In August 1969, over half a million people came to a 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York, to hear 32 acts play over the course of four days (August 15-18) at the Woodstock Music & Art Fair. By Wednesday, August 13, some 60,000 people had already arrived and set up camp and by Friday the roads were so clogged that performing artists had to arrive by helicopter.
When travel problems caused by the unexpected huge crowd delayed the arrival of some bands, the festival's first performer, Richie Havens, a stalwart of the early Sixties folk scene in Greenwich Village, was required to improvise a set for three hours. Havens ignited the atmosphere with a his impassioned performance. Having run out of tunes, he improvised a song based on the old spiritual Motherless Child that became Freedom. Watch his performance of Freedom here.