Woodstock Performers: Where Are They Now?

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Woodstock posterWhen you do the math, it’s not too surprising that a great number of artists who performed at the Woodstock festival on August 15-18, 1969, are no longer with us. The good news is that many still are, some of them still creating brilliant music.

Were it not for a dairy farmer named Max Yasgur, who allowed the organizers to hold the event on his property in August 1969, the event as we know it would not have taken place.

Here is a brief guide to the status of most of the artists who made history and helped define classic rock that weekend in upstate New York.

Joan Baez – Folk legend Baez is still involved in political activism. A concert celebrating her 75th birthday in January 2016 included Paul Simon, Jackson Browne, Mavis Staples, Emmylou Harris and others. She’s recently been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and released a new album in 2018. Her retirement tour was extended into 2019; she has not said whether she will quit for good or extend the tour again once the pandemic subsides.

The Band – Richard Manuel died March 4, 1986. Rick Danko died December 10, 1999. Levon Helm died April 19, 2012. Guitarist/songwriter Robbie Robertson records sporadically and works with film—his most recent solo album was 2019’s Sinematic. He published his autobiography, Testimony, in 2016, accompanied by a retrospective album of the same title. The documentary Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band has played several film festivals and will arrive in February 2020. Keyboardist Garth Hudson still contributes to others’ recordings.

Blood, Sweat and Tears – The Woodstock lineup of the band fractured in 1972 when singer David Clayton-Thomas left. He and most of the others remain musically active today, including singer/songwriter/guitarist Steve Katz, who published a memoir, Blood, Sweat, and My Rock ‘n’ Roll Years: Is Steve Katz a Rock Star?, in 2015. Drummer Bobby Colomby became a music business executive and manages a BS&T tribute band today. Trumpeter Lew Soloff died March 8, 2015. Saxophonist Fred Lipsius teaches at Berklee College of Music. Bassist Jim Fielder and keyboardist Dick Halligan still play. The current status of trumpeter Chuck Winfield and trombonist Jerry Hyman is unknown. Clayton-Thomas still records and performs—his newest album, Say Something, was released in 2019. A version of BS&T still performs, although no original members are involved. Read our interview with Clayton-Thomas here.

Paul Butterfield Blues Band – Butterfield died May 4, 1987. Among the other band members who played at Woodstock, alto saxophonist David Sanborn is the most successful in music, a mainstay in the jazz world with six Grammys on his shelf.

Canned Heat – Alan Wilson died September 3, 1970. Bob Hite died April 6, 1981. Guitarist Henry Vestine died in 1997. Bassist Larry “The Mole” Taylor died in 2019. Guitarist Harvey Mandel and drummer Adolfo “Fito” de la Parra remain active in music, the latter having kept the name Canned Heat alive since the ’70s with various musicians.

Joe CockerDied December 22, 2014

Country Joe and the Fish/Country Joe McDonald – McDonald (who performed both solo and with his band at Woodstock) had a 2017 album called 50 but he has since announced his retirement. Their “I-Feel-Like-I’m-Fixin’-to-Die Rag” turned 50 in November 2017. Barry “The Fish” Melton, who became an attorney in the ’70s and later a public defender, still performs and records music. Keyboardist Mark Kapner became a dance instructor. Bassist Doug Metzler works at the University of Pittsburgh. Drummer Greg Dewey still plays and teaches drumming.

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Creedence Clearwater Revival – Tom Fogerty died September 6, 1990. John Fogerty continues to record and tour, and published his memoir, Fortunate Son: My Life, My Music, in 2015. Bassist Stu Cook and drummer Doug Clifford have performed together with Creedence Clearwater Revisited, a tribute to their old band, and are winding things down.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young – All four members remain very active in music, recording prolifically and performing live, albeit not together anymore. Neil Young has released a multitude of albums and performs concerts both solo and with different bands, including a reunion with Crazy Horse. Crosby, Stills and Nash remained together until March of 2016 when Nash, citing difficulties in working together with Crosby, said the trio was through. Nash released a solo album in 2017, This Path Tonight. Crosby released his fifth in seven years, For Free, in July 2021. Stills has been occasionally working with guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd and keyboardist Barry Goldberg in the Rides and has toured with his old muse Judy Collins–they released an album in 2017. Young joined him at his 2018 autism benefit. CSN&Y last recorded together in 1999, on the album Looking Forward. They toured together in 2000 and did one last show together—for Young’s 27th Bridge School Benefit—on October 27, 2013.

Related: Photographer Henry Diltz talks about shooting Woodstock

Grateful Dead –Ron “Pigpen” McKernan died March 8, 1973. Jerry Garcia died August 9, 1995. Guitarist Bob Weir, bassist Phil Lesh and drummers Bill Kreutzmann and Mickey Hart continue to perform in various configurations—all four participated in 2015’s Fare Thee Well concerts; Weir, Hart and Kreutzmann have been touring as Dead & Company (with John Mayer). Lesh performs with Phil and Friends, a band with rotating personnel, and with other makeshift bands. In 2016, Weir released his first solo album in decades, Blue Mountain; he tours regularly. Woodstock-era keyboardist Tom Constanten also still performs; he and Dead sound engineer Bob Bralove have a duo, Dose Hermanos.

Arlo Guthrie – Guthrie recently announced his retirement. He celebrated the 50th anniversary of the incident that inspired his signature song, “Alice’s Restaurant,” in 2016, performing it in concert and releasing a DVD of the event, which aired on PBS stations. He talked to Best Classic Bands about his recent Re:Generation tour with his children. He performed at the site of the festival, at Bethel Woods on August 15, 2019, on the exact 50th anniversary of his set at the original festival.

Tim Hardin – Died December 29, 1980

Keef Hartley – The band’s namesake died November 26, 2011. Band member Miller Anderson is still touring.

Richie Havens – Died April 22, 2013

Jimi Hendrix – Died September 18, 1970. Bassist Billy Cox, who played with Hendrix at Woodstock, still plays. Percussionists Gerardo Veelz and  Juma Sultan are also still performing. Larry Lee, the band’s second guitarist at Woodstock, died on October 30, 2007. Mitch Mitchell, a holdover from the Experience, died November 12, 2008.

Incredible String Band – The group split in 1974. Robin Williamson became a solo artist, releasing dozens of albums, the most recent of which is 2014’s Trusting in the Rising Light. He is also a published writer and poet. The ISB’s other main driving force, Mike Heron, also remains active—his most recent solo release is 2005’s Echo Coming Back and he continues to collaborate with others. Of the other Woodstock-era members, Rose Simpson is reportedly retired from music. Christina “Licorice” McKechnie’s whereabouts are unknown.

The sound tower, Woodstock Festival 1969. Bethel, NY Photo By ©Elliott Landy, LandyVision Inc. Used by permission.

The sound tower, Woodstock Festival 1969. Bethel, NY (Photo © Elliott Landy; used with permission)

Jefferson Airplane – Drummer Spencer Dryden died January 11, 2005. Guitarist/singer Paul Kantner died January 28, 2016. Singer Marty Balin passed away in September 2018. Guitarist/singer Jorma Kaukonen continues to record and perform solo and with bassist Jack Casady in Hot Tuna, which they formed around the time of Woodstock. Kaukonen’s memoir, Been So Long, was published in the summer of 2018. Singer Grace Slick retired from music in 1989 and paints today.

Janis JoplinDied October 4, 1970

Melanie – Melanie Safka continues to perform and releases albums occasionally. Read our interview with Melanie here.

Mountain – Bassist Felix Pappalardi died April 17, 1983, murdered by his wife. Keyboardist Steve Knight died January 19, 2013. Guitarist Leslie West married Jenni Maurer onstage at the Woodstock 40th anniversary concert in 2009. In 2011 his lower right leg was amputated due to diabetes. West died Dec. 23, 2020. Drummer N.D. Smart II left Mountain shortly after Woodstock, replaced by Corky Laing. Smart continued to perform into the ’70s and ’80s (notably with Todd Rundgren) and still plays on occasion today. Read our interview with Leslie West here.

Quill – Disbanded in the spring of 1970. Singer/songwriter Jon Cole runs a solar power company. His brother Dan Cole became involved in the software industry and is now a private investor and management consultant. Drummer Roger North joined the Holy Modal Rounders, then designed drums. He plays today with the Freak Mountain Ramblers. The whereabouts of Phil Thayer and Norm Rogers are unknown.

Santana – Carlos Santana remains one of the most successful guitarists and bandleaders in rock. In 2016, he released the album Santana IV, featuring Woodstock-era members Gregg Rolie, Michael Shrieve and Michael Carabello. Of those musicians, Shrieve has remained very active in progressive rock and jazz and Rolie formed the hugely successful band Journey with guitarist Neal Schon, who had joined Santana in 1971. The current status of percussionist José Octavio “Chepito” Areas is unknown. Woodstock-era bassist David Brown died in 2000. Santana and his wife, Cindy, released a full-length album collaboration with the Isley Brothers in 2017. Carlos recently signed with BMG and announced his next album, Blessings and Miracles, to be released in late 2021.

Swami Satchidananda – The Indian yogi who spoke to the throng at Woodstock died August 19, 2002.

John Sebastian – Although he has scaled back due to throat problems, Sebastian still performs and records sporadically today. (Read our interview here.) He has collaborated with Maria Muldaur, David Grisman and others. He released a series of instructional CDs and DVDs.

Sha Na Na – The current whereabouts of most of the 12-member ’50s revival group are unknown. Original members Donny York and Jocko Marcellino lead a current version of the group. Henry Gross still performs. (Dr.) Robert A. Leonard is a Professor of Linguistics at Hofstra University. Dennis Greene died in 2015.

Ravi Shankar – Died December 11, 2012

Sly and the Family Stone – The group dissolved in 1975. Sly Stone’s activity in music has been erratic since; he has recorded solo but personal issues have continued to dog him and he was reported to be homeless in 2011. Cynthia Robinson died November 23, 2015. Freddie Stone has been inactive in music since leaving the band. Rosie Stone has remained active, touring recently as a backup singer for Elton John. Jerry Martini formed a Sly tribute band and worked with Prince. Greg Errico continues to play drums in the Bay Area. Larry Graham formed the popular funk group Graham Central Station and collaborated with Prince.

Bert Sommer – Died July 23, 1990

Sweetwater – Alan Malarowitz died in the ’80s. Albert Moore died in 1994. August Burns also died, in the ’80s. Singer Nancy Nevins was injured severely months after Woodstock, putting an end to the band. She has been a college English professor for some three decades and also performs her one woman show, “When Yer Rock ‘n’ Roll, what’s a Little Brain damage?” Keyboardist/songwriter Alex del Zoppo continues to record and perform music. Percussionist Elpidio Cobian works with film. Bassist Fred Herrera, Nevins and Del Zoppo reunited for Woodstock ’94, and Herrera and del Zoppo still play gigs together.

Ten Years After – Alvin Lee died March 6, 2013. The group split in 1976 and reunited on a number of occasions, most recently in 1994. In 2003 Ric Lee, Chick Churchill and Leo Lyons, the other three original members, formed Ten Years After without Alvin Lee, recording and touring. Lyons left in 2014; the other two carry on the name.

The Who – Keith Moon died September 7, 1978. John Entwistle died June 27, 2002. Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey continue to tour with other musicians as the Who. (Daltrey toured in the summer of 2018, performing Tommy.) The Who completed a U.S. run in 2019. Daltrey released a new album, As Long As I Have You, in 2018; it includes several guitar contributions from Townshend. The Who released a well-received new album, WHO, in December 2019.

Johnny Winter – Died July 16, 2014. His brother, Edgar Winter, remains active in music.

Max Yasgur – And finally, let’s not forget the farmer who leased his land for the festival. He died February 9, 1973, at age 53, just three-and-a-half years after the festival. The 100th anniversary of his birth was December 15, 2019.


Jeff Tamarkin
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20 Comments so far

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  1. Dorothy
    #1 Dorothy 13 October, 2016, 14:49

    Your bias may be showing? Arlo Guthrie has founded Rising Son, other artists do record there too., his non- profit supports international musicians through the Mass. church, toured with Pete Seager and own children, annual Carnegie Hall performance over Thanksgiving for decades, deserves ; as an iconic folk singer to be inducted into the zRock and Roll Hall of Fame.

    Reply this comment
    • Greg Brodsky
      Greg Brodsky 14 October, 2016, 22:21

      Sorry, Dorothy. No idea what you’re saying…

      Reply this comment
      • sweetwm
        sweetwm 9 February, 2017, 22:05

        shes staying guy’s like Woody Guthrie Pete Seager, just more folk singers in the7 rock n roll hall of fame, Arlo Guthrie probably deserves it too after all Alices resteraunt coming in las angelsly bringing in a couple of keys song, well you know Woody was as Iconic as it gets probaly 1st true Musician who stood up for the people even got beaten up n guitar smashed standing up for the 1000s n 1000s n 1000s of starving desperate Americans, Pete was right along with him in time

        Reply this comment
        • Tommy
          Tommy 15 August, 2017, 13:14

          arlo isn’t in the hall of fame? UNFORGIVABLE

          Reply this comment
          • BKennyB
            BKennyB 23 March, 2019, 10:40

            A lot of deserving people aren’t in the HOF, like Todd Rundgren, who Jann Wenner seems to have a personal problem with. Todd says he doesn’t care but knows his fans are more upset than he ever will be.

          • Bluetrain
            Bluetrain 17 August, 2019, 05:16

            It’s the RollingStone R&R hall of fame. The magazine made it up. So many great players not in there (Rory Gallagher for example) it lacks credibility. It’s almost an honour not be included.

    • DRAIDEZ1
      DRAIDEZ1 16 August, 2021, 01:03

      I unfortunately was only 6 when this epic event took place ☮, but if “You don’t know Jorma, you don’t know Jack❗ Hot Fucking Tuna❗America’s Choice❗✌

      Reply this comment
  2. cocker happy
    #2 cocker happy 10 February, 2017, 21:33

    Obviously Joe Cocker, one of the worlds greatest blues/rock artists, was a non-entity at your version of Woodstock, when he actually performed at both the original and the anniversary shows.

    Reply this comment
  3. Jim Baldwin
    #3 Jim Baldwin 21 April, 2017, 03:08

    Not much info on Melanie (Safka). Melanie is very involved these days with Scientology. She lives in Nashville and can be found at the Scientology Celebrity center most any time. She has received several awards from the “Church”.

    Reply this comment
  4. Terry G
    #4 Terry G 15 August, 2017, 14:37

    What about an update on TheGrease Band, who backed Cocker at Woodstock? Where are they now?

    Reply this comment
  5. winnwinn
    #5 winnwinn 23 February, 2018, 11:44

    @ Jeff Tamarkin
    Miller Anderson of the Keef Hartley Band is still touring and you find him on facebook. He who wrote many of the Keef Hartley songs of the early Albums. IMillrr is one of the most underrated musicians from that time. Check him out on fb or google him. He definately should be mentioned and taken notice of.

    Reply this comment
  6. Ken Nicholls
    #6 Ken Nicholls 27 February, 2018, 03:52

    Jeff, Thank you so much for your research and time in providing this excellent information. As many, I wish I could have been there in 1969 and find myself enjoying the many that are still playing today. You Rock!!!

    Reply this comment
  7. Nightmayer
    #7 Nightmayer 16 August, 2018, 17:15

    Great piece, Jeff. There’s a 50th anniversary remix of The Band’s Music from Big Pink due later this month. Learned of it from an excellent All Songs Considered interview with Robbie Robertson just out.

    Reply this comment
  8. BKennyB
    #8 BKennyB 23 March, 2019, 10:28

    Thanks for this update; really enjoyed reading it but sorry to see so many have passed.

    Reply this comment
  9. Anoriginaljlo
    #9 Anoriginaljlo 15 August, 2019, 22:52

    I have been an avid Woodstock fan for 12 years. I know where almost everyone is except Licorice McKechnie

    Reply this comment
  10. Mick
    #10 Mick 16 August, 2021, 08:47

    The brown acid? What ever happened to the brown acid? The incredible String Band was such a hard band to like, lord knows I tried for a long time. They should have been called the Emperor’s New Clothes or something.

    Reply this comment
  11. Da Mick
    #11 Da Mick 16 August, 2021, 10:11

    Such an enjoyable read, but how bittersweet. For as BKennyB said, it’s sad to be reminded of how many of these folks have passed. We know the stories of many of these people well — others, not so much. So it was nice to see so many chronicled here that weren’t the “stars.” I’m kind of both shocked and befuddled at how many readers found something to complain about with this article. Personally, I was enthralled. I can’t imagine how difficult it was to track down information on so many folks with ties to long ago. Thank you, Jeff. Please keep up the great work!

    Reply this comment
  12. 812EDWARD
    #12 812EDWARD 17 August, 2021, 23:22

    Very Interesting. I know all had a blast.

    Reply this comment

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