Richie Havens

Richie Havens was an American folk singer, songwriter, and guitarist. Born in Brooklyn, New York, he emerged as a prominent figure in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s. Havens’ music blended elements of folk, soul, blues, and rock, creating a distinctive and powerful sound. Havens’ breakthrough came with his memorable performance at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in 1969. As the opening act, he was originally scheduled to perform a short set, but due to logistical issues and delays, he ended up playing for nearly three hours. His improvisational skills and soulful voice captivated the audience, making him an instant sensation. His performance of “Freedom” became an iconic moment and one of the defining highlights of the Woodstock festival.

The crowd at Richie Havens’ Woodstock opening set on Aug. 15, 1969.

Throughout his career, Havens released numerous albums and performed at various music festivals and venues around the world. Some of his notable albums include “Mixed Bag” (1967), “Alarm Clock” (1970), and “Grace of the Sun” (2004). He was known for his powerful interpretations of other artists’ songs, including Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman” and The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun,” which became signature songs for him.

Havens’ music often conveyed messages of peace, love, and social justice. His deep and raspy voice, coupled with his rhythmic guitar playing, created an emotionally charged and engaging listening experience. He was also known for his warm and engaging stage presence, connecting with audiences through his music and storytelling. Aside from his musical contributions, Havens was an advocate for various social and environmental causes. He actively supported organizations that promoted peace, civil rights, and ecological awareness.

Gil Scott-Heron and Richie Havens Gil Scott-Heron performs at B.B. King Blues Club – Backstage New York City

Richie Havens passed away on April 22, 2013, at the age of 72, leaving behind a significant legacy as a talented musician and a symbol of the 1960s folk music movement. His music continues to inspire and resonate with audiences, and his Woodstock performance remains an iconic moment in music history.

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