In the summer of 1969, half a million hopeful, peace-loving young people — ‘lured by music, the country and some strange kind of magic,’ LIFE wrote — came together on a dairy farm in upstate New York, with some of the generation’s best artists providing the soundtrack. Here, experience the festival in the exact order it played out, from beginning (Richie Havens) to end (the guitar hero himself, Jimi Hendrix).
Woodstock's Opening Act: Richie Havens
Aug 15, 1969.
Three days of peace, love, and music begin with folk artist Richie Havens taking the stage as the festival’s first act. He plays covers of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and “Strawberry Fields Forever,” as well as his own hits including “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”
Aug 15, 1969. The spontaneous of the founder of the Lovin’ Spoonful, who left that group a year earlier, is pictured during his unscheduled solo performance on Friday. He dedicated one of his songs, “Younger Generation,” to a newborn baby at the festival.
Rose Simpson, Mike Heron, Christina "Licorice" McKechnie, and Robin Williamson
- Tim Hardin
Aug 15, 1969. Folk singer Tim Hardin played just two songs on the festival’s first day; one of them was “If I Were a Carpenter,” which Hardin wrote but was made more famous by Bobby Darin.
- Ravi Shankar (right)
Aug 15, 1969. Ravi Shankar (right) plays sitar despite the rain that had begun to fall on Friday. Indian classical music was popular in the counterculture at the time, with bands like the Beatles and the Byrds incorporating it into their music.
Aug 15, 1969. The folk artist and son of Woody Guthrie sings on the first day of the festival.
- Joan Baez – Mother of Folk
Aug 15, 1969. Baez, six months pregnant at the time, takes the stage as the last act of Woodstock’s first day. During her set she paid musical tribute to immigrant labor worker Joe Hill, and performed her covers of “We Shall Overcome” and “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.”
Carlos Santana - David Brown
Aug 16, 1969. Carlos Santana
trades riffs with bassist David Brown
during his namesake band’s performance on Woodstock’s second day. On their eight-song setlist: “Evil Ways.”
Alan "Blind Owl" Wilson
Aug 16, 1969. Getting the blues with Canned Heat’s Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson plays harmonica during the band’s sunset performance on Saturday. A little more than a year later, Wilson was dead of a drug overdose. He was 27.
- Canned Heat: Larry Taylor’s Bass Face
Aug 16, 1969. Canned Heat’s Bassist Larry Taylor
Aug 16, 1969. The legendary rock & roll belter dances on stage during her Saturday set with the Kozmic Blues Band. A little more than a year later, Joplin was dead of a drug overdose. She was 27.
Aug 17, 1969. The songwriter/guitarist lifts his Gibson SG during the Who’s epic 25-song set. The band had just released the album Tommy and ripped through many tunes from it; perhaps most memorably, they played “See Me, Feel Me” as the sun rose over Woodstock on Sunday morning.
Jefferson Airplane Soars
Aug 17, 1969. Grace Slick
leads the band through a rocking Sunday-morning set of 13 songs, including “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit.” For more about Slick and her memories of Woodstock, check out her LIFE.com Guest Editor gallery
Aug 17, 1969. Clad in a tie-dyed tee and sweating up a storm, Cocker performs on Sunday afternoon. Before a huge rainstorm halted all stage performances, he belted out his bluesy rearrangement of the Beatles’ “With a Little Help From My Friends.” (Cocker’s recorded version of that song was later used as the theme to the popular ’60s-set TV show The Wonder Years.)
Aug 18, 1969. Woodstockstrar! Jimi Hendrix fronts his band — going by the new name Gypsy Sun and Rainbows — as the last act on Woodstock’s final day. Hendrix came out of the festival with perhaps the most electrifying performance: his genius solo guitar interpretation of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” A little more than a year later, Hendrix was dead. He was 27.