Michael Lang
Michael Lang - Afterparty, "Taking Woodstock" (3802811192) (cropped).jpg
Lang in 2009
Born(1944-12-11)December 11, 1944
DiedJanuary 8, 2022(2022-01-08) (aged 77)
New York City, U.S.
OccupationConcert promoter, producer
Known forWoodstock Festival
Children5

Michael Scott Lang (December 11, 1944 – January 8, 2022)[1] was an American concert promoter, producer, and artistic manager who was best known as a co-creator of the Woodstock Music & Art Festival in 1969.[2] Lang served as the organizer of the event,[3][4] as well as the organizer for its follow-up events, Woodstock '94 and the ill-fated Woodstock '99.[3] He later became a producer of records, films, and other concerts, as well as a manager for performing artists, a critically acclaimed author, and a sculptor.

Early life

Lang was born in Brooklyn to a Jewish-American family.[5][6][7]

In 1967, Lang dropped out of New York University and moved to Coconut Grove, Florida, to open a head shop. In 1968, after promoting a series of concert events in the Miami area, Lang (with Marshall Brevetz) produced the 1968 Pop & Underground Festival. It drew approximately 25,000 people on day one (May 18) and featured Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, John Lee Hooker, Arthur Brown, and Blue Cheer. On the afternoon of the second day (May 19) it started to rain and the event ended early.[citation needed]

Career

Woodstock Festivals 1969, 1994, 1999, 2019

After he moved to Woodstock, New York, and met Artie Kornfeld, the two developed the concept for a major festival event to celebrate the 1960s social movements and planned to open a recording studio in the town of Woodstock. With Kornfeld and partners John P. Roberts and Joel Rosenman, Lang initiated the planning of Woodstock festival, which was held on Max Yasgur's farm in Bethel, New York, August 15–18, 1969.

Michael Lang was featured in many scenes of the 1970 documentary film, Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace & Music.

Lang also produced Woodstock '94 with partners Roberts, Rosenman, and co-producer John Scher, and Woodstock '99 with John Scher and Ossie Kilkenny. In contrast to the previous Woodstock festivals Lang organized, Woodstock '99 proved to be more chaotic and violent.[8]

In May 2014, Lang revealed plans for a possible fiftieth anniversary of the first Woodstock concert to be held in 2019, and that he was exploring various locations.[9]

On January 9, 2019, Lang announced the official Woodstock 50 festival would take place August 16–18, 2019, in Watkins Glen, New York.[10] However, the event was cancelled after confronting many logistical issues, financial backing issues, and three venue changes.[11]

In September 2021, about three months before his death, Lang was interviewed for a three-part Netflix documentary called Trainwreck: Woodstock '99, detailing how the festival of the same name became a catastrophe.[12]

Altamont free concert

Lang was not among the producers of the December 6, 1969, Altamont Free Concert that some had billed as a "Woodstock West." However, Lang was asked by the Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead to assist with the last-moment re-location, from Sears Point Raceway to the Altamont Speedway, near Tracy, California.

Initially, the concert was planned for Golden Gate Park and was to feature the Rolling Stones, the Grateful Dead, Santana, Jefferson Airplane, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The city of San Francisco revoked the permits for the Golden Gate venue, ostensibly due to a San Francisco 49ers football game at Kezar Stadium, located in the park on the scheduled date. Subsequently, the concert was moved to Sears Point Raceway. However, a dispute over film rights led to its cancellation. Lang and Grateful Dead manager Rock Scully were then offered the Altamont Speedway—a rival to Sears Point Raceway—by owner Dick Carter. After the venue was set for the concert, Lang appeared, with his experience in moving the much larger Woodstock festival.[13] The venue was moved on December 4 to the racetrack with the concert starting December 6.

The venue change created major technical problems, including a stage built too low and close to the fans. The Hells Angels were then hired for stage security, which resulted in numerous fights with concertgoers, as well as an on-stage altercation with members of Jefferson Airplane, in which singer Marty Balin was struck and knocked unconscious. Audience member Meredith Hunter was stabbed and killed when he rushed the stage with a gun while the Rolling Stones were performing. These incidents were captured on film and appear in the Maysles Brothers documentary film Gimme Shelter. There were also three accidental deaths among the crowd of 300,000.

Lang is seen in the film. Lang last appears onstage, walking away during the scuffle on the stage between the Hells Angels and the Jefferson Airplane.

Just Sunshine Records

Lang owned and operated Just Sunshine Records, which produced and released more than 40 albums by such diverse musical artists as Karen Dalton, Betty Davis, and Mississippi Fred McDowell. Lang also managed several successful international recording artists, including Joe Cocker, Rickie Lee Jones, Willy DeVille, Tarkan, and Spanish recording artists El Ultimo de la Fila. The label was active and distributed by Gulf & Western's Famous Music Group from 1971 until 1974.

Joe Cocker

Shortly after The Woodstock Music And Arts Fair in 1969, Lang began managing Joe Cocker, who appeared at the original Woodstock concert. Their professional relationship continued for more than twenty years. Lang made an appearance in Cocker's "You Can Leave Your Hat On" music video as a flugelhorn player.

Later years

Lang was associate producer of Wes Anderson's 1996 film Bottle Rocket.[14]

The Michael Lang Organization (MLO) encompasses live event production, film production, and artist management. Projects included a fiftieth anniversary event for the Lincoln Center featuring the French Theater company Royal de luxe, a Woodstock fiftieth anniversary event planned for summer 2019 that ultimately was cancelled, a movie version of the cult classic novel The Master and Margarita, and theater projects in Turkey and South Korea. Additionally, with his partners in Woodstock Ventures, Lang was developing future projects that included a Broadway musical based on Woodstock the musical and a Woodstock lifestyle brand.

MLO worked with the following artists: Outkast, Prince, Missy Elliott, Snoop Dogg, Steely Dan, The Fugees, Wyclef Jean, Tarkan, Shakira, Madonna, Norah Jones, Marc Anthony, Twista, Dave Matthews, Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, Kid Rock, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Christina Aguilera, Linkin Park, Avril Lavigne, and Joe Cocker.[15]

In 2009, Woodstock Ventures (Michael Lang, Joel Rosenman, and the John Roberts estate) formed joint venture with Sony Music Entertainment and launched a new woodstock.com.[16] The site celebrates the history of the original Woodstock Festival.

In the 2009 Ang Lee film Taking Woodstock, Michael Lang is portrayed by actor Jonathan Groff.

In 2009, Lang co-authored with Holly George-Warren the critically acclaimed New York Times Best Seller The Road to Woodstock.

Personal life and death

Lang was also a sculptor. He had five children. His first wife, vocalist Ann Lang, toured as a backup singer with Joe Cocker and Leon Russell from 1978 to 1982. At the time of his death, he was married to Tamara Pajic.[1]

Lang died from non-Hodgkin lymphoma at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City on January 8, 2022, at the age of 77.[3][17]

References

  1. ^ a b Sisario, Ben (January 11, 2022). "Michael Lang, a Force Behind the Woodstock Festival, Dies at 77". The New York Times. Retrieved January 14, 2022.
  2. ^ Benitez-Eves, Tina (January 9, 2022). "Woodstock Festival Co-Creator Michael Lang Dies at 77". American Songwriter. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  3. ^ a b c Halperin, Shirley; Willman, Chris (January 9, 2022). "Michael Lang, Woodstock Co-Creator, Dies at 77". Variety. Retrieved January 9, 2022.
  4. ^ Shutler, Ali (January 9, 2021). "Woodstock organiser Michael Lang has died". NME. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
  5. ^ Bloom, Nate (August 14, 2009). "Woodstock - The Jewish connection". The Jewish Standard. One of the promoters of that concert was Michael Lang, now 65, a Jewish guy from Brooklyn.
  6. ^ Bloom, Nate (August 19, 2009). "The Hidden Jewish History of Woodstock". 18Doors.
  7. ^ Benarde, Scott R. (July 1, 2003). Stars of David: Rock'n'roll's Jewish Stories. Brandeis University Press. p. 126. ISBN 978-1584653035. Four Jews organized the Woodstock Festival: Michael Lang, Artie Kornfeld, John Roberts, and Joel Rosenman
  8. ^ "Woodstock '99 ends in fiery chaos". Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. July 26, 1999. p. 4A. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
  9. ^ Newman, Jason (May 30, 2014). "Woodstock Organizer Plotting 50th Anniversary Concert for 2019 : Michael Lang in early stages of semicentennial celebration". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 29, 2016.
  10. ^ Greene, Andy (January 9, 2019). "Three-Day Woodstock Festival From Original Organizer Coming This Summer". Rolling Stone. Retrieved January 9, 2019.
  11. ^ Grow, Kory (July 31, 2019). "Woodstock 50 Is Officially Canceled". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 4, 2021.
  12. ^ "Woodstock co-founder Michael Lang passed away in January 2022 aged 77". HITC. August 4, 2022.
  13. ^ Inside History of the Grateful Dead by Dennis McNally – Broadway (August 12, 2003) ISBN 0-7679-1186-5
  14. ^ "Bottle Rocket (1996) - IMDb" – via www.imdb.com.
  15. ^ Michael Lang: His hair remains the same, so does his energy – Hürriyet. Translation by Ali Yildirim
  16. ^ Video on YouTube
  17. ^ Neog, Anupal Sraban. "What is non-Hodgkin's lymphoma? Michael Lang's cause of death explored as tributes pour in for Woodstock festival co-founder". Sportskeeda. Retrieved January 12, 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)

Sources