Woodstock was billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music". It was held at Max Yasgur's farm in the Catskills near the hamlet of White Lake in the town of Bethel, New York, from August 15 to August 18, 1969. During the sometimes rainy weekend, thirty-three acts performed outdoors in front of 500,000 concert-goers. It is widely regarded as a pivotal moment in popular music history. Rolling Stone listed it as one of the 50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll.
The original location that the event was to be held was in Wallkill, New York, but four weeks before the date, the local zoning board banned the event. Sam Yasgur convinced his father, Max, to allow the event to be held on their 600-acre dairy arm in Bethel, New York. David Byrd had already designed a poster for the Wallkill location, but the abrupt change of venue called for a new poster design. Unfortunately for David Byrd, he had left for a 4-week vacation to a place in the Caribbean that didn’t have a phone (or wifi…) and so he could not be contacted to do a new poster.
Arnold Skolnick was pressed into action and the result is this — one of if not THE most famous rock poster there is. As he wrote,
“[co-producer] John Morrison approached me on a Thursday afternoon to design a poster for a music festival coming in August. He told me about the festival – three days, a lot of music, peaceful, and so on. And he needed it Monday, by noon. I hired a writer for the brochure and together we came up with “3 days of peace and music.” On Monday morning I cut all the pieces out with a razor – the bird, the hand, the guitar, the lettering – and pasted them on bright red paper, then I delivered the mockup to the producers. They said, ‘Do it!’ and the rest is history.”
One of the unique things about the Woodstock poster is that the band listings are all in alphabetical order with no one getting “top billing,” at least on the poster itself. This was unheard of in its day and took some doing by producer Michael Lang given the attitudes of most of the bands, managers, and agents.
“The poster quickly came to symbolize not just the Woodstock festival but the ideals of a youth movement then at its height. At a time when much of the artwork associated with rock music had elaborate lettering and images meant to evoke the psychedelic spirit of the age, Skolnick’s design stood out in its simplicity: a bird representing peace, a guitar representing music.” - Newsday
The popularity of this poster has led to countless forgeries and reprints. Suffice it to say that 99% of the Woodstock posters on eBay and other sites are not originals. The real posters have marks that have been found on all of the posters that came directly from Skolnick himself - we are happy to point them out for you in this piece.