1970 Strawberry Fields Festival: 3 Days Of Love, Sun, & Sound In Canada – But No Leonard Cohen

More 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour Eccentricity

The poster above and those in the gallery near the end of this post promoted the August 7, 8, and 9, 1970 Strawberry Fields Festival held at Mosport, Ontario at which Leonard Cohen was listed as an act but did not perform.

The oddest element of this event may be that Leonard Cohen was somehow absent from the festivities; with the off and on involvement of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, its two venue changes (which brought the Festival back to its original site), concerts masquerading as a motorcycle race, … the Strawberry Fields Festival nee Toronto Peace Festival would have fit well into  the weirdness that was the 1970 Leonard Cohen Tour.

The story of the Strawberry Fields Festival of 1970 as related in Wikipedia follows:

John Brower along with John Lennon and Yoko Ono had originally planned to host the “Toronto Peace Festival” at Mosport Park in July 19701 but they ran into numerous roadblocks and their plans were dashed when their application for the necessary permits were denied. Without John and Yoko, Brower moved forward with plans to host a festival in Moncton, New Brunswick, named the “Strawberry Fields Festival”. Again, local politicians intervened and revoked various permits so Brower shifted the location back to Mosport Park in Ontario only this time he thinly disguised the event as a championship motorcycle race featuring “some contemporary entertainment.” [Note the copy in the 5th image describing the event.] The festival was advertised in Canada as the “First Annual Strawberry Cup Trophy Race”. To avoid public and political scrutiny, the musical entertainment aspect of the event was downplayed in advertisements and the festival was not promoted heavily in Canada.

The audience has been estimated at between 75,000 and 100,000 people. A three day ticket for the festival sold for $15.00.

Both Led Zeppelin and Leonard Cohen were booked to play the festival and their names appear on the posters but neither showed.

The following musicians did perform at the 1970 Strawberry Fields Festival:

  • Procul Harum
  • Jose Feliciano
  • Ten Years After
  • Delaney & Bonnie & Friends
  • Grand Funk Railroad
  • The Youngbloods
  • Jethro Tull
  • Melanie
  • Hog Heaven
  • Freedom Express
  • Leigh Ashford
  • Fat Chance
  • James Ambrose
  • Mountain
  • Cactus
  • Syrinx
  • Crowbar featuring King Biscuit Boy
  • Luke & The Apostles
  • Lighthouse
  • Alice Cooper
  • Sly and the Family Stone
 Video – Strawberry Fields Festival

Strawberry Fields Festival Posters

Image #4 is a blow-up of the lower left quadrant of Image #3 showing Leonard Cohen as one of  the acts.

  1. This seemingly bizarre concept had a precedent.  The previous year, John Brower and Kenny Walker had organised  the Toronto Peace Festival held at Varsity Stadium on 13 September 1969. Wikipedia reports that the Festival was built ” around the notion of a revival of rock and roll stars from the 1950s, booking Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, and Gene Vincent. They also booked more modern acts such as Alice Cooper, Chicago, and The Doors, and contacted Lennon to see if he would be willing to be the Master of Ceremonies. Lennon responded that if he came over at all, it would be to play. Since the Beatles had to all intents already broken up at this point, Lennon hastily assembled a band under the Plastic Ono Band moniker, consisting of Eric Clapton on leave from the soon-to-be-disbanded Blind Faith, Klaus Voormann, and future Yes drummer Alan White, to accompany himself and Ono. []

One Response to 1970 Strawberry Fields Festival: 3 Days Of Love, Sun, & Sound In Canada – But No Leonard Cohen

  1. Ah…1970! Enjoyed the video.
    It’s also reminiscent of an extended AD for VW’s ‘Bug and Bus’!