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Bert Sommer was, well, to quote his own website," a relative unknown in the (Woodstock) festival's entire line up of rock superstars" and that does sum it up tidily.  For a spell, Bert was in the great baroque group, The Left Bank, and co-authored and sang lead on the "Ivy Ivy/ And Suddenly" single.

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He also wrote 5 songs for the Vagrants, a great Long Island garage punk act featuring guitarist Leslie Weinstein (aka West) who would later found Mountain.  Bert was also the character 'Wooff' in the Broadway cast of Hair, the rock musical, and was pictured on the playbill. 

His debut album "The Road to Travel" was released on Capitol where the vice president of the label, Artie Kornfeld, became Bert's champion.  Artie left Capitol to put on a rock festival with his partner, Michael Lang, and, of course, he brought Bert along.  Bert placed a musician's classified in the Village Voice and got a bassist and guitarist. 

It is said his performance was the best performance of the first day.  In fact, his version of Simon & Garfunkel's 'America' got him a prolonged standing ovation.  The only standing ovation that weekend. 

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As the festival unfolded, Artie Kornfeld and Michael Land sold their rights to their partners in Woodstock Ventures who, in turn, sold the film rights to Warner Brothers thus cutting off any of Artie's say in whether or not Bert would be in the film.  He wasn't.  Two months after the release of the film the 3 disc set of the festival made it's appearance... and without Bert on it.  Kornfeld was told that Bert wasn't included because Capitol Records was considered to be a competitor.  Bert was naturally devastated.  Here was the most famous world event of the time and he got absolutely no credit for it.  It would have meant instant stardom for him like it did for Santana, Ten Years After and the like.  Bert continued to act and record but success continued to elude him.  As his style of music went out of favor, Bert began to use drugs and his health failed him.  He passed on in 1990 from respiratory illness.
Ruben Chandler

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  • Cosmo Topper My Friend Bert Rock In Peace
  • The Los Angeles Free Press 60's Music Site Bert's manager sold his rights to the festival. Warner Brothers/Cotillion couldn't have cared less about Bert. He was on the wrong label. I just love peace n love. The fix was in. Bert wasn't the only one. nv