Top 10 Woodstock performances on the 50th anniversary

watch 15/08/2019

It's been 50 years since the iconic Woodstock Music and Arts Fair took place in Bethel, New York, where more than 30 artists performed over the three-day weekend. Some were established stars, where others were just kicking off - and most had breakthrough performances at the festival. 

These are the Top 10 Woodstock performances:

10. 'Volunteers' - Jefferson Airplane
Jefferson Airplane took to the satge at around 8am on Sunday, when most of the audience and themselves were wiped out. Their 100-minute long set was made up of familiar hits like 'Somebody to Love' and 'White Rabbit,' but the early-morning performance took a toll on them. Still, they spring to relative life for three glorious minutes during 'Volunteers,' finding community and jam-band spirit in the song's tireless groove.

9. 'The "Fish" Cheer' / 'I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag' - Country Joe and the Fish
The music was delayed for a while after a three-hour downpour after Joe Cocker's set. So when the music started back up, the drenched audience was ready for almost anyone. They got Berkeley-bred psych-rocker Country Joe McDonald and his ragtag band. They may not have been the best, but their set-closing song is one of the festival's defining moments: a crowd-cheering chant of 'f---' gives way to 'I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag,' an antiwar cut that fired up the Vietnam-weary Woodstock nation.

8. 'Going Up the Country' - Canned Heat
Performing an hour long set on Saturday afternoon, Canned Heat were raw, brittle and almost out of control, but the band held it together with a superb mix of expert playing and blues-rock exuberance.

7. 'My Generation' - The Who
The Who were touring 'Tommy' when they played Woodstock at daybreak on Sunday morning. Their set lasted just over an hour, consisting of an abbreviated run-through of their rock opera plus a few of their older classics. The highlight came near the end, as the band tore into a seven-minute version of 'My Generation' that erupts in a fiery display of guitar heroics by Pete Townshend. 

6. 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' - Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
During their Sunday night/Monday morning set, Neil Young joined his bandmates onstage for a couple of songs. He didn't play the acoustic portion though, and skipped most of the electric set too. Stephen Stills told the audience, "This is the second time we've ever played in front of people. We're scared s--tless" -- which probably explains their wobbly performance. But seeing as they took the stage at 3AM, their defining set-opening take on 'Suite: Judy Blue Eyes' fits the lethargic hour.

5. 'I Want to Take You Higher' - Sly & the Family Stone
Sly & the Family Stone were already stars when they took that stage at 3.30am Sunday morning. They'd recently released their first classic album 'Stand!', and were at the tighest point in their career. Their entire 50-minute set is pretty remarkable, but the stumbling-toward-ecstasy drive of 'I Want to Take You Higher' is the highlight.

4. 'With a Little Help From My Friends' - Joe Cocker
Joe Cocker's debut album had created some buzz around him, coming out four months before Woodstock. His 90-minute show kicked the buzz into overdrive. Cocker and the Grease Band covered Bob Dylan and Traffic, but they completely floored the Sunday afternoon crowd with their intense performance of 'With a Little Help From My Friends' (also the title of Cocker's debut LP), which took the Beatles' 'Sgt. Pepper's' cut to spiritual new heights.

3. 'Freedom' - Richie Havens
Very few people knew of Richie Havens when he took to the stage, but his festival-opening set Friday afternoon, particularly the rousing 'Freedom' (which closed his two-hour show), typified the hippie ethos of the period. Rocking an acoustic guitar, with some help from a percussionist and another guitar player, Havens got the audience on its feet and became Woodstock's first breakout star.

2. 'Soul Sacrifice' - Santana
Santana were virtually unknown when they performed their 45-minute set on Saturday afternoon - their debut album was still a week or so from release. By the time they finished up, they were one of the festival's breakout acts. Most of the set songs were from their self-titled LP, including the instrumental 'Soul Sacrifice,' a percussion-fueled dynamo that was about as funky as things got all weekend.

1. 'The Star-Spangled Banner' - Jimi Hendrix
Jimi Hendrix's festival-closing set at 9am Monday morning helped shape the sounds and images that still define Woodstock 50 years later. Near the end of his two hours on stage, Hendrix pulled out his electrifying version of 'The Star-Spangled Banner', complete with guitar pyrotechnics - designed to sound like dropping bombs and machine-gun fire - which blow the mind from thousands of feet away.