hollies), Woodstock was David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young’s second live performance together. The band addressed anti-war politics and other counterculture issues. Even today, the band continues to be associated with political and environmental causes. During CSNY’s 2006 Freedom of Speech tour, the clan got their green on, traveling North America in bio-diesel powered buses. [Source]


Carlos Santana
Woodstock jump-started Carlos Santana’s music career after rocking the crowd during his spectacular 45-minute set. He landed a recording contract with Columbia Records, then run by Clive Davis. Throughout the 70’s and 80’s he led a successful career, getting the chance to work with legends such as Herbie Hancock, Aretha Franklin and John Lee Hooker. In 1990, after twenty-two years with Columbia Records, he left and signed with Polygram, yet record sales significantly dropped. Toward the end of the decade he was without contract. However in 1999, Clive Davis, (now with Artista Records), signed him and Santana made a comeback. He recorded Supernatural- a star-studded album featuring Rob Thomas of Matchbox Twenty, Eric Clapton, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean, Dave Matthews and other leading recording artists. In Pete Townshend’s Rolling Stone article The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, Santana was fifteenth on the list. His jazzy-rock, ethnic-infused guitar licks still rock the house today, as he continues to perform for audiences worldwide.

Joe Cocker

His gritty voice and eccentric arm flailing made him one of the highlights of Woodstock– just before torrential rain disrupted his set. Cocker was famous for covering classic Beatles songs such as With a Little Help from my Friends (Ah! The Wonder Years), She Came in Through the Bathroom Window and Something. In 1970, Cocker had sold $3 million worth of records in America alone. His first three albums went platinum and Playboy voted him number one vocalist in their annual jazz and rock poll. But the mid-70’s were dark days for Cocker, who was using heroin and drinking heavily at the time. When he met producer Michael Lang, Lang told him he would manage him on the condition that he stay sober. He went on to have a successful career in the 80’s- reaching #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with Up Where We Belong, a duet sung with Jennifer Warnes. He also performed at an inauguration concert for President George H. W. Bush in February 1989.

Creedence Clearwater Revival

By 1969, CCR was already recording their fourth album, which is perhaps why the band didn’t stay too upset about getting the 3 AM Woodstock slot, just following a late, disastrous Grateful Dead set, (electrical problems and bad wiring had Jerry Garcia and Dead band members undergoing some minor aversion therapy while playing their instruments), not to mention that many of the audience members were asleep by that time (or passed out, rather). But incessant touring and packed recording schedules had its toll on CCR and by October of 1972, the group officially announced their disbanding.

Lead singer John Fogerty began his solo career but refused to play any Creedence songs at shows, (much to the dismay of fans) claiming it brought back painful memories and that he would have to pay performance royalties to copyright holder Saul Zaentz. In 1987, he changed his mind after friends Bob Dylan and George Harrison said that if he didn’t perform his CCR hits, “the whole world’s gonna think Proud Mary is a Tina Turner song”. Fogerty left the music scene in the late 80’s but then returned in 1997 with Grammy-winning album Blue Moon Swamp. Former CCR guitarist (brother of John Fogerty) Tom Fogerty, also pursued a solo career but it never reached the success of CCR and in September of 1990, he died of AIDS, which he contracted from a blood transfusion during surgery. Ex-CCR bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford went on to form Creedence Cleawater Revisited in 1995 with other well-known musicians, performing the original band’s classics.

The counterculture of the 1960’s rejected convention- opposing the Vietnam War, fighting for equal rights, environmental rights and standing up against racial segregation. Attempts to recreate the Woodstock of 1969 have never attained the spirit that came with that generation. Now, forty years later Woodstock has been celebrating its birthday, with a tribute tour called The Heroes of Woodstock, featuring performances by some of Woodstock’s originals such as Big Brother and The Holding Company, Canned Heat, Tom Constanten from the Grateful Dead and hosted by Country Joe McDonald. Executive producer of the original Woodstock Festival, Michael Lang gave up on his original wish to organize a 40-year-anniversary of the original festival. The largest musical event of its time, with a once in a lifetime line-up of musical talent, Woodstock without a doubt, defined an era.


Posted by Gen L 14. August 2009 at 11:59 am :

I wish I would have lived in those years

Peace !

Posted by liquidlungs 14. August 2009 at 8:34 pm :

Woodstock was indeed memorable but let’s tip a pint in recognition of the passing of one that made it all possible…….Les Paul. God Bless ya’ and rock on…..eternally.

Posted by Ricardo 15. August 2009 at 1:06 am :

Yes the music was great….But there is too much emphasis on the groups. The great thing about Woodstock was the People. The masses are what made Woodstock so magical. The original plans were canceled and the people all said we are going anyways….and many of the groups followed suit. The Movie highlighted the entertainment but missed the sharing of the Peace Love and music celebration by the people who came.

Posted by Tom Degan 15. August 2009 at 10:00 am :

The Woodstock Festival did not take place in Woodstock, New York but in the town of Bethel which is sixty-seven miles due west. The second day of that mythic, three-day concert coincided with my eleventh birthday (I am going to be fifty-one on Sunday. Yikes! Where did the time go?). I remember quite clearly my friend Tom Finkle and I riding our bikes up to the bridge on South Street that overlooks Route 17 – a four lane highway which snakes its way into Sullivan County where the great event took place. It looked like a long and narrow parking lot. The New York State Thruway had been shut down. To the best of my knowledge, that had never happened before and has not happened since.

To say that it was an exciting time to be alive almost sounds redundant. Less than four weeks earlier, two human beings had walked on the surface of the moon, a technological feat that will probably out shine every other event of the twentieth century in the history books that will be written a thousand years from now. As future decades unwind, it is a certainty that the photographic image of half a million kids, partying and dancing in the mud, will not continue to sustain the cultural significance that it does for us today. The years will pass by, the people who were lucky enough to be there will one day be no more, and the Woodstock Festival will be erased from living memory; a mere footnote to a very crowded century. But what a freaking party, baby!

This weekend I’ll be listening to my copy of the Woodstock Soundtrack LP – on vinyl, of course. The very thought of listening to it on a compact disc seems somehow sacrilegious. Although I could have done without Sha-Na-Na’s version of At The Hop, all in all it’s a pretty good collection of tunes. I have always envied my cousin, the noted falconer Tom Cullen, who was a witness to Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Can you imagine? Canned Heat’s performance of Going Up The Country is one of the great moments in rock history; and for the last forty years, whenever I heard Joan Baez singing Joe Hill, I have had to pause whatever I was doing at the moment and concentrate on it – It is one of the most moving pieces ever recorded on tape.

“If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”

Emma Goldman 1869-1940

Dance with me, Emma!

The last time I looked at my videocassette of Woodstock (which was well over a decade ago) I wondered about the fates of the half-a-million gathered on the fields of Max Yasgur’s farm in Sullivan County on that distant weekend. The passage of four decades decrees that a third or more of them have passed on. The average age of the attendees was about twenty-two. Today would find them approaching their mid-sixties; the age many of their grandparents were in 1969!

There are many good people of that generation who have kept the spirit of the sixties alive – or have tried to anyway. America is not the same country it was forty years ago. 2009 finds us even more polarized than we were during the age of Richard Nixon.

It is no longer merely a “generation gap” that is tearing America apart. The gaps today are almost too numerous to catalog: the political gap; the health insurance gap; the employment gap; the racial gap; the education gap; the class and income gaps. The world is a lot more troubled and sadder than it was in that long ago, magical summer of 1969. Sometimes I feel like a hostage to time. The truth is, for all the technological wonders of the twenty-first century, I just don’t like being here.

No, I’m not going to kill myself. Chill.

Where I come from, Woodstock has a special meaning to people because it happened here – or close enough to count. From where I now sit, Bethel is a mere forty-two miles northwest. According to this morning’s local paper, seventy-five media outlets from all over the world will be covering the events commemorating the anniversary this weekend. That’s enough of a reason for me to stay the hell away. I’m not as crowd-friendly as I once was. Besides, I would have preferred to attend the real thing forty years ago. That would have been too cool for words!

Nostalgia is a permanent human condition. Each generation is nostalgic for the last. It absolutely boggles the mind to think that the year 2049 will find those of us who survive looking back on these hideous times with tender longing. Given our silly human quirks, that will probably be the case. Still, it’s hard not to reflect on the hope that was prevalent in the summer of Woodstock. We want to believe that there is a magical future where, as John Lennon once imagined, there are no countries; nothing to kill or die for. Maybe we will one day arrive at that wondrous place.



Tom Degan
Goshen, NY

Posted by Sandra 16. August 2009 at 7:37 pm :

I have never gotten over my weekend in the cow pasture in NY State….it became part of my life. The music was not as good as the records, but everyone was ‘out there’ and was partying in the glow of Peace and Love. We always said we wanted to do it again..but how could anyone replicate that?
When ?I smell Patchouli oil or incense..it brings it all back..and that ‘glow’ permeates my body and soul.

My mother and Mother-in-Law thought we were crazy…ans we thought they never knew how to have fun and laugh…until they ate my brownies…

Posted by keyla... 25. August 2009 at 1:33 pm :

simplesmente o melhor…
quando teremos outro desse?

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