Michael Lang, a Woodstock festival organizer, dies at 77

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Guests in '60s-style tie-dyed shirts attend the 50th anniversary celebration of the original Woodstock festival in Bethel, New York on August 15, 2019 (AFP/Angela Weiss)

Michael Lang, a concert promoter who co-created the generation-defining Woodstock music festival, died Saturday aged 77, a family friend confirmed.

Lang died of a "rare form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma" at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital Cancer Center in New York, according to a statement from the family released by music executive Michael Pagnotta.

"We are very sad to hear that legendary Woodstock icon and long time family friend Michael Lang has passed at 77 after a brief illness," Pagnotta said on Twitter, adding, "Rest In Peace."

Lang was only 24 when he helped organize the Woodstock festival in August 1969 in the Catskill Mountains of New York state.

The three-day affair brought together an unparalleled group of hugely popular rock and folk stars, including Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, The Who, Joe Cocker, Santana and Jimi Hendrix.

It drew more than 400,000 young people for an exuberant celebration of the 1960s' counterculture built around music, drugs and free love.

The festival -- with sporadic rain transforming the rolling hills of Max Yasgur's dairy farm into a sea of mud-covered hippies -- became a pivotal moment in rock history, immortalized in an eponymous Oscar-winning documentary (Lang makes repeated appearances) and in a song performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Lang also produced two follow-up Woodstock festivals -- in 1994 and 1999 -- though they were less popular than the original. The 1999 version ended with a restless crowd looting, setting fires and vandalizing structures.

In 2019, Lang attempted to organize a 50th anniversary Woodstock sequel, but amid financial and logistical setbacks it was ultimately canceled.

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