US #3188b from the Celebrate the Century series.  Click image to order.

On August 18, 1969, Jimi Hendrix ended Woodstock with a two-hour performance that included one of the most iconic moments in music history.

During the turbulent 1960s, the hippie culture opposed traditional values and violence.  In 1969, four visionaries saw a chance to bring people together and show the world there was another way to live – with freedom and love. 

US #4916 – The fifth stamp in the Music Icons Series. Click image to order.

Concert organizers intended to have the show in Woodstock, an upstate New York writers and artists colony that was also Bob Dylan’s hometown.  But the offer was rejected, and six hundred acres of farmland in nearby Bethel became the concert site.

US #4880 – The fourth stamp in the Music Icons Series. Click image to order.

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair officially opened on August 15, 1969.  Promoters hoped to sell 100,000 tickets at $18 each for the three-day event.  But by Sunday, over 400,000 people had arrived.  Many had entered without paying admission.

The overwhelming crowd made maintaining proper sanitation, shelter, and food difficult.  Even with the problems that arose – like traffic jams, lack of drinking water, and severe thunderstorms – the Woodstock festival was considered a success.  The crowd coped with the inadequate conditions and behaved peacefully during the entire concert, even though there were few security members on hand.

Tanzania #1311-12 were issued for the 25th anniversary of Woodstock.  They picture Carlos Santana and Jimi Hendrix. Click image to order.

Over three days, 31 acts shared their messages of peace.  Among them were The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, and Jefferson Airplane.  Huddled together in the rain, dancing in the mud, and sharing food and water, the attendees showed that even in harsh conditions, peace could prevail. 

Montserrat #924-26 honor three artists that performed at Woodstock. Click image to order.

Jimi Hendrix was slated to take the stage on Sunday night, August 17.  However, heavy rains delayed his performance until 8:30 Monday morning, August 18.  The crowd of 400,000 had shrunk to about 30,000 by the time Hendrix took the stage.  He performed with his band, Gypsy Sun and Rainbows. 

US #4880 – Silk Cachet Combination First Day Cover. Click image to order.

One of the most memorable moments of Hendrix’s set, and of the entire festival, was his performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”  It’s considered one of the most defining moments of the 1960s.

US #3188b – Classic First Day Cover. Click image to order.

While the festival was going on, media coverage was largely negative, criticizing the heavy traffic and hippie culture.  However, parents of the attendees began calling members of the media to let them know that the event was peaceful and going well, which led several media reports to change their tune.

Item #NW195 – Woodstock 50th anniversary stamp issued this month.

The 1970 documentary Woodstock won an Academy Award, further cementing the festival’s place in our culture.  The site of the 1969 festival now hosts a museum and was also added to the National Register of Historic Places.  Woodstock ’69 inspired countless music festivals and anniversary concerts around the world, but none have ever had the cultural impact of the original.

Click here for more about the festival and how its legacy continues today.

Click here to see what else happened on This Day in History.

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  1. Absolute disgrace that the post office has issued a second stamp about Woodstock yet nothing for D-Day and an obvious last minute issue for the Moon Landing anniversary

    1. Maybe they’re saving up a really good stamp for the 100th anniversary of D-Day in 25 more years? At this point, I don’t even try to understand what the USPS is thinking when they make these kinds of decisions… Madness, I tell you.

      1. Not sure if you are serious or not but I respectfully point out that very few veterans of D-Day are still with us-and none of them will be here in 25 more years. How nice if they could have been honored while they were still alive!

  2. Unfortunately I didn’t make it to Woodstock. I was unaware that one of my buddies called me Thursday evening to see if I wanted to go with him. I didn’t get the message that he called until the next morning. I sure wish I would have been home to get that call, look what I missed!

  3. Does anyone happen to know if Hendrix’s rendition was improvised on the spot or if it was a part of his extensive repertoire at the time?

    1. Hendrix performed the Star-Spangled Banner many times before. According to the internet, there are about 50 recordings of Hendrix performing the song. I think there was always a heavy element of improvisation in each version. At Woodstock, the Star-Spangled Banner was part of a larger medley. This is not shown in the Woodstock movie or recordings. It is presented in an edited form.

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