All The Women Rockers Who Performed In Woodstock 1969
The Women of Woodstock
One of the reasons why the Woodstock Festival in 1969 became historical is because of the stellar lineup. From already-established musicians to burgeoning acts, there was no shortage of talent even if there was an overflowing amount of drugs and alcohol at the event. 32 acts performed in less-than-perfect conditions – and of these, only ten women were present on the main stage during the three-day festival. Five of them were band members – Tambura player Maya Kulkarni (who played with sitarist Ravi Shankar), lead vocalist Rose Stone and trumpeter & vocalist Cynthia Robinson (of Sly and the Family Stone), and singer Christina “Licorice” McKechnie and bass player Rose Simpson (of The Incredible String Band).
At the time, female rockers weren’t exactly unheard-of but rock ‘n roll was still a male-dominated industry. Even so, the following women proved they could just perform as good as, or possibly better, than their male contemporaries. Let’s check them out.
5. Nancy “Nansi” Nevins (Sweetwater)
Sweetwater was supposed to open the Woodstock Festival but they were stuck on the freeway so Richie Havens was asked to perform first. Traffic was so bad they had to be flown to the venue by helicopter. Barely four months after Woodstock, Nevins sustained severe injuries following a car accident and it left her vocal chords permanently damaged.
Melanie Safka took the stage on Friday at around 11:00 PM. Prior to Woodstock, she wasn’t a big name in music but she had a few hits in Europe. It was in Woodstock where she finally achieved the fame she deserved. It wasn’t just her performance but the song she wrote about the event. During her set, the crowd raised their lighters and matches while she sang. This inspired to write her breakthrough single “Lay Down (Candles in the Rain).”
3. Janis Joplin
Unlike her set at the Monterey Pop Festival, she wasn’t at her best at Woodstock. She had to wait for hours before she could go up on stage and so she spent the delay time drinking and doing drugs backstage. She was so disappointed with her performance that she refused to be included in the original Woodstock movie and soundtrack. In his 2012 memoir, The Who’s Pete Townshend wrote: “She had been amazing at Monterey, but tonight she wasn’t at her best, due, probably, to the long delay, and probably, too, to the amount of booze and heroin she’d consumed while she waited. But even Janis on an off-night was incredible.”
2. Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane)
She’s the poster child of the Summer of Love. Jefferson Airplane was slated to perform on Saturday night but they were pushed to Sunday morning. It was a great set with “White Rabbit” and “Somebody to Love” and it solidified their rockstar status especially considering they didn’t get enough sleep. Looking back, however, Grace Slick wasn’t too fond of her Woodstock memories. She shared to Forbes, “Woodstock was basically a mess. We really didn’t get to see anybody. We were in a hotel and the roads were all clogged, so they sent a helicopter to pick us up and drop us backstage a half an hour before we were to go on. Things kept getting screwed up. ‘You’re not on now, you’re on in a half hour,’ then they’d say, ‘You’re on now; oh no, now you’re not.’ We originally went to the stage at 9 p.m. and didn’t play until the next morning.”
1. Joan Baez
Although there were anti-war performances (think Jimi Hendrix’s take on The Star Spangled Banner), it was Joan Baez who took the mic and really spoke her mind. She was six months pregnant and her husband David Harris was in prison for refusing to fight in the ongoing Vietnam War. In an interview with the Rolling Stone magazine, she even admitted that she only ate packaged foods for fear that those offered in the backstage were laced with drugs. She also added, “All of a sudden you realize there are 350,000 people out there and something is never going to be the same after that. That is true of Woodstock. It wasn’t political. It wasn’t like [Martin Luther] King, but nothing really was the same after that. Something just takes a little turn in history.”