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Another Side of Woodstock: Musicians Who Turned It Down

On August 15-18, 1969—44 years ago this week—Max Yasgur’s farm was transformed into a counter-cultural celebration of peace and music during Woodstock. The iconic, muddy music festival symbolizes the free spirit of 60’s, and claims one of the most legendary lineups of all time: The Who, Janis Joplin, Santana, Grateful Dead and Jimi Hendrix (just to name a few).

JimiHendrix Photo: “Live at Woodstock” documentary

Who could have possibly turned down an invitation to play at Woodstock? Turns out, a lot of significant artists of the day opted out, and the musicians who failed to show are almost as interesting as the ones who performed. Here’s who said no—and why.

Bob Dylan: He never really considered it, despite how close he lived to the festival grounds. In fact, he was reportedly annoyed at the number of hippies descending on his quiet rural neighborhood.

The Doors: They turned down an invitation, thinking it would be a “second-class repeat of Monterey Pop Festival.” Not the best foresight.

Led Zeppelin: Their manager refused, claiming they’d “have just been another band on the bill.”

Woodstock CrowdPhoto: Barry Z. Levine

Joni Mitchell: She was on the original docket, but canceled because her manager didn’t want her to skip an appearance on “The Dick Cavett Show.” She later wrote the song “Woodstock” dedicated to the festival.

Jethro Tull: Echoing Dylan, Jethro Tull were also not fans of hippies. Front man Ian Anderson declined, concerned about the likelihood of inappropriate nudity. (And he apparently said that the pay was inadequate.)

Though Woodstock became something much greater than any one headliner, there must have been some serious “kicking yourself” retrospective moments among this crowd. It seems even the greats make mistakes, and in this case, a lot of them did.

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