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Artie Kornfield
Artie Kornfeld (Arthur Lawrence Kornfeld) goes down memory lane as he gets nostalgic about organising the legendary Woodstock festival.

“Another flower from India!” he exclaimed as I walked into his hotel room at the Taj; his remark followed by a hearty laugh. He ordered his ‘cuppa’ black coffee, greeting the hospitality guy with an ‘Om Shanti’ and settled down to talk, commenting on almost everything around him.

This is his first time in India. Artie, the official organiser of the landmark 1969 Woodstock Festival, has arrived in India to strike a deal with the movie star Jackie Shroff. Artie talks about Woodstock in America as it happened yesterday. “We were playing a game of pool when we struck upon the idea of Woodstock and there was no looking back,” he says. The festival created history, changing the future of rock ‘n’ roll, and Artie remembers every single event that led to the festival. Artie, along with his friend Michael Lang, put up a show that has gone down in history.

He is quite the rockstar himself. Artie believes that he was fated to be in the music business; at the age of 16 he signed his first contract, and by the age of 24 knew all the big wigs in the music industry. His flair for writing shone through all the pieces he wrote; the managing skills were the icing on the cake and soon Artie was one of the most successful A&R managers, songwriters and performers in the US. He penned the single Pied Piper, and years later John Lennon told him that song was one of his all time favourites. Lennon was not part of Woodstock; he was in Canada and could not travel back to the United States because he could not procure a visa. Artie was present when the ‘hippie era’ took shape and changed the way people thought.

We caught up with the man responsible for the greatest concert in the history of music, and found out what he’s doing in India.

The Record: What are your first impressions of India?
Artie Kornfeld: This hotel I’m put up at is not really truth is it? I’m quite frustrated with the poverty in this country. People have to literally fight for survival. I’m not saying that America is a better place to live; I’m ashamed of the country and the President. I have been a political science student and so I’m very politically inclined. I have studied a lot about India, the spirit of India and finally I got the opportunity to visit the country.

TR: What are your memories of the 1969 Woodstock which featured Pandit Ravi Shankar? Are you friends with him?
AK: I was introduced to Swami Satchidananda who was gave an invocation during the festival. I became friends with him and Shankar, though I was never disciple of the Swami. I helped him build his ashram in New York. That was also the time I got hooked on to yoga. I have been practicing it ever since. It’s been 40 years.

TR: What were the highlights of the festival for you?
AK: There were millions of people gathered. I never thought it would be such a huge affair because we were only planning to have friends. I wanted it to be a free concert and it feels delightful to think about every small thing attached to the festival, like for example coming up with the logo that said ‘3 Days of Peace & Music’ with a white dove on a guitar. We included the words ‘Music and Art Fair’ because our intentions were to make it more than just a concert. I remember getting the artistes to play for the concert. Almost every big artiste agreed including the Beatles, Creedence [Clearwater Revival], Jimi Hendrix, Joan Baez, Santana, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead and many more. In the movie that was shot, everyone said I looked stoned; maybe I was! (Laughs)

You can read the rest of our exclusive with Artie Kornfield in the September 2007 issue of The Record Music Magazine available at your local newsagent.


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