Toronto Mike

Canadians Who Played Woodstock (and some who should have but didn't)

I've spent a lot of time lately reading about Woodstock, listening to recordings from Woodstock, and watching both the 1970 documentary film recorded at Woodstock and the recent PBS documentary about Woodstock currently streaming on Netflix. Woodstock was 50 years ago today.

As a Canadian, I'm naturally curious about Canadian content at Woodstock. Here's the key Cancon, and some Canadian acts that should have played but didn't for one reason or another.

The Band

I'm fascinated by The Band. They were the backing band for Ronnie Hawkins before Bob Dylan took 'em on the road in 1965. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Band is also pretty damn Canadian. Sure, Levon Helm was American, but Rick Danko, Garth Hudson, Richard Manuel and Robbie Robertson were fellow Canucks. The Band took the stage around 10pm on Sunday night after passing storms caused a lengthy delay.

Here they are performing The Weight.

Blood, Sweat & Tears

Blood, Sweat & Tears is an American band, but their lead singer by the time Woodstock rolled around was fellow Canadian David Clayton-Thomas. People are often surprised to learn Blood, Sweat & Tears played Woodstock because the recording mix was so bad they were left out of the documentary and off the soundtrack.

Here's the video evidence of Clayton-Thomas singing at Woodstock at 1:30am on Monday, August 18.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Canadian Neil Young played with Crosby, Stills & Nash but famously didn't want to be recorded on video because he felt it detracted from the art. As a result, you don't see him in the documentary.

And when you do hear Crosby, Stills & Nash audio from Woodstock, it's usually from their acoustic set, which Neil mostly sat out. "Suite: Judy Blue Eyes" is a highlight of the doc. But Neil was there for "Mr. Soul" and "Wonderin'" and the entire electric set.

Here's some rare footage of Neil Young performing at 3am, sans Neil, right after Blood, Sweat & Tears.

Joni Mitchell

Joni never did get to Woodstock, but she wanted to play. The story goes that she was dissuaded from making the trip by manager David Geffen, reportedly because he wanted her fresh for an appearance on "The Dick Cavett Show."

Here she is explaining her absence and performing a little ditty she wrote about the festival.

Lighthouse

I love this story. Lighthouse, one of Canada's most successful bands at the time, declined to play Woodstock in 1969.

Grant Fullerton, who played bass and sang in Lighthouse for awhile, remembers the decision with regret.

We were booked to play Woodstock, but our manager decided to pull us out of it  because he thought it was going to be a bad scene. You look at it (now) and say, 'Boy that was certainly a bad mistake.'

Here's a song you'll hear on Canadian classic rock radio every day of the calendar year.

Author image
About Toronto Mike
Toronto
I own TMDS and host Toronto MIke'd. Become a Patron.