What happened to Michael Lang?
If you thought Billy McFarland’s Fyre Festival was bad, wait until you hear what happened at Woodstock 1999.
In three episodes, the Netflix documentary series Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 explores the chaos that followed at Woodstock ’99 on the weekend of July 23-25.
Held at the former Griffiss Air Force Base in Rome, New York, the three-day festival saw bands such as Limp Bizkit and Rage Against the Machine grace the main stage while amid the crowds things got serious. uncontrollable on a whole series of problems.
The festival was plagued by poor organization, high prices, no easy access to water, a heat wave, poor sanitation, a trench mouth, violence, sexual assaults and a host of increasingly angry that turned into a real fiery riot on the last day of the festival.
Woodstock ’99 was a far cry from the historic 1969 festival, hosted by then 24-year-old Michael Lang, who was also involved in Woodstock ’94 and Woodstock ’99.
Newsweek has everything you need to know about Michael Lang and what happened to him.
Who is Michael Lang?
Michael Scott Lang was an American concert promoter, producer and manager who co-created and organized the first Woodstock Music & Art Fair in 1969.
Born in Brooklyn in 1944, Lang studied at New York University before dropping out and moving to Florida.
There he became involved in promoting concerts and in 1968, alongside Marshall Brevetz, organized the 1968 Pop & Underground Festival which featured artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Arthur Brown and Frank Zappa.
Lang returned to New York where he met musician, record producer and musical executive Arthur Kornfeld. Together they came up with the idea of celebrating the social movement and countercultures of the 1960s with a festival.
Together, with partners John P. Roberts and Joel Rosenman, Lang created Woodstock in 1969, held at Max Yasgur’s farm in Bethel, New York, from August 15–18, 1969.
Organized at the height of the Vietnam War, Woodstock was billed as three days of peace, love and music. Over 400,000 people descended on Bethel, New York to see Jimi Hendrix, The Who, Joan Baez and more.
Lang would go on to revive the iconic festival in 1994 and 1999, but both events arguably failed to live up to the legacy of ’69.
He also announced the official Woodstock 50 festival, which was due to take place in August 2019 with artists including Jay Z, Miley Cyrus, the Killers and Chance the Rapper on the bill. However, the event was eventually canceled.
Away from Woodstock, in the early 1970s Lang owned Just Sunshine Records which produced and released albums owned by Karen Dalton, Betty Davis and Mississippi Fred McDowell. He has also managed major international artists such as Joe Cocker, Tarkan and Rickie Lee Jones.
What happened to Michael Lang?
Lang died on January 8, 2022 of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. He was 77 years old.
Lang features in Netflix Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99, where he reflects on Woodstock as a whole and the preparation for the 1999 festival. The interview took place three months before his death.
His death was announced by his close friend and family representative, Michael Pagnotta. Writing on Twitter, Pagnotta said: “We are very sad to learn that legendary Woodstock icon and longtime family friend Michael Lang has passed away at age 77 after a brief illness. Rest in peace.”
Lang is survived by his wife, Tamara Pajic, and his two sons, three daughters, a grandson and his sister.
Towards the end of his life, Lang became a music and film producer as well as a musical director, sculptor and critically acclaimed author with his book, The Woodstock Road.
He established the Michael Lang organization covering live events, film production and artist management. The organization has worked with artists such as Outkast, Prince, Missy Elliot, Snoop Dogg, Madonna, Shakira, Bruce Springsteen, Alicia Keys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Avril Lavigne.
Reflecting on the founding of Woodstock, Lang wrote in his bestselling memoir, The Woodstock Roadwrote with music journalist Holly George-Warren: “From the start, I believed that if we did our jobs right and from the bottom of our hearts, if we set the stage and set the right tone, people would reveal their higher selves and would create something amazing.”
Trainwreck: Woodstock ’99 is streaming on Netflix now.