Album: Déjà Vu (1970)
Charted: 11
Play Video


  • This song is about the famous music festival in 1969. Mitchell was scheduled to perform at the festival, but backed out on the advice of her manager David Geffen, who was concerned that she would miss a scheduled appearance on The Dick Cavett Show. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young did appear, playing an acoustic set followed by an electric set. They took the stage around 3 a.m. Monday morning - the festival was scheduled to end at midnight, but it ran long, culminating with a legendary Jimi Hendrix set that most people didn't stay to see.

    That Tuesday, Mitchell, David Crosby and Stephen Stills all appeared on The Dick Cavett Show. Crosby has said that he and Stills were talking about the festival, and Mitchell wrote the song based on their experience there. Mitchell, however, claimed that she wrote the song before the band returned.
  • Joni Mitchell watched coverage of the Woodstock festival from a New York City hotel room. She had given up religion long ago, but found herself going through a "born-again Christian trip" when she wrote this song. Said Mitchell: "Suddenly, as performers, we were in the position of having so many people look to us for leadership, and for some unknown reason, I took it seriously and decided I needed a guide and leaned on God. So I was a little 'God mad' at the time, for lack of a better term, and I had been saying to myself, 'Where are the modern miracles?' Woodstock, for some reason, impressed me as being a modern miracle, like a modern-day fishes-and-loaves story. For a herd of people that large to cooperate so well, it was pretty remarkable and there was tremendous optimism. So I wrote the song 'Woodstock' out of these feelings."
  • Joni Mitchell released this the same year on Ladies of the Canyon. It was also the B-side to her song "Big Yellow Taxi." Her version is much more basic than the CSN&Y release.
  • Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young's performance at Woodstock was only their second show together. Before forming the band, Crosby had been a member of The Byrds, Nash was with The Hollies, Stills and Young were members of Buffalo Springfield. Neil Young played with the group for only part of the set.
  • It may seem odd that the most famous song about Woodstock came from someone who wasn't there, but Mitchell had a different perspective. "I was one of the many who were thwarted," she said on the CBC program The National. "That was the place every kid wanted to be. I got to the airport with CSN and our agent, David Geffen, and our manager, Elliott, on a Sunday night. It was a catastrophe. I had to do The Dick Cavett Show the following day, and it was Geffen who decided we can't get Joni out in time. So he took me back to his suite where he lived, and we watched it on TV. I was the deprived kid who couldn't go, so I wrote it from the point of view of a kid going. If I had been there in the back room with all the egomaniacal crap that goes on backstage, I would not have had that perspective."
  • Without Neil Young, Crosby, Stills & Nash returned to play Woodstock '94. Other acts that played both festivals include Joe Cocker, The Band, and Santana.
  • Neil Young is not seen in the Woodstock movie even though he was there for part of the set. He strongly disagreed with the idea of the movie, so he declined to appear in it. If he were to play any songs in the movie, he'd have to be cropped out of frame. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Jeff - Kendall Park, NJ
  • The opening lyrics are a reference to the book of Matthew in which it says, "Blessed are those who try to make peace for they will be called children of God." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - New London, NH
  • In the UK the best known version is the more country-rock flavored recording by Matthews' Southern Comfort, which topped the British singles and peaked at #23 in the US. Ian Matthews had been the lead singer with Fairport Convention, leaving in 1969 to form Matthews' Southern Comfort. He recalled in 1000 UK #1 Hits by Jon Kutner & Spencer Leigh: "I had bought Joni Mitchell's album and we had to do four songs on a BBC lunchtime show. We worked up an arrangement for 'Woodstock' and the response was so good that we put it out as a single. Crosby, Stills & Nash's record had just come out and so we waited to see what happened to that first." In 1978 Matthews had a #13 hit in the US as a solo artist with "Shake It."
  • Joni Mitchell's no-show at Woodstock was sometimes reported as being caused by "transportation problems." A persistent rumor was that James Taylor was supposed to give her a lift up the New York Thruway from her hotel in New York City, but Taylor was in a bad motorcycle accident on Martha's Vineyard, breaking both arms and keeping him out from behind the wheel and away from the guitar for months. That was it for Joni's trip to Woodstock. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Joel - Toms River, NJ
  • In September 1969, Stephen Stills was invited to a Jimi Hendrix session at the Record Plant in New York. Stills burst into the session with a song Joni Mitchell had recently composed, titled "Woodstock." Joined by Hendrix and Buddy Miles, the trio laid down the tune months before Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young released their popular rendition. The Hendrix, Stills and Miles version can be heard on Both Sides of the Sky, a 2018 compilation of previously unheard Hendrix material.
  • "Woodstock" is included on the 1974 CSN&Y compilation album So Far, which sold over 6 million copies. The cover art is a painting by... you guessed it, Joni Mitchell.

Comments: 44

  • Alice Degregori from TexasThis song is actually by Joni Mitchell, who dated Crosby in the 60s.
  • Travler from West-by-godLot of varying comments here! To understand the meaning of this song, put yourself into the lyrics as part of the whole happening! And by the time "You" get to'll understand Joni's intentions! By the By...This tune was "Meant" to be preformed by CSN&Y!
  • Lisa from North CarolinaCladrastis: James Taylor’s version has been done twice, and are on YouTube...once on Howard Stern and once for the induction of CS&N into the Rock Hall.
  • Chris from Granville Oh UsaI was in HS in the early 70's, so I grew up hearing this song, on the radio mostly. Within the last couple of years, as I've digitized my music, I picked up CSN&Y's compilation album "So Far". I have been listening to "Woodstock" on headphones for the last 40 mins or so. Impressions: it is one of the best "rock" songs ever recorded. Why? The foundation is Joni Mitchell's incredible spiritually- and hope-infused lyrics. Building upon that foundation, CSN&Y used every tool and talent in their possession. The recording is nearly perfect. Everyone excels on the record. Young's and Stills's guitar work: amazing (l think the opening solo is Stills, and all the other solos are unmistakably Young). I am completely fascinated by the rhythm guitar work in the song (I am guessing it's Stills'): it seems perfectly restrained and understated, wonderfully supporting the beat and the melody at the same time. The keyboard work (mostly organ, but you can hear piano in the first verse, too) is just great. And the obvious: Stills' lead vocal, and Crosby and Nash's backing vocals shine as well. And the icing on the cake is that the recording mix is nearly perfect as well. Some songs you can only listen to a couple times in a row and you get bored. Not this one. Truly deserving of the title "Classic".
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn March 22nd 1970, Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young's covered version of "Woodstock" entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #68; six weeks later on May 3rd, 1970 it would peaked at #11 for 2 weeks {See next post below}...
    Was track five of side two of the quartet's debut album, 'Deja Vu', and on May 10th, 1970 the album peaked at #1 {for 1 week} on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart...
    Two other tracks from the album also made the Top 100 chart, "Teach Your Children" {peaked at #16} and "Our House" {reached #30}...
    On June 21st, 1970 "Teach Your Children" was at #33, and that same day the group's "Ohio" entered the Top 100 at #58, eventually it peaked at #14 {for 1 week} and stayed on the Top 100 for 9 weeks.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn August 19th 1969, Joni Mitchell performed "Woodstock" on the ABC-TV program 'The Dick Cavett Show'...
    Seven months later on March 22nd, 1970 C.S.N. & Y.'s covered version would entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #68; and on May 3rd, 1970 it peaked at #11 {for 2 weeks} and it also spent 11 weeks on the Top 100...
    Two other covered versions have made the Top 100 chart; Assembled Multitude {peaked at #79 for 1 week on October 18th, 1970} and Matthew's Southern Comfort {reached #23 for 2 weeks on May16th, 1971}
    On October 31st, 1970 Matthew's Southern Comfort's version reached #1 {for 3 weeks} on the United Kingdom's Singles chart {it was Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child" that knocked it out of the top spot}.
  • John from Joplin, Mo/queens, Ny, MoI believe the line from the song Woodstock that says "I saw the bomber airplanes flying shotgun in the sky, turned into butterflies across our nation" was related to the fact that when the National Guard was there in the helicopters, they flashed the peace sign to the crowd below from the open doors on the sides of the copters. I was there.
  • George from St. Louis, MoI've written a line-by-line personal interpretation of the lyrics as epitomizing hippie movement values here: Hippies may seem a relic of the past, but their best values live on, as they must if the human race is to survive and thrive!
  • Staley from Dallas, TxI like Ian Matthews's version better (though CSNY's is OK too, and Joni's). So many rock fans (especially Baby boomers) get all wrapped up in "this band is cool, that group isn't" and lose sight of the fact that different people like different things.
  • Kwc from Rocky Mount, NcAnd the fact about Neil Young refusing to be in the Woodstock movie...I respect him but sometimes his view is too narrow. The movie itself was the only thing the promoters had to recover any of the millions the lost just putting the show on. Sometimes you just have to put your personal BS aside and just do what is expected of you. Its easy to be idealistic when you get paid upfront.
  • Kwc from Rocky Mount, NcTony, I would have to put the Eagles in the running on that one. I could never decide though. Brilliant harmony is the foundation of both groups.
  • Barry from New York, NcAn alternate take of the song is featured during the closing credits of the movie WOODSTOCK. Stephen Stills' vocal is different, as well as the guitar solos.
  • Tony from Delran, NjCSN&Y are the best harmonizers in Rock history!!! Anyone disagree?
  • Billy from Gilbert, AzAs they said when they opened their set:
    "This is only the second time we've performed in front of people. We're scared sh**less"
  • Joy from Indianapolis, InLarry,
    Woodstock was not signaling the end of the Hippie Generation. The Hippie movement we are most familiar with really came into being in San Francisco in 1967. It continued on through the late 60's, moving on into the 1970's. That's a fact, look it up.
  • Val from Topanga, CaJoni Mitchell was the girlfriend of Graham Nash at the time of Woodstock. That is how she got the info on the festival. Joni was known in Topanga as the "lady of the canyon".

    Neil also owned a home in Topanga in the Fernwood area.

    In 1974, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and The Eagles played the famous Topanga Corral and the admission was $4.
  • Craig from Ny, NyThe song in that clip is long time gone by crosby,stills,nash and young by the way its not woodstock
  • Mellonskull from Parkland, Flcladrastis, James taylor performed that on Howard Stern. I looked for it as well and couldn't find it..but he did a great job at it!
  • Cladrastis from Earth, MaIve heard a version of woodstock on the radio and it sounds like James Taylor singing it but I cant find any version by him. anyone know who it would be??
  • Scott from Mandurah, AustraliaI bought the Woodstock 45 single back in 1970.
    This is the most hardest rockin' number that CSN&Y never played. Incredible uplifting vocals and brilliantly played lead guitar. I thought that this was by far their best song and the greatest rock single ever produced. I wish that CSN&Y had done more in this style. The kings of soft rock doing hard rock.
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesHeather, you heard wrong: Guinevere was written for David Crosby's fiancee Christine Hinton, who died in a traffic accident.
  • Heather from Los Angeles, CaYes, Galina, I have heard of the song "Guenevere". It is very pretty but I don't know the words and it doesn't get much airtime here. I heard on the radio a member of the band saying it was based on a Groupie.
  • Sara from Greenville, AlJoni Mitchell couldn't go because she was scheduled to appear on "The Dick Cavett Show",.but her managers decided that she couldn't if she went to Woodstock.
  • Pat from Albuquerque, NmThe line "We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon" is literally true. Get a copy of the August 2007 "Sky and Telescope," go to page 102, and read.
  • Ashley from Somerset, KyCrosby, Stills, and Nash are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame however, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young have not been inducted.
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesMatthew's Southern Comfort did a much better job with their sweetly sung cover of Neil's "Tell Me Why", which appears on a compilation album called "MCA Sound Conspiracy". ... Neil reportedly threatened to El Kabong anyone who came near him with a camera at Woodstock, saying he detested the way Stephen was mugging and playing up to the camera instead of concentrating on the music. ... Neil can be seen in a fan film shot at Woodstock with Stephen playing "Mr. Soul" which circulates among music downloaders. One of my colleagues refers to this as "Neil vs. Stephen, Guitar Death Match".
  • Mali from New York, NyThis song rocks on!
  • Fyodor from Denver, CoI believe Joni didn't make it because transportation issues forced her to choose between the festival and a TV appearance, and her manager advised the latter. Lots of interesting guitar work on the CSNY version. There's a "swampy" lead that I believe is Stills and a frenetic lead that I think is Neil. There's also an interesting sounding rhythm gtr that I wonder if it's Stills or Crosby. Any ideas out there?
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScLarry hve you heard Jonie Mitchell's version? I'm not sure if I have heard the one by Mathew's southern Comfort, but i think I have.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScYay Johnny!! I agree, "Carry On' is a great song!
  • Johnny from Los Angeles, CaWhere's Carry On? Please make it, someone!
  • Larry from Newton, NcThe version by Matthews Southern Comfort band is much easier to understand the lyrics to than the CSNY version. Besides, the slower mode seems to fit the inner meaning of the song better such as when he says "got to get back to the land, try to set my soul free".
    Additionally, the lyrics "We are stardust, we are golden" seem to fit the situation at that time as Woodstock was signaling the end of the hippie generation, unfortunately.
    The MSC version just gets inside my head more deeply than the CSNY version.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI heard that same story Robert.
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScI have listened to those songs Galena, but I don't have the So FAr album. I have a greatest hits compilations that contains all of those songs, and they're great ones I might add. They should put them on the website.
  • Robert from Santa Barbara, CaThe story goes that Joni was in Hollywood, talking to CSN, who were at Woodstock. They described the scene to her, and she wrote the song based on what they told her. I think it worked out pretty well for everyone.
  • Galina from New London, CtHas anyone ever heard of "Our House" or "Wooden Ships (on the water)" or "Guineviere" (sp?)? They are on the 'So Far' album.
  • Galina from New London, CtI like the song because it tells a story, as like most of their songs do, and makes me wish I were alive back then so I could go......
  • Stefanie from Rock Hill, ScWell Taraa, I heard that she never got to go to Woodstock at all.
  • Tara from Palmyra, NjI heard that this song was written by Joni cause she got stuck and didn't make it to Woodstock "ontime". Something about getting stuck in traffic and staying at a hotel the first night. It makes sense if you listend: "By the time we got to Woodstock we were a half a million strong......". So take it as you want it.
  • Ekristheh from Halath, United StatesFor those who appreciate acoustic folk, Joni's dreamlike, THC-saturated version evokes the spirit of the festival's spectators beautifully. The CSNY version echoes the mind-blowing electric grooves from Hendrix and many of the other performers. If you like Matthew's Southern Comfort's version, try their lovely cover of Neil Young's "Tell Me Why".
  • Nessie from Sapporo, JapanThe "Matthew's Southern Comfort" version blows, as does Joni Mitchell's. CSNY nail this song, just like the Doobie Brothers nailed "Jesus is Just Alright." The Doobie blew the original out of the water.
  • Stefanie Magura from Rock Hill, ScGreat song. My favorite version is Joni mitchell's though.
  • Brett from Watertown, Sd"Deja Vu" is an amazin album
  • Dan from Auckland, New ZealandProbably the most commercially successful version of this song turned out to be a one hit wonder by a band named "Matthew's Southern Comfort".
see more comments

Editor's Picks

George Clinton

George ClintonSongwriter Interviews

When you free your mind, your ass may follow, but you have to make sure someone else doesn't program it while it's wide open.

Gary Numan

Gary NumanSongwriter Interviews

An Electronic music pioneer with Asperger's Syndrome. This could be interesting.

Millie Jackson

Millie JacksonSongwriter Interviews

Outrageously gifted and just plain outrageous, Millie is an R&B and Rap innovator.

Superman in Song

Superman in SongSong Writing

Not everyone can be a superhero, but that hasn't stopped generations of musicians from trying to be Superman.

Laura Nyro

Laura NyroSongwriting Legends

Laura Nyro talks about her complex, emotionally rich songwriting and how she supports women's culture through her art.

Ian Gillan of Deep Purple

Ian Gillan of Deep PurpleSongwriter Interviews

Deep Purple frontman Ian Gillan explains the "few red lights" in "Smoke On The Water" and talks about songs from their 2020 album Whoosh!