What Were the 32 Bands That Performed at Woodstock?

By: Kathryn Whitbourne  | 
Woodstock crowd
Hundreds of thousands of people attended the Woodstock Music and Art Festival, August 1969 on Max Yasgur's dairy farm in Bethel, New York. Howard Arnold Collection/Getty Images

The Woodstock Music and Art Festival was held Aug. 15-18, 1969, not in Woodstock but in Bethel, New York, 40 miles (64 kilometers) away. Woodstock was supposed to host the festival, but when rumors spread that attendance could reach 1 million people, the city backed out. Farmer Max Yasgur saved the concert by hosting more than 500,000 attendees in his alfalfa field.

With the huge crowd, there were shortages of food, water and restrooms, but most revelers still enjoyed some of the best musical acts of the era. Here's the lineup from that fateful weekend.


1. Richie Havens

Richie Havens, a Greenwich Village folk singer, got the concert started around 5 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15. He played eight songs, including the memorable "Motherless Child," which he ended with the word "freedom" sung over and over. After Woodstock, Havens continued to tour and release albums, and in 1993 he performed at the inauguration ceremonies for President Bill Clinton. He died in 2013.


2. Sweetwater

Sweetwater — who pioneered the psychedelic rock/classical fusion style later picked up by Jefferson Airplane — was the first band to perform at the festival. They played eight songs, including "What's Wrong," "Crystal Spider" and "Why Oh Why." After Woodstock, Sweetwater disbanded when lead singer Nansi Nevins was badly injured in a car accident. They reunited for Woodstock '94.


3. Bert Sommer

Bert Sommer was a folk singer and former member of the baroque-pop group The Left Banke. Sommer played 10 songs at the festival, including "Jennifer," "Jeanette" and "America." He continued to record and perform until his death in 1990.


4. Tim Hardin

Tim Hardin was also a Greenwich Village folk musician and composer. During his set, Hardin performed only two songs solo — "Misty Roses" and "If I Were a Carpenter," which was a top-10 hit for Bobby Darin. The rest of the set, he performed with his band. Hardin continued to record until 1973 and died of a heroin and morphine overdose in 1980.


5. Ravi Shankar

Bengali-Indian musician and composer Ravi Shankar is best known for teaching George Harrison to play the sitar. His work with Harrison and other rock stars landed him a gig at Woodstock, where he played five songs in the rain, including "Tabla Solo in Jhaptal." He wasn't a fan of the drug-taking crowd. Today, his daughters Anoushka Shankar and Norah Jones are both successful musicians. Shankar died in 2012.


6. Melanie

Melanie, born Melanie Anne Safka-Schekeryk, made her first recording at age 5 and was successful in Europe with "Beautiful People," one of the two songs she performed at Woodstock. She later recorded "Lay Down (Candles in the Rain)" after being inspired by the Woodstock audience lighting candles during her set, which started at 11 p.m. on Friday, amid rain.


7. Arlo Guthrie

Before Woodstock, Arlo Guthrie — the son of folk singer and composer Woody Guthrie — was best known for his 18-minute-long song (and subsequent film) "Alice's Restaurant," which describes how he avoided the draft. Arlo played "Coming into Los Angeles," "Walking Down the Line" and "Amazing Grace" at Woodstock. He continues to record and perform.


8. Joan Baez

Day one at Woodstock closed with Joan Baez, probably the most famous folk and protest singer to perform at the festival. It was 1 a.m., so technically it was day two. Baez performed 12 songs at Woodstock, including her hits "Joe Hill" and "Sweet Sir Galahad" and classics such as "Swing Low Sweet Chariot" and "We Shall Overcome." After more than 60 years in the music biz, Baez continues to record and perform songs about nonviolence, civil and human rights and the environment.


9. Quill

Day two at Woodstock kicked off around noon with the Boston band Quill. They had opened for several notable artists, including The Who, Sly and the Family Stone, The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin. At Woodstock, Quill played four songs, including "They Live the Life" and "Waitin' for You." After Woodstock, Quill released its first album, which fizzled, and the band broke up in 1970.


10. Country Joe McDonald

Country Joe McDonald made an unscheduled appearance at Woodstock without his band, The Fish. McDonald's solo set included "I Find Myself Missing You," "I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag" and the "Fish Cheer," a song where he usually spelled out the word fish with the audience, but at Woodstock, he spelled another four-letter F-word instead. He came back to perform with his band on Sunday.

11. Santana

Carlos Santana (right) and bassist David Brown at Woodstock
Carlos Santana (right) and bassist David Brown perform with the group Santana at Woodstock. Tucker Ransom/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The career of Latin rock guitarist Carlos Santana got a major boost when concert producer Bill Graham convinced Woodstock promoters to book the band, even though they hadn't yet released an album. The band played seven songs, including "Waiting," "Jingo" and the 11-minute instrumental "Soul Sacrifice," which was considered a highlight of the festival.

Although the 1970 album "Abraxas" reached No. 1 on the album charts and sold more than 4 million copies, Carlos Santana wouldn't come close to this success until the 1999 release of "Supernatural," a collaboration with Eric Clapton, Wyclef Jean and other artists. It sold a whopping 30 million copies worldwide. The album garnered eight Grammy awards, including Album of the Year and Record of the Year for the song "Smooth" with Rob Thomas.

12. John Sebastian

John Sebastian is best known as a founder of the Lovin' Spoonful, members of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Sebastian wasn't scheduled to appear at the festival, but he played five songs, including "I Had a Dream" and "Rainbows Over Your Blues." In 1976, he had a No. 1 single with the TV theme song "Welcome Back, Kotter." Sebastian continues to record and tour and promoted a collection of the 1960's greatest hits via infomercial.

13. The Keef Hartley Band

The Keef Hartley Band, which mixed elements of jazz, blues and rock, was one of the few British bands to play at Woodstock. Keef Hartley's career took off when he replaced Ringo Starr as the drummer for Rory Storm and the Hurricanes when Ringo joined The Beatles. At Woodstock, the band played eight songs, including "Spanish Fly" and "Rock Me Baby." Hartley recorded until the mid-1970s and died in 2011.

14. The Incredible String Band

The Incredible String Band was a Scottish acoustic band that formed in the early 1960s and later switched to psychedelic folk music. They were supposed to perform Friday, but didn't want to play in the rain, causing Melanie to go on in their place. Their set of four songs included "The Letter" and "This Moment." The Incredible String Band broke up in 1974, reunited in 2003, and broke up again in 2006.

15. Canned Heat

Blues-rock/boogie band Canned Heat performed four songs at Woodstock, including "Goin' Up the Country" and "Let's Work Together." In 1970, they brought in blues singer and guitarist John Lee Hooker to record the double album, "Hooker 'n' Heat." While many of the original members have died, Canned Heat has replaced them and continues to perform and record.

16. Mountain

The rock band Mountain was playing only its fourth live gig when it performed 13 songs at Woodstock, including "Stormy Monday," "Waiting to Take You Away" and "Theme for an Imaginary Western." Mountain broke up and re-formed a number of times after Woodstock and is currently back together and performing, but without founding member Felix Pappalardi, who was shot and killed by his wife April 17, 1983.

17. The Grateful Dead

The Grateful Dead was known for performing long live jams of their combination of rock, folk, bluegrass, blues, country, jazz, psychedelia and gospel. Formed in San Francisco in 1965 by guitarist Jerry Garcia, The Grateful Dead performed four long songs at Woodstock: "St. Stephen," "Mama Tried," "Dark Star/High Time" and "Turn on Your Love Light." Their set was delayed because of rain and technical difficulties, so they finished around midnight.

The Grateful Dead continued to tour regularly for its "Deadhead" followers until Jerry Garcia died in August 1995. The remaining members disbanded, but later reunited to form The Other Ones and in 2003 renamed themselves The Dead. Now they tour as Dead & Company.

18. Creedence Clearwater Revival

Heavily influenced by the swamp blues music that came out of Louisiana in the late '50s and early '60s, Creedence Clearwater Revival formed in the San Francisco Bay area in 1959. They hit their peak in early 1969, just in time for Woodstock.

At the festival, they performed an 11-song set that included "Bad Moon Rising" and "Proud Mary." Their performance was not included in the Woodstock film or album, apparently because lead singer John Fogerty didn't like their performance. CCR broke up in 1972, but Fogerty emerged as a solo artist in the mid-1980s and continues to record and tour.

19. Janis Joplin

Before her death from a heroin overdose in 1970, Janis Joplin made a huge impact on rock music with four albums and memorable performances. At Woodstock, she gave a spirited execution of 10 songs, including "To Love Somebody," "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)," and "Piece of My Heart," starting around 2 a.m. Her biggest-selling album "Pearl," released posthumously in 1971, featured her hit single "Me and Bobby McGee" and the a cappella song "Mercedes-Benz."

20. Sly and the Family Stone

One of the first racially integrated bands, San Francisco's Sly and the Family Stone combined soul, funk and psychedelia in its music. They played eight songs at Woodstock, including "Dance to the Music," "Stand!," "Everyday People" and "I Want to Take You Higher," starting around 3:30 a.m. Woodstock made the band popular, but Sly Stone's drug use brought them down.

When the band was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, many of the founding members performed, but Sly, in a surprise appearance, accepted his award and disappeared. Then, during a Sly and the Family Stone tribute at the 2006 Grammy Awards, Sly joined the band in the middle of "I Want to Take You Higher," but left the stage before the song ended.

21. The Who

Woodstock was The Who's biggest performance since the release of their groundbreaking rock opera "Tommy." Their 24-song set began around 5 a.m. Sunday morning and included many songs from Tommy as well as "I Can't Explain," "Shakin' All Over" and "My Generation." At the conclusion of their set, Pete Townshend slammed his guitar into the stage and threw it into the crowd.

Drummer Keith Moon died in 1978 from a prescription drug overdose and the group officially disbanded in 1983 but have reunited for various events and tours over the years. In 1990, The Who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and they continue to tour.

22. Jefferson Airplane

Grace Slick, Jefferson Airplane, Woodstock
Singer Grace Slick performs with Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock. Getty Images/Getty Images

Jefferson Airplane's eight-song set took off at 8 a.m. Sunday morning. This psychedelic rock band from San Francisco performed such hits as "Volunteers," "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit." After Woodstock, Jefferson Airplane continued to perform and record hits under different names, including Starship and Jefferson Starship the Next Generation. Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

23. Joe Cocker

Joe Cocker took the stage around 2 p.m. The English rock and blues musician performed five songs, including his version of The Beatles' song "With a Little Help from My Friends," as well as "Something's Goin' On." Cocker overcame problems with drug and alcohol abuse and continued to tour sporadically. He died in 2014.

24. Country Joe and The Fish

After a rain delay lasting several hours, Country Joe returned, this time with his band The Fish, taking the stage around 6 p.m. They played four songs, including "Rock and Soul Music" and "Love Machine." In 2004, Country Joe formed the Country Joe Band with some of the original band members and went on tour.

25. Ten Years After

English blues-rock band Ten Years After performed five songs at Woodstock, including "Good Morning Little Schoolgirl," "Help Me" and "I'm Going Home." Between 1967 and 1974, Ten Years After recorded and released 10 multimillion-selling albums, before breaking up in 1975. After their entire catalog was digitally remastered and rereleased in 2001, three of the founding members got back together and are again recording and touring.

26. The Band

Originally known as The Hawks, the careers of Canadian-American musicians The Band took flight when Bob Dylan recruited them as his backing band for his 1965-1966 world tour. They subsequently recorded four albums with Dylan. At Woodstock, their 11-song set included the songs "Tears of Rage," "Long Black Veil" and "Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever."

The Band broke up in 1976, then reformed in 1983 without founding guitarist and main songwriter Robbie Robertson. They are members of both the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

27. Johnny Winter

Albino blues singer and guitarist Johnny Winter released his first album in 1968. He performed nine songs at Woodstock, including two with his brother Edgar Winter, also a blues singer with albinism. The set included "Johnny B. Goode," "I Can't Stand It" and "Tobacco Road."

In 1977, Johnny produced Muddy Waters' Grammy Award-winning comeback album, "Hard Again." In 1988, Johnny was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame. He died in 2014.

28. Blood, Sweat and Tears

When they performed at Woodstock, jazz-rock band Blood, Sweat and Tears were still riding high from their 1969 Grammy win for Album of the Year for their self-titled sophomore album. The band's five-song set at Woodstock included "Spinning Wheel" and "Something Coming On." Blood, Sweat and Tears broke up and re-formed a number of times and continues to tour.

29. Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young

Folk rock supergroup Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young began their 16-song set around 3 a.m. Sunday night (or make that Monday morning). Made up of former members of The Byrds, The Hollies and Buffalo Springfield, Woodstock was only their second gig. Their nine-song acoustic set included "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" and "Marrakesh Express." The electric set that followed included "Long Time Gone" and "Find the Cost of Freedom."

They later recorded the song "Woodstock" to commemorate the festival and for a while they rivaled The Beatles in terms of popularity. But their superegos caused the group to disband in mid-1970. They've all enjoyed success as solo artists and have reunited in various configurations to record and tour over the years. David Crosby died in 2023./\r\n/

30. Paul Butterfield Blues Band

Paul Butterfield was a harmonica player and singer who brought the Chicago electric blues style to rock. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band's five-song set at Woodstock included "Everything's Gonna Be Alright," "Driftin'," and "Born Under a Bad Sign." Butterfield broke up the Blues Band in 1970 and formed a new group called Better Days. He performed solo in the late 1970s and early '80s and died in 1987 from a drug and alcohol overdose.

31. Sha Na Na

By far the funniest band to perform at Woodstock was Sha Na Na, a group that covered doo-wop songs from the 1950s while clowning around in period outfits. At Woodstock — only the seventh gig of their career — they performed nine songs, including "Yakety Yak," "Wipe Out" and "At the Hop."

At the time, Sha Na Na did not have a record deal, but they received one immediately afterward and went on to release more than 25 albums. From 1977 to 1982, the group even had its own hit TV show, but after several decades, they decided to stop touring.

32. Jimi Hendrix

Perhaps the most influential guitarist in rock music history, Jimi Hendrix insisted on closing the show. He was scheduled to perform at midnight, but his set was delayed until around 9 a.m. Monday morning. By that time, the crowd, which once numbered more than 500,000, had dwindled to an estimated 80,000.

Still, Hendrix played a 16-song set that featured hits such as "Foxy Lady," "Purple Haze" and "Hey Joe." He also played a striking and memorable rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner."

On Sept. 18, 1970, Hendrix was found dead in London. It is believed that he asphyxiated on his own vomit following an overdose of sleeping pills. Hendrix was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the U.K. Music Hall of Fame in 2005.


Helen Davies, Marjorie Dorfman, Mary Fons, Deborah Hawkins, Martin Hintz, Linnea Lundgren, David Priess, Julia Clark Robinson, Paul Seaburn, Heidi Stevens and Steve Theunissen