Michael Lang, co-founder of the legendary 1969 Woodstock festival that defined a decade, has died. The rock promoter was 77. A family representative confirmed he died on Saturday at Sloan Kettering in New York City from a rare form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Alongside businessmen John Roberts and Joel Rosenman and music industry promoter Artie Kornfeld, Lang served as a public face for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, immortalized onscreen with his curly afro, fringed vest, and motorcycle he used to zoom across Max Yasgur‘s dairy farm in the 1970 documentary released on the festival.

Born on December 11th, 1944 in Brooklyn, NY, Lang’s business career began when he moved to Coconut Grove, FL in the late 1960s to open a headshop. It was in Florida that Lang made his first foray into concert promotion with the 1968 Miami Pop festival. Twenty-five thousand attendees came out to attend such acts as Jimi HendrixJohn Lee Hooker, and The Mothers of Invention, among others.

After Miami Pop, Lang moved to Woodstock, NY and began sowing the seeds for what would become one of the most famous music festivals of all time. After numerous sites fell through, Lang and his fellow promoters settled upon Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, NY for the event dubbed “Three Days of Peace & Music”. The festival, held August 15th–18th, 1969, drew 400,000 attendees to upstate New York, shutting down the state Thruway. Musicians were flown in by helicopter, including David Crosby of Crosby, Stills & Nash, who remarked to Rolling Stone in 2004,

“We thought we were all individual, scattered hippies,” he said. “When we got there, we said, ‘Wait a minute, this is a lot bigger than we thought.’ We flew in there by helicopter and saw the New York State Thruway at a dead stop for 20 miles and a gigantic crowd of at least half a million people. You couldn’t really wrap your mind around how many people were there. It had never happened before, and it was sort of like having aliens land.”

The festival became a flashpoint of American history in the 1960s, immortalized in song by CSN’s cover of Joni Mitchell‘s “Woodstock”. Though Kornfield described the utlimately-free festival as a “financial disaster”, Lang himself is seen in Woodstock (1970) saying, “Look at what you got there. You couldn’t buy that for anything.”

Lang would become synonymous with the festival for the rest of his life, telling Pollstar in 2019, “Life is full of experiences, and not everything works out. But you keep trying or nothing works out … That’s always been my attitude.” The promoter would lend his name and talents to a pair of Woodstock anniversary festivals in 1994 and 1999, which both featured torchbearers of the 1960s alongside contemporary acts to mixed results. While the 1994 festival was playfully dubbed Mudfest for the poor environmental conditions, the 1999 edition ended in rioting as the New York State Police were deployed to quell the violence on the final day of the festival.

The promoter re-emerged in 2019 to begin what would become one of the Strangest Sagas of the year as he began promoting a 50th-anniversary Woodstock festival. After months of legal spats and financial difficulties played out in the press, Lang finally conceded Woodstock 50 would not take place, just weeks before it was scheduled to occur. While the lavish plans for Woodstock 50 fell through, Bethel Woods, NY successfully held a more modest commemoration of the event featuring SantanaJohn FogertyRingo Starr, Tedeschi Trucks BandThe Doobie Brothers, and more. The Woodstock 50 saga would mark Lang’s final public appearances prior to his death.

Michael Lang is survived by his wife Tamara, their sons Harry and Laszlo, and his daughters LariAnn, Shala, and Molly.

[H/T Rolling Stone]