In Memoriam: Richie Havens 1941 – 2013

Folk singer and guitarist Richie Havens passed away this morning from a sudden heart attack . He was 72.

Havens, widely admired for his briskly rhythmic guitar style and richly textured voice, became a part of history for serving as the opening performer at the Woodstock festival in 1969.

Havens transfixed the crowd at the start of that storied weekend. In a way, he had to. He was asked by the organizers to extend his set to nearly three hours to kill time since most of the other performers hadn’t yet reached the site, due to the choking crowds. Havens’ subsequent improvisation on the spiritual “Motherless Child” – threaded with his own inspired vamp of “Freedom” – become one of the festival’s signature sounds.

Havens’ reputation as a live performer earned him widespread notice. His Woodstock appearance proved to be a major turning point in his career. As the festival’s first performer, he held the crowd for nearly three hours (in part because he was told to perform a lengthy set because many artists were delayed in reaching the festival location), and was called back for several encores. Having run out of tunes, he improvised a song based on the old spiritual “Motherless Child” that became “Freedom”. The subsequent Woodstock movie release helped Havens reach a worldwide audience. He also appeared at the Isle of Wight Festival in late August 1969. [..]

Increasingly, Havens devoted his energies to educating young people about ecological issues. In the mid-1970s, he co-founded the Northwind Undersea Institute, an oceanographic children’s museum on City Island in the Bronx. That, in turn, led to the creation of The Natural Guard, an organization Richie describes as “a way of helping kids learn that they can have a hands-on role in affecting the environment. Children study the land, water, and air in their own communities and see how they can make positive changes from something as simple as planting a garden in an abandoned lot.

Richie passed away on Earth Day.

May the Goddess guide him on his journey to the Summerlands. May his family and and friends and all the world find Peace.

Freedom at Woodstock 1969

Blessed Be. The Wheel Turns


  1. TMC

    The Sun Will Rise on One More Day

  2. tahoebasha3

    I cannot begin to tell you how much I loved Richie Havens and his music for so long and still.  

    I had seen him in person several times, and I have, I think, most of his albums.  It’s hard to express the depth and soul that his somewhat raspy voice brought to penetrate your own soul.  How did he do it?  I have no clue, but he did it.  His voice, his words, his guitar, the energy he exuded, everything combined to have you sit spell-bound just listening to him. His smile was equally infectious!

    It’s a sad loss for us all.

    He will not be forgotten.  (Earlier on in his career, he had a big gap in his teeth — it was a “trademark” as far as I was concerned.  Looks like, from the video photo below, he decided to give up the “gap.”)  

    May he rest in peace.  

  3. tahoebasha3

    He had that way of just taking you there!  

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