6 Iconic Woodstock Performances You Need to Watch

August 15, 2017
Jimi Hendrix

Keystone Press Agency/Zuma Wire via USA TODAY NETWORK

When it comes to music festivals, there’s no question that Woodstock reigns supreme. Despite all the mud, despite the all-too-massive and grossly underestimated size of the crowd, and despite all the resulting struggles for artists to arrive, Woodstock was, is, and always will be one of the biggest, most influential moments in the history of music.

The three-day event took place in Bethel, New York from August 15-18, 1969. While more than 100,000 tickets were sold, there were over half a million people in attendance to watch 32 acts (Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, and Jimi Hendrix, to name a few) give epic performances—see 6 of those performances below.  


6. Jefferson Airplane – “Somebody to Love”

Jefferson Airplane were booked as Saturday headliners, as they had already gained popularity around San Francisco. While they didn’t hit the stage until close to 8 AM on Sunday morning, they still gave a wildly impressive show.

5. The Who – “My Generation”

Originally set to play Saturday night, The Who didn’t end up going on until Sunday morning at about 5 AM. Based on this performance, it was worth the wait for seven minutes of the classic “My Generation” culminating in a guitar smashing from Pete Townshend.

4. Santana – “Soul Sacrifice”

Santana wasn’t incredibly well-known at the time, but after their mind-blowing Saturday performance (and that “Soul Sacrifice” drum solo!) and a self-titled album released that same month, who could ignore these guys?

3. Richie Havens – “Freedom”

Richie Havens was asked to draw out his set once it became clear that traffic would delay other artists from getting into the fest. Once his (multiple) encores left him with no more songs to play, he got creative, improvising the song below which became known as “Freedom.” Slow clap for the Woodstock traffic.

2. Joe Cocker – “With A Little Help From My Friends”

Scheduled as Sunday’s first act, Joe Cocker ended up playing much later that day. And while he was lesser known at the time, his run at Woodstock put him on the map. With a voice like that, it’s hard to believe he’s not lip syncing in the performance below.

1. Jimi Hendrix – “The Star-Spangled Banner”

Can you imagine going to Woodstock and then missing this truly impossible-to-replicate performance? It happened, though—and to a lot of people. Hendrix was supposed to be the closing performance Sunday night but didn’t begin playing until Monday morning around 9 AM. By that time, many festival goers had already left, but at least we can relive that gorgeous performance below.


Of course, there were plenty more incredible acts. You can see the full lineup and each artist's set list here.