I woke up to sad and unexpected news Sunday morning. Woodstock co-organizer Michael Lang has died. Died? I had no idea that he was sick. It was shocking news to me. Even though I didn’t really know him, he had a huge influence on my life.

There were a lot of people who loved Michael Lang, and there were also many people who did not have such kind words for him. But no matter how you felt about Michael Lang, he changed the Hudson Valley. At least for baby boomers like me, he did. I feel like there was the Hudson Valley before Woodstock and the cooler Hudson Valley after Woodstock.

Many would argue that Bethel and Sullivan County are not the Hudson Valley. This may be true, but the original concert was supposed to be held just outside of Woodstock, NY. At the last minute the plans were denied and the concert was moved to Sullivan County. Woodstock, NY was a very cool town, but not too many people knew about it. Michael Lang did, and he was ready to take it to the next level. And even though the show was not held in Woodstock, suddenly everybody knew what a slew of musicians and artists already knew. Woodstock was cool.

And it was a big deal for Sullivan County, too. What was always thought of as a haven for families and old people to spend summers watching Borscht Belt comedians was now really cool. It was the site of one of the biggest, yet peaceful concerts ever. History was made that weekend in Sullivan County, and I was living right down the road in New Windsor, angry that I was too young to go to a concert. But I came to love just about every artist that played there. Bethel is still a great concert town thanks to Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. 

I met Michael Lang for literally about 5 seconds back in 1998 when he helped to put on Day at the Garden. It was so quick that we didn’t even shake hands. I’m sure that’s not a memory he took to his grave, but I will always remember it. Michael Lang and his partners had a vision, and they made it happen. And it changed my life.

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