Jimi Hendrix Live at Woodstock: Historic Concert Captured on Film

By the time Jimi Hen­drix arrived onstage at the Wood­stock Fes­ti­val on the morn­ing of August 18, 1969, the crowd of near­ly 500,000 peo­ple had dwin­dled to few­er than 40,000. Much of Max Yas­gur’s farm looked des­o­late. Lit­ter was strewn every­where and — hard as it may be to imag­ine — scores of peo­ple were stream­ing out as Hen­drix played.

The fes­ti­val was billed as “3 Days of Peace & Music,” but rain and oth­er prob­lems delayed Hen­drix’s fes­ti­val-clos­ing per­for­mance until 8:30 on the morn­ing of the fourth day, a Mon­day. The peo­ple who remained were exhaust­ed and wet and just wak­ing up. As fes­ti­val orga­niz­er Michael Lang writes in The Road to Wood­stock:

The mas­sive stage was sparse­ly pop­u­lat­ed com­pared to how packed it had been all week­end with musi­cians, crew, and friends. Jimi, a red scarf around his head and wear­ing a white fringed and bead­ed leather shirt, looked almost like a mys­ti­cal holy man in med­i­ta­tion. His eyes closed, his head back, he’d merged with his music, his Strat — played upside down since he’s a lefty — his mag­ic wand. Though he was sur­round­ed by his band, he pro­ject­ed the feel­ing he was all alone.

As he almost rev­er­ent­ly start­ed the nation­al anthem, the bedrag­gled audi­ence, worn out and mud­dy, moved clos­er togeth­er. Those of us who’d bare­ly slept in three days were awak­ened, exhil­a­rat­ed by Jim­i’s song. One minute he was chord­ing the well-worn melody, the next he was reen­act­ing “bombs burst­ing in air” with feed­back and dis­tor­tion. It was bril­liant. A mes­sage of joy and love of coun­try, while at the same time an under­stand­ing of all the con­flict and tur­moil that’s torn Amer­i­ca apart.

The Jimi Hen­drix Expe­ri­ence had bro­ken up a few weeks ear­li­er, with the depar­ture of bassist Noel Red­ding. At the fes­ti­val, Hen­drix and drum­mer Mitch Mitchell were joined by two musi­cians Hen­drix had worked with before he was famous — bassist Bil­ly Cox and gui­tarist Lar­ry Lee — along with con­ga play­ers Juma Sul­tan and Jer­ry Velez. The group had rehearsed for less than two weeks in Hen­drix’s rent­ed house near Wood­stock. They called them­selves “Gyp­sy Sun & Rain­bows,” or “Band of Gyp­sys” for short.

Hen­drix’s psy­che­del­ic per­for­mance of “The Star-Span­gled Ban­ner” was immor­tal­ized in Michael Wadleigh’s Acad­e­my Award-win­ning 1970 film, Wood­stock. A two-disc DVD cap­tur­ing most of Hen­drix’s near­ly two-hour set, called Jimi Hen­drix Live at Wood­stock, was released in 1999. The 57-minute film above is an abridged ver­sion. It begins with an excerpt from “Mes­sage to Love” (the song Hen­drix opened with) played over gen­er­al scenes of the fes­ti­val. It goes on to show Hen­drix onstage, play­ing the fol­low­ing songs:

  1. “Fire”
  2. “Izabel­la”
  3. “Red House”
  4. “Jam Back at the House”
  5. “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”
  6. “Star-Span­gled Ban­ner”
  7. “Pur­ple Haze”
  8. “Wood­stock Impro­vi­sa­tion”
  9. “Vil­lano­va Junc­tion”

The songs in the film are not pre­sent­ed in the order Hen­drix played them in, and some have been omit­ted. Sec­ond gui­tarist Lar­ry Lee (who can be heard solo­ing in “Jam Back at the House”) sang lead vocals on “Mas­ter­mind” and “Gyp­sy Woman/Aware of Love,” but those songs have been cut from this ver­sion. Also left out are “Span­ish Cas­tle Mag­ic,” “Hear My Train a Comin’,” “Lover Man,” “Foxy Lady,” “Step­ping Stone,” and an encore of “Hey Joe.” Despite the omis­sions, this abridged ver­sion of Jimi Hen­drix Live at Wood­stock is a fas­ci­nat­ing and enjoy­able look at one of the great moments in rock and roll his­to­ry.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

In 1969 Telegram, Jimi Hen­drix Invites Paul McCart­ney to Join a Super Group with Miles Davis

See Jimi Hendrix’s First TV Appear­ance, and His Last as a Back­ing Musi­cian (1965)

Watch Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Chile’ Per­formed on a Gayageum, a Tra­di­tion­al Kore­an Instru­ment

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.