Richie Havens

Richard Pierce Havens (January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013)[1] was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.[2] His music encompassed elements of folk, soul, and rhythm and blues. He had an intense and rhythmic guitar style (often in open tunings), and played soulful covers of pop and folk songs. He was the opening act at Woodstock.

Richie Havens
Background information
Birth nameRichard Pierce Havens
Born(1941-01-21)January 21, 1941
Brooklyn, New York,
United States
DiedApril 22, 2013(2013-04-22) (aged 72)
Jersey City, New Jersey,
United States
GenresFolk rock, funk, blues, soul
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, sitar
Years active1965–2013
LabelsVerve Forecast, MGM, A&M, Solar/Epic/SME, Rykodisc, Rhino

Life and career

Early life

Born in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Havens was the oldest of nine children.[2] He was of Native American (Blackfoot) descent on his father's side and of the British West Indies on his mother's.[3] His grandfather was Blackfoot of the Montana/South Dakota area. Havens's grandfather and great-uncle joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, got off in New York City, and ended up on the Shinnecock Reservation in Long Island. Havens's grandfather got married, then moved to Brooklyn.[4]

As a youth in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Havens began organizing his neighborhood friends into street corner doo-wop groups and, at age 16, was performing with the McCrea Gospel Singers.[2]

Early career

At age 20, Havens left Brooklyn, seeking artistic stimulation in Greenwich Village. "I saw the Village as a place to escape to, in order to express yourself," he recalled. "I had first gone there during the beatnik days of the 1950s to perform poetry, then I drew portraits for two years and stayed up all night listening to folk music in the clubs. It took a while before I thought of picking up a guitar."[5]

Havens's solo performances quickly spread beyond the Village folk circles.[2] After cutting two records for Douglas Records, he signed on with Bob Dylan's manager, Albert Grossman, and landed a record deal with the Verve Folkways (later Verve Forecast) label. Verve released Mixed Bag in late 1966, which featured tracks such as "Handsome Johnny" (co-written by Havens and actor Louis Gossett Jr.), "Follow", and a cover[6] of Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman".[7] Havens released his first single, "No Opportunity Necessary", in 1967.

By 1969, he had released five more albums. Something Else Again (1968) became his first album to hit the Billboard charts, and it pulled Mixed Bag back onto the charts. Two of those albums were unauthorized "exploitation albums" released by Douglas Records (or Douglas International[8]): Electric Havens (released June 1, 1968)[8][9][10] and Richie Havens Record (1969).[9][11]

Woodstock and rise in fame

Havens's live performances earned widespread notice. His Woodstock appearance in 1969 catapulted him into stardom and was a major turning point in his career.[2] Despite Havens's own recollection that he performed for nearly three hours, the actual recording and setlist reflect that he played about fifty minutes.[12] Havens recalled that he was told to continue playing because many artists scheduled to perform after him were delayed in reaching the festival location with highways at a virtual standstill.[13] Havens recalled being called back for several encores.[13] Having run out of tunes, he improvised a song based on the old spiritual "Motherless Child" that became "Freedom". In an interview with Cliff Smith, for Music-Room, he explained:

I'd already played every song I knew and I was stalling, asking for more guitar and mic, trying to think of something else to play – and then it just came to me ... The establishment was foolish enough to give us all this freedom and we used it in every way we could.

The subsequent Woodstock movie release helped Havens reach a worldwide audience. He also appeared two weeks later at the Isle of Wight Festival (in late August 1969).[14][15]

Following the success of his Woodstock performance, Havens started his own record label, Stormy Forest, and released Stonehenge in 1970. Later that year came Alarm Clock, which included the George Harrison–penned hit single, "Here Comes the Sun". This was Havens's first album to reach Billboard's Top 30 Chart.[2] Stormy Forest went on to release four more of his albums: The Great Blind Degree (1971), Live On Stage (1972), Portfolio (1973), and Mixed Bag II (1974).[2] Memorable television appearances included performances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. On the latter program, the audience reacted with such enthusiasm that, when the applause continued even after the commercial break, Carson asked Havens to return the following night.

Havens also began acting during the 1970s. He was featured in the original 1972 stage presentation of The Who's Tommy,[16] as Othello in the 1974 film Catch My Soul, in Greased Lightning alongside Richard Pryor, and in Bob Dylan's Hearts of Fire.[17]

Havens increasingly 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 Havens described 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."[18]

In July 1978, he was a featured performer at the Benefit Concert for The Longest Walk, an American Indian spiritual walk from Alcatraz to Washington, D.C. affirming treaty rights, as a result of legislation that had been introduced to abrogate Indian treaties.

Branching out more into the media

During the 1980s and 1990s, Havens continued a world touring schedule and steadily released albums. The release of 1993's Resume, The Best of Richie Havens, on Rhino Records, collected his late 1960s and early 1970s recordings. In 1982, he composed and performed a promotional slogan for NBC's 1982–83 television season, entitled We're NBC, Just Watch Us Now. He also performed slogans for CBS and ABC,[19] and recorded commercials for Amtrak (singing the slogan, "There's something about a train that's magic") and in 1985, for Coca-Cola. Havens also did corporate commercial work for Maxwell House Coffee, as well as sang "The Fabric of Our Lives" theme for the cotton industry. In 1982, he appeared at the UK's Glastonbury Festival, closing the show on the Sunday night.[20]

In 1993, Havens performed at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. Among the selections was the "Cotton" song, made famous by a series of television ads in the early 1990s.[21] In 1999, Havens played at the Tibetan Freedom Concert for an audience of more than 100,000.[22]

Havens also played a small role, as a character named Daze, in the film Street Hunter (1990), starring John Leguizamo.

Havens was the 20th living recipient of the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award, presented in Sherborn, Massachusetts,[23] on April 12, 1991.

Final years

In 2000, Havens teamed with the electronic music duo Groove Armada for the retro 1970s-style song, "Hands of Time".[24] The song was featured on the soundtrack of the film Collateral; that song was also used in the films Domino, A Lot Like Love, and Tell No One.[1] Havens was also featured on "Little By Little" and "Healing" on the band's third album, Goodbye Country.[24]

In 2000, he published They Can't Hide Us Anymore, an autobiography co-written with Steve Davidowitz. Havens maintained his status as a folk icon and continued to tour. In 2002, he released Wishing Well, followed by the 2004 album Grace of the Sun.

In 2003, the National Music Council awarded Havens the American Eagle Award for his place as part of America's musical heritage and for providing "a rare and inspiring voice of eloquence, integrity and social responsibility."[25]

On October 15, 2006, Havens was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.[26][27]

In 2007, Havens appeared as "Old Man Arvin" in the Todd Haynes film I'm Not There. In a classic front-porch jam scene, he is shown singing the Bob Dylan song "Tombstone Blues" with Marcus Carl Franklin and Tyrone Benskin. Havens' version of the song also appears on the I'm Not There soundtrack.

In February 2008, Havens performed at The Jazz Café in London, England. The performance and the man were described by Cliff Smith, reporting for Music-News as "Mesmerising, poetic, profound, funny...".

Havens was invited to perform at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival opening ceremony. He played "Freedom" at the request of the jury president, Sean Penn. Havens also performed at the London, Ontario, Blues Festival in July 2008.[28]

In March 2008, Havens released a new studio album entitled, Nobody Left To Crown.[29] The first single release was the country-tinged "The Key".

Havens appeared in the acclaimed 2009 film Soundtrack for a Revolution, which provided a general history of the modern Civil Rights Movement and featured modern artists performing many of the era's musical classics. In the film, Havens performed a haunting rendition of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?".[30]

On May 3, 2009, Havens performed at the fundraising concert in honor of Pete Seeger's 90th birthday. In June 2009, he performed at the fifth annual Mountain Jam Festival. The event, hosted by Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mule guitarist Warren Haynes, was held at the Hunter Mountain Ski Resort in Hunter, New York. As is the tradition, the festival took place on the weekend following Memorial Day.

On June 20, 2009, Havens performed at the Clearwater Festival. On July 4, 2009, he performed at the Woodstock Tribute festival in Ramsey, New Jersey. On August 8, 2010, he performed at Musikfest 2010, at Foy Hall at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

Health Issues

In 2010, Havens underwent kidney surgery but did not recover fully enough to perform as he had before.[31] In March 2012, he announced on his Facebook page that he would retire from touring after 45 years, due to health issues.[32]


On April 22, 2013, Havens died of a heart attack at home in Jersey City, New Jersey, at the age of 72.[27][33][34] The BBC referred to him as a "Woodstock icon,"[35] while Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young said Havens "could never be replicated."[35] The Daily Telegraph stated Havens "made an indelible mark on contemporary music,"[36] while Douglas Martin of The New York Times reported that Havens had "riveted Woodstock."[37]

Pursuant to Havens's request, he was cremated, and his ashes were scattered from the air over the original site of the Woodstock Festival, in a ceremony held on August 18, 2013, the 44th anniversary of the festival's last day.[38]

Havens was survived by his wife Nancy, three children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.[39]

On June 25, 2019, The New York Times Magazine listed Richie Havens among hundreds of artists whose material was reportedly destroyed in the 2008 Universal fire.[40]


Studio albums

Year Album US Top 200
1966 Mixed Bag 182
1968 Something Else Again 184
1968 Electric Havens 192
1969 The Richie Havens Record
1969 Richard P. Havens, 1983 80
1970 Stonehenge 155
1971 Alarm Clock 29
The Great Blind Degree 126
1973 Portfolio 182
1974 Mixed Bag II 186
1976 The End Of The Beginning 157
1977 Mirage
1980 Connections
1983 Common Ground
1987 Simple Things 173
Sings Beatles and Dylan
1991 Now
1994 Cuts to the Chase
2002 Wishing Well
2004 Grace of the Sun
2008 Nobody Left to Crown[2]

Live albums

Year Album US Top 200
1972 Richie Havens on Stage 55
1990 Live at the Cellar Door


Year Album US Top 200
1993 Résumé: The Best of Richie Havens
1995 Classics
1999 Time
2000 The Millennium Collection
2004 Dreaming as One: The A&M Years
2005 High Flyin' Bird


Year Name US Hot 100
1967 "No Opportunity Necessary"
1969 "Rocky Raccoon"
"Lady Madonna"
1970 "Handsome Johnny"
"Alarm Clock"
1971 "Here Comes the Sun" 16
1972 "Freedom"
1973 "What About Me"
"It Was a Very Good Year"
"Eyesight of the Blind"
1976 "I'm Not in Love"
1977 "We All Wanna Boogie"
1980 "Going Back to My Roots"



  1. Soundtracks, Richie Havens IMDb page. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  2. Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 433–434. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.
  3. "Folk Singer Richie Havens, Blackfeet, Walks On". Indian Country Today Media Network. April 25, 2013. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  4. Siegel, Robert (September 26, 2006). "Richie Havens: Face to Face with His Face". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved November 22, 2013.
  5. "Carnegie Hall - Richie Havens". Carnegie Hall. Carnegie Hall Corporation. Archived from the original on August 7, 2016. Retrieved February 11, 2016.
  6. Hickey, Thom (March 9, 2016). "Richie Havens: Roots, Freedom, Bob Dylan & The Beatles!".
  7. Jim Newsome, "Mixed Bag: Review", Allmusic"
  8. "Richie Havens". Verve Records. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  9. "Music". Retrieved April 22, 2003.
  10. "Richie Havens: Electric Havens". MTV. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  11. "Richie Havens: Electric Havens". Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  12. Stafford, James (August 9, 2019). "From The Stacks: 'Woodstock – Back to the Garden: The Definitive 50th Anniversary Archive'".
  13. "On Woodstock: Richie Havens in His Own Words". CNN.
  14. Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 202. CN 5585.
  15. Tobler (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years. p. 215. CN 5585.
  16. Tobler (1992). NME Rock 'n' Roll Years. p. 244. CN 5585.
  17. "Richie Havens". IMDb.
  18. Official bio Archived December 29, 2010, at the Wayback Machine,, 2008. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  19. "The '80s TV Theme SuperSite: Promos (NBC)". Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  20. "Glastonbury CND festival 1982".
  21. Walsh, Ben. "Richie Havens". Archived from the original on October 25, 2007. Retrieved October 16, 2007.
  22. Raul Pollicino. "Gigography". Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  23. The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Recipients List Archived June 10, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  24. Guest Appearances & Collaborations, Retrieved April 22, 2014.
  25. "American Eagle Awards recipients". Archived from the original on January 29, 2009.
  26. "Richie Havens". Long Island Music Hall of Fame.
  27. "Richie Havens, Folk and Woodstock Legend, Dead at 72". Billboard. April 22, 2013. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  28. "London Artist Bios". Archived from the original on October 5, 2011. Retrieved November 4, 2011.
  29. Havens, Richie. "Nobody Left to Crown: Richie Havens: Music". Amaxon. Retrieved October 11, 2009.
  30. "Soundtrack for a Revolution". Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  31. "Woodstock icon Richie Havens dies at 72". BBC News. April 23, 2013. Retrieved April 29, 2013.
  32. "Richie Havens". Facebook. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  33. "Richie Havens dead; Folk musician was 72". FOX News. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  34. Cubarrubia, RJ (April 22, 2013). "Richie Havens, Folk Icon, Dead at 72". Rolling Stone. Retrieved April 22, 2013.
  35. "Woodstock icon Richie Havens dies at 72". BBC News. April 23, 2013. Retrieved April 24, 2013.
  36. "Richie Havens". The Daily Telegraph. April 23, 2013. Retrieved April 24, 2013.
  37. Martin, Douglas (April 23, 2013). "Richie Havens, Folk Singer Who Riveted Woodstock, Dies at 72". The New York Times. Retrieved April 24, 2013.
  38. Coulehan, Erin (August 19, 2013). "Richie Havens' Ashes Scattered at Woodstock". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 19, 2013.
  39. Lewis, Randy. "Richie Havens, iconic Woodstock singer, dies at 72", Los Angeles Times, April 22, 2013.
  40. Rosen, Jody (June 25, 2019). "Here Are Hundreds More Artists Whose Tapes Were Destroyed in the UMG Fire". The New York Times. Retrieved June 28, 2019.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.