Richie Havens (Richard Pierce Havens)

Richie Havens

Richie Havens

Havens will best be remembered as the artist who opened the Woodstock music festival with a three hour set. At an early age, he began organizing his neighborhood friends into street corner doo-wop groups and was performing with The McCrea Gospel Singers at 16. At age 20, he moved to Greenwich Village where his reputation as a solo performer soon spread beyond the Village folk circles. After cutting 2 records for Douglas Records, he signed on with Bob Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman and landed a record deal with the Verve Forecast label and released ‘Mixed Bag’ in 1967, and by 1969, he released five more albums including ‘Something Else Again’ (1968), which became his first album to hit the Billboard charts. His Woodstock appearance in 1969 proved to be a major turning point in his career. As the festival’s first performer, he held the crowd for three hours 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”. Following the success of his Woodstock performance, he started his own record label, Stormy Forest, and delivered ‘Stonehenge’ in 1970 and later that year came ‘Alarm Clock’, which yielded the George Harrison penned hit single “Here Comes the Sun”. Havens, who went on to record nearly 30 albums, also branched out into acting, appearing in the original stage presentation of The Who’s ‘Tommy’, and on film appeared in ‘Catch My Soul’ (1974), ‘Greased Lightning’ (1977) and ‘Hearts of Fire’ (1987). Havens, who performed at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993, died at his home from a sudden heart attack.


  • January, 21, 1941
  • Brooklyn, New York


  • April, 22, 2013
  • Jersey City, New Jersey

Cause of Death

  • Heart attack



    • Cremated, Ashes scattered at the site of the original Woodstock festival in Bethel, New York

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