Michael Lang, who spearheaded Woodstock’s 1969 festival as well as its 1994 and 1999 editions, has died at the age of 77. He passed away at Sloan Kettering in New York City, and according to family spokesperson Michael Pagnotta, his death comes after a battle with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The last time the world publicly saw Lang was a little over two years ago, just before the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, when he was honoring the 50th anniversary of Woodstock’s first festival. He made some controversial attempts to commemorate the anniversary with another rendition of the festival that made his name.
Lang’s start in multi-artist events goes back to the late 1960s, when he hosted his first event, the 1968 Miami Pop Festival, which featured Jimi Hendrix, Frank Zappa, John Lee Hooker, and more. The following year, he launched the first Woodstock festival, which boasted a lineup that included The Grateful Dead, The Who, Santana, Sly and the Family Stone, Joan Baez, Hendrix, and Jefferson Airplane. That first iteration surpassed expectations, but it also had its fair share of downsides.
Woodstock made its return in 1994 and again in 1999, the latter being notorious for the violence, vandalism, and reports of sexual assault that occurred during it. Lang attempted to hold a fourth Woodstock festival in 2019, with a lineup that included Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, Dead and Company, and more, but his plans fell through when the festival’s investors — financial partner Dentsu and its investment division Amplifi — withdrew their $32 million investment, which set off lawsuits. Lang also struggled to receive permits for the festival despite lowering the festival’s capacity to 75,000. He finally pulled the plug on the show, citing “a series of unforeseen setbacks.”
Lang is survived by his wife Tamara, their sons Harry and Laszlo, and his daughters LariAnn, Shala, and Molly.