Top 11 Highest Paid Woodstock ’69 Performers – Who Made The Cut?
(L) tumblr via bobdylan-n-jonimitchell, (C) woodstock.com, (R) woodstock.com
Who Made The Cut?
Iconic music festival Woodstock may have been all about peace and love, but at the end of the day their artists still had bills to pay, equipment to buy, and mouths to feed.
One of rock and roll’s more well kept secrets, we’ve always wondered what some of Woodstock’s most iconic performers were paid to play some of the most iconic concert sets in history, and we know you have too – so in honor of the burning curiosity in rock and rollers around the world, here are the 11 highest paid Woodstock performers.
11. Richie Havens | $6,000 ($39,116.24 today)
Originally slated to go on 5th, Richie Havens got the honor of opening Woodstock when the festival’s openers were late due to the massive traffic jam caused by festival goers. Havens made history with his ‘spontaneous’ acoustic jam, “Freedom” and following his death in 2013 at the age of 72, had his ashes scattered over the original site where Woodstock was held. Aside from his legendary Woodstock performance, he’s widely known for his guitar style which was both rhythmic and intense. And lest we forget, he’s a folk icon who has played unforgettable and soulful covers. One on interview, Havens shared that amazing experience at the music festival: “I was supposed to sing 40 minutes, which I did, and from the side of the stage they go, ‘Richie, four more songs?’ I went back and did that, then it was, ‘Four more songs…’ and that kept happening ’til two hours and 45 minutes later I had sung every song I know.”
Total paid: $6,000.
10. The Who | $6,250 ($40,746.08 today)
British rock legends The Who hit the stage at 5am on Sunday, August 17th just before Jefferson Airplane where they dazzled with their rock opera Tommy and some of their classics. Pete Townshend even got to hit Abbie Hoffman, who in what’s famously known now as The Abbie Hoffman Incident, rushed the stage and grabbed Townshend’s mic as he tuned his guitar. Their time wasn’t as long as other performers but dang, they sure left a mark in rock history. The main highlight was Pete Townshend tearing into their old hit ‘My Generation’ and doing his usual theatrics – the ritualistic guitar smashing. When Author Ken Sharp sat down and asked Pete Townshend about Woodstock, Townshend wasn’t really that enthusiastic saying: “Woodstock could have been a beginning, not an end. There were nearly a million very good souls there, with the best intentions. What went wrong? I don’t know. Maybe nothing. I didn’t have a good time. It was just another gig to me — a particularly tough one.”
Total paid: $6,250.
9. Canned Heat | $6,500 ($42,375.93 today)
Boogie rockers Canned Heat hit the stage at sunset on Saturday, August 16th where for an hour, fans danced to classics like “Going Up The Country” (the band’s most popular song which also became the festival’s unofficial theme song), “Let’s Work Together” and “On The Road Again”. Famous for their lengthy psychedelic solos, the band gained massive success and global fame after their Monterey Pop and Woodstock performance. In the released Woodstock film, one fan climbed the stage and almost interrupted the set. But instead of throwing or kicking him out, lead singer Bob Hite shared a cigarette with him. Yep, he’s cool like that. Canned Heat arrived at the venue via helicopter. Decades later, they remain very influential and in fact, the band is still around. They’re consisted of some of the surviving members who also played during Woodstock – Adolfo de la Parra, Larry Taylor and Harvey Mandel. Although according to their official website, Harvey is currently undergoing medical procedures.
Total paid: $6,500.
8. Sly And The Family Stone | $7,000 ($45,635.61 today)
If you weren’t dancing when Sly & The Family Stone hit the stage, you just had no soul! Playing at 3:30 AM and hot on the heels of Janis Joplin’s career defining set, Sly & The Family Stone kept the audience dancing to classics like “Dance To The Music” and “I Want To Take You Higher” until well after the sun came up. It was that double whammy which propelled the band into international stardom. They were at their best during Woodstock and their performance was nothing short of legendary. The success of “Stand!”, their fourth studio album, landed them a slot at the music festival. The band fused pop, psychedelia, soul and funk and thus their hits were irresistibly catchy. They’re a groundbreaking group making revolutionary music and they were able to influence a wide variety of music genre from R&B to disco and soul. One of the greats? Absolutely.
Total paid: $7,000.
7. Jefferson Airplane | $7,500 ($48,895.30 today)
The biggest band out of San Francisco, psychedelic outfit Jefferson Airplane delivered one of the most unforgettable sets in history on the balmy morning of Sunday, August 17th. With hits like “Somebody To Love” and “White Rabbit,” singer Grace Slick belted her way into rock history as one of the voices that helped define a generation but not before she introduced the band by saying, “Alright friends, you have seen the heavy groups, now you will see morning maniac music, believe me, yeah… It’s the new dawn…” When she was interviewed by the Rolling Stone magazine, Grace talked about some of her Woodstock experience: “We were smoking dope and drinking wine and sitting around. It was a very large stage. Then 10 o’clock came and they’d say, “You’re playing in an hour.” Then we played at something like 7 in the morning. It was light. You don’t play rock & roll at 7 in the morning!” They performed in front of a tired and hung over crowd.
Total paid: $7,500.
6. Janis Joplin | $7,500 ($48,895.30 today)
The queen of blue eyed soul hit the stage at 2am after a day of partying and though she would claim until her October 4, 1970 death at 27 that her Woodstock performance was her worst, we disagree. She brought an element of soul to Woodstock that was unmatched, with a stage presence that would go on to define the entire affair. Although the event promoters advertised that Janis would be headlining the festival, she reportedly had no idea about it until a few days earlier. She thought it was just another gig but after seeing a huge crowd, she started feeling nervous. While waiting for 10 hours backstage, she was drinking hard. And so, she took the stage while drunk. Nevertheless, while it wasn’t her finest moment, the performance was strong all the same. The highlight was when she sang “Work Me, Lord” and “Kozmic Blues.” The Who’s Pete Townshend wrote in his memoir: “Even Janis on an off-night was incredible.”
Total paid: $7,500.
5. The Band | $7,500 ($48,895.30 today)
With only one album under their belt when they hit the stage at 10pm on the final night of the festival, folk-rockers The Band were already a crowd favorite! In fact, their take on Bob Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released” was played so sweet that “even Mr. Dylan would have smiled,” says a contributor at Woodstock Wiki. Their performance didn’t disappoint and in fact, they quickly became icons. Unfortunately, they were not included in the Woodstock film for some legal reasons. Lead guitarist Robbie Robertson told the Rolling Stone magazine, “We played a slow, haunting set of mountain music. We lived up there, near Woodstock, and it seemed kind of appropriate from our point of view. We did songs like ‘Long Black Veil’ and ‘The Weight,’ and everything had a bit of reverence to it. Even the faster songs sounded almost religious.” Later in the year, though, they performed at the Isle of Wight Festival with their mentor Bob Dylan.
Total paid: $7,500
4. Creedence Clearwater Revival | $10,000 ($65,193.73 today)
Though CCR had a later set coming hot on the heels of The Grateful Dead, their 12:30am set got the drowsy Woodstock crowd on its feet, stomping and whistling as Creedence’s bluesy blend of rock, folk, and country music took them into the wee hours of the morning. It was so catchy it eventually became one of the major highlights of the festival. Their set list contained songs from their first three albums and it was a pretty tight performance – hardly any room for improvisations. The band’s bass guitarist later said in a phone interview: “I think the best of society, the best in people came out at that event. There was no violence, no anti-social behavior. Everybody pulled together and really helped each other out. It was a very amazing thing to see. There will certainly never be another Woodstock. The times are just so different now.” If anything, this only made us want to go back in time.
Total paid: $10,000.
3. Joan Baez | $10,000 ($65,193.73 today)
It wouldn’t have been Woodstock without the beautiful Joan Baez, who closed out the first day of the festival with songs like “I Shall Be Released” and “We Shall Overcome” – bringing a much needed moment of peace to an otherwise crazy day. Folk singer and labor activist, she’s often considered as Bob Dylan’s female counterpart. At the time, she was six months pregnant with her son Gabriel. Her voice was so exquisitely beautiful and hauntingly sublime the audience stayed captivated until the end of her set which lasted for about an hour. It was like a peaceful end to an absolutely chaotic first day of the event. Her contemporary folk songs were mainly protest or talked about social justice. In Woodstock, she treated the crowd to an a cappella performance of “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” Joan Baez has released more than 30 albums in her entire career spanning for more than 50 years.
Total paid: $10,000.
2. Blood, Sweat & Tears | $15,000 ($97,790.60 today)
One of the last bands to close out the festival with a 1am performance stretching into the morning of Monday, August 18th, Blood, Sweat & Tears brought a new level of musical diversity to Woodstock with their unique blend of jazz, psychedelic, soul and R&B. They gained popularity owing to their distinctive sound and the crowd loved how they were able to contribute to the festival’s musical diversity. It’s no surprise they ended up with a slot at Woodstock considering they were at the top of their game at the time. The film crew recorded “More and More” which was the band’s opening number but their manager, Bennett Glozer, told them to turn it off because they did not agree to be filmed. Nevertheless, there are snippets of recordings on the internet – mostly taken by an audience member. Lead vocalist David Clayton-Thomas also revealed: “If you notice the Woodstock movie, none of the headliners are in it. The Grateful Dead aren’t in it. The Band isn’t in it. Dylan’s not in it. Janis Joplin’s not in it. They cut us out so they wouldn’t have to pay us.”
Total paid: $15,000.
1. Jimi Hendrix | $18,000 ($117,348.72 today)
The highest paid act at Woodstock was also the one whose performance literally made history – but played to the smallest crowd! Jimi Hendrix hit the stage early on the morning of Monday, August 18 and played to a crowd of only 150,000 people as opposed to the 500 to 600,000 fans that had been there previously. It was mainly due to some technical problems and the uncooperative weather. His controversial rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” became the official anthem for Woodstock – a festival for peace and love during a time of a war they didn’t quite believe in. It has set the bar for those who play the National Anthem. And for anyone who witnessed that iconic moment – it was surreal to say the least. His face-melting, blistering solo act was worth the wait. The 2-hour performance showed the true musical genius of Jimi Hendrix and his out-of-this-world guitar skills.
Total paid: $18,000.