Woodstock Ventures John Roberts

Woodstock Ventures John Roberts

Woodstock Ventures John Roberts

Remembering and appreciating him on his birthday
January 26, 1945 – October 27, 2001
Woodstock Ventures John Roberts
Clockwise from top left: John Roberts, Joel Rosenman, Michael Lang, and Artie Kornfeld

E pluribus unum

Each of the four Woodstock Ventures partners contributed to the Woodstock Music and Art Fair and it would be silly to say any one of them meant more than any other, but I think it is fair to say that the idea, however great, would never have gotten off the ground if not for the financial backing, patience, and endurance of John Roberts.

It may be a stereotype, but the personalities of each Woodstock Venture partner was predictable. Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld, the originators and instigators of the event, are best described as hippies and idealists. Lang in particular. 

Joel Rosenman and John Roberts were the business guys in business suits whose business acumen helped navigate the venture through the choppy cultural waters of the late 1960s.

John Roberts, in particular.

Woodstock Ventures John Roberts

John Roberts

John Roberts was a nephew in the Block Pharmaceutical family. Alexander Block had founded the company in 1907. In 1969 John Roberts was 24 and had recently graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and with friend Joel Rosenman delved into writing for TV. They wanted to pitch the idea of two young men with money looking to make a TV program. 

To get ideas, they placed a newspaper ad in the Wall Street Journal which read, that they were ”young men with unlimited capital.” Though they received thousands or responses, the TV idea died.

Instead, Roberts and Rosenman went into business with a recording studio in Manhattan, Mediasound. Since Lang and Kornfeld’s original idea was to build a recording studio in the town of Woodstock, NY, Fortune and fortuitousness brought the four together.

Woodstock Ventures John Roberts

Woodstock Ventures

The four formed Woodstock Ventures and they would (“they” is a funny word to use here) finance the project with profits (another funny word in retrospect) from a festival with an inheritance John Roberts had just received from the Block fortune.

The Woodstock Music and Art Fair story is John’s and it is not John’s. The vision and thrust was Lang’s. John Robert’s patience, persistence, and, obviously, money made the idea a reality despite huge initial losses.

After the event, it was John’s family who strongly recommended that John buy out Lang and Kornfeld from Ventures and also to sell the movie and music rights to Warner Brothers to begin to recoup those huge losses.

It was not until a dozen years later that the still extant Woodstock Ventures made its money back. By that point, Lang had gotten back into the company and remains there, with Joel Rosenman, and the Roberts family to this day.

Woodstock Ventures John Roberts


John Roberts

John Roberts died from cancer on October 27, 2001.

Ben Sisario wrote in the New York TimesEven as a producer of Woodstock ’94, Mr. Roberts made it clear that his interests were in maintaining the peaceful legacy of Woodstock rather than in making money, said John Scher, another producer. ”John was a smart businessman,’‘ Mr. Scher said, ”but he had a lot of heart.

Thank you John

Woodstock Ventures John Roberts

Please read more in the comment below.

8 thoughts on “Woodstock Ventures John Roberts”

  1. Do you think that they while wanting to make money also signed on to see/experience the life style of Lang and Kornfeld?

      1. Thanks for the nice tribute to John! 19 years today John died at 56. He is missed greatly by his many friends and family. A few more fun facts to round out your biographical information.

        1. Alexander Block was John’s grandfather. The money came from a trust fund that was left due to his mother’s death when he was only 8 or 9 years old. He used it all to fund Woodstock, paid his debts rather than declare bankruptcy, and was ultimately bailed out by his father and brother, Billy. Selling the film was to recoup some of the debts and the film went on to be the largest grossing documentary film for decades.
        2. When John met Lang and Kornfeld, he was already fully into building MediaSound which has an important place in music history. There’s a good facebook group for MediaSound FYI. Lang and Kornfeld wanted John to fund a studio in upstate, but with the NYC project incomplete, he was not interested in financing another studio. He suggested that the local artists have a concert from which ticket sales would fund a studio. The studio never happened for all the obvious reasons.
        3. Lastly, John wasn’t much of an in crowd seeker. He was more of a everyone’s man .. but it is funny to think of him that way at all. He was also not interested in the spotlight. Upon his death, he left a letter that addresses fame and treating it with respect but quietly return to the anonymity of your regular life. Nice!

        1. Thank you for the update. It is very difficult to find much about John on the web. His mothers death at such a young age much have been very difficult. I have not seen any photo’s of John at the Woodstock festival but will continue to look. It would be nice to hear more personal anecdotes about John, without him Woodstock would have never happened.

        2. I met John at his NY apt In early ‘69 with a friend of John’s, a U of PA grad who knew John well and who I had been dating for a year. I can’t recall if John’s apt was on Park or Fifth but I do remember it was a lovely residence and quite sophisticated for a man of his age. John spent the afternoon describing what he hoped would be the greatest musical gathering/ event of all time. I found him charming, enthusiastic and genuine. We did not attend Woodstock as we had previously planned to spend our summer driving across the US from NY to south CA and then up the coast to San Fran. and back across the northern route to NYC. In fact, we were in Haight Asbury during Woodstock! Upon return to NYC my beau contacted John and the stories and descriptions were vivid and historic. We were sad not to be there as witnesses! His passing was a great loss and his vision and energy were legendary. Much regard to his survivors.

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