Richie Havens, Folk Singer Extraordinaire — Who Was the Opening Act at Woodstock — Dead at 72

Apr 22, 2013  •  Post A Comment

“Richie Havens, 72, the veteran folk singer whose frenetic guitar strumming and impassioned vocals made him one of the defining voices and faces of Woodstock, and by extension, of 1960s pop music, died Monday of a heart attack at his home in New Jersey, his publicist said in a statement,” reports Randy Lewis at the website of the Los Angeles Times.

Lewis adds that Havens’ “performance of ‘Freedom/Motherless Child’ [at Woodstock] embodied the sense of frustration at the strictures of the social status quo and looming liberation being felt by blacks and whites, men and women during an era of tremendous sociopolitical turmoil.”

The article also says: “Reviewing Havens’ performance at the Troubadour in West Hollywood about a year before Woodstock, Times staff writer Pete Johnson wrote, ‘He sings in a lispy rasping voice which by all odds should be unappealing and flails the strings of his guitar with an energy which belies sensitivity, but the perofrmance and the man remain inarguably beautiful.'”

According to the Billboard obituary, Havens “sang at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in January of 1993, and a decade later he received the American Eagle Award form the National Music Council. He collaborated with the electronic duo Groove Armada on ‘Hands in Time’ for the ‘Collateral’ film soundtrack, and he’s worked with Genesis members Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett, blues artist Bill Perry and with David Letterman CBS Orchestra drummer Anton Fig. Havens published an autobiography, ‘They Can’t Hide Us Anymore,’ in 2000 and was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006.

“Havens is survived by four daughters, five grandchildren and at least one great-grandchild. Through his publicist, Haven’s family has asked ‘for privacy during this difficult time’ but promised that ‘a public memorial will be planned for a later date.'”

Here are two must-see videos of Havens singing. The first is from Woodstock. The second is his version of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman”:

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