Why Did The Doors (And Other Acts) Not Play at Woodstock?

Woodstock is easily one of the most iconic concerts of all time. With an attendance of over 400.000 people and iconic performances by the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, the festival has earned its place as one of the pivotal moments in music history. In retrospect, it would be ridiculous to decline the offer to perform at the festival. But in 1969, multiple musical stars did. In this article, I’m going over some major acts that did not play at Woodstock and delve into why they didn’t.

Woodstock – By Mark Goff – Public Domain

The Doors

When discussing musical acts that didn’t perform at Woodstock, The Doors are always one of the first bands mentioned. After all, the band perfectly fits in between acts like Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin.

During a live chat with The Doors members Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger in 1996, Krieger clarified why The Doors didn’t play at the festival. “We never played at Woodstock because we were stupid and turned it down. We thought it would be a second-class repeat of the Monterey Pop Festival.”

The Monterey Pop Festival is another iconic counterculture festival, held during the “Summer of Love” in 1967.

Why Did The Doors (And Other Acts) Not Play at Woodstock?
By Joel Brodsky (photographer). Distributed by Elektra Records. – Public Domain

Bob Dylan

The man who lived in Woodstock didn’t play at Woodstock. Quite bizarre. Well, actually not. Ever wondered why the organizers of the festival picked Woodstock as a location? To include the many artists who frequented the town. But Bob Dylan moved to Woodstock for his privacy and peace, and wasn’t a fan of the thousands of people who visited the town.

“We couldn’t breathe,” Dylan told Rolling Stone in 1984. “I couldn’t get any space for myself and my family, and there was no help, nowhere. I got very resentful about the whole thing, and we got outta there.”

Instead, Dylan played at the Isle of Wight Festival, 2 weeks after Woodstock.

By Rowland Scherman – Public Domain

Simon & Garfunkel

The folk-rock duo aren’t the first musicians you relate to the counterculture movement. But having headlined the Monterey Pop Festival, Simon & Garfunkel could’ve easily performed at Woodstock as well.

Simon & Garfunkel declined to perform at the festival because they were working on their new album Bridge Over Troubled Water. They were also busy breaking up with each other. At least the album was an absolute blockbuster.

By Joost Evers – Nationaal Archief, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl

Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell wrote the famous song about Woodstock, but didn’t perform at the festival. She wrote the song based on what she saw on television. Mitchell didn’t perform at the festival because her manager was afraid she would miss her performance on The Dick Cavett Show. Ironically enough, she was joined by David Crosby and Grace Slick during the show, who both performed at Woodstock.

Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin was invited to play at the festival, but the band’s manager Peter Grant turned down the offer. “I said no because at Woodstock we’d have just been another band on the bill,” He later said. Instead, Led Zeppelin headlined their own show in New Jersey. Wrong or not, the decision never hurt Led Zeppelin as a band.

By Heinrich Klaffs – CC BY-SA 2.0

The Beatles

Since The Beatles stopped performing in the mid-1960s, they were never really an option for Woodstock. Therefore, promoter Michael Lang decided to invite John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band instead. But Richard Nixon was reportedly not a big fan of Lennon coming to the country given his outspoken political views, and the invitation never materialized.

By Unknown author – Public Domain

The Rolling Stones

If you could choose between performing at Woodstock or starring in the movie Ned Kelly, what would you choose? Well, if you’re like Mick Jagger, Ned Kelly of course. Jagger reportedly took the decision to decline the invite on his own, but Keith Richards would’ve probably agreed with him, as his son Marlon was born a few days before the start of the festival.

By Marcel Antonisse / Anefo – CC0

Iron Butterfly

The last band isn’t the most famous band on this list, but the reason Iron Butterly didn’t perform at Woodstock is definitely one of the most unfortunate. They got stuck at New York City’s LaGuardia airport. The band’s manager sent a forceful telegram demanding a helicopter, but only received back a telegram with an acrostic signaling they weren’t welcome anymore.

By ATCO Records – Public Domain

Other Acts Who Declined Woodstock

Among other acts who declined to play at Woodstock were The Jeff Beck Group (the band broke up a week before Woodstock), The Byrds (who were tired of touring), The Moody Blues (set to play on the festival but were booked in a different venue), and Jethro Tull (whose frontman Ian Andersen didn’t like the idea behind the festival).

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