It was 1969 — the Summer of Love — and some 400,000 people gathered on a farm in upstate New York to get down and naked to the music of Jimi Hendrix, Sly and the Family Stone, Jefferson Airplane, Arlo Guthrie, David Crosby, and many, many others. This was more than just a music festival featuring some of the most important rock and folk artists of the era.
It was a three-day celebration of the counterculture and everything for which it stood. A youthful Martin Scorsese cut his teeth as an editor on Mike Wadleigh’s Academy Award-winning film that documents the most famous rock concert of all time — and one of the defining events of the 1960s.
Monumental in its scope, this legendary documentary uses wide screen and split screen techniques and stereo sound to recreate the experience of the festival in all its peace-loving, mud-splattered glory. While some have criticized the length of the film, the performances — particularly Hendrix’s monumental rendition of the “Star-Spangled Banner” — make it all worthwhile.
The movie did big box office business and a successful three record set sold millions of copies. The Grateful Dead, The Everly Brothers, Credence Clearwater Revival and Janis Joplin performed but were not shown in the film. The Dead’s Jerry Garcia recalled that it was the worse live show the band ever did, ironic for a band known for their spirited live performances.