Legendary folk singer and star of 1969's Woodstock concert and movie, Richie Havens, died on April 22nd of a sudden heart attack at age 72 at his home in New Jersey, according to Billboard. Last month Havens announced his retirement citing health problems. Havens, who was renown for his unique open tuning rhythmic strumming, will forever be remembered as the opening act to Woodstock. Havens was initially slotted to play fifth on the festival's opening day but was urged to perform until various musicians' equipment -- then stuck on the New York State Thruway -- arrived.
Attendees and later filmgoers will always associate Havens acoustic workout featuring the spiritual "Motherless Child" and "Freedom" as one of the defining moments of the festival. He went on to score only one Top 40 hit, a reworking of George Harrison and the Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun," which peaked at Number 16 in 1971.
Havens, who was a Brooklyn native, was a mainstay of the Greenwich Village folk scene of the early-'60s, and originally mentored by songwriter Fred Neil -- best known today for writing "Everybody's Talkin.'" Eventually he attracted the attention of manager Albert Grossman of Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul & Mary fame, who secured him a contract recording for Verve Forecast. His breakthrough 1967 release, Mixed Bag, featured Havens' popular cover of Dylan's 1966 track "Just Like A Woman," along with "Handsome Johnny," which he wrote with close friend and actor, Lou Gossett, Jr.
Over the years, Havens, who often wore his civil liberties charity work on his sleeve, was seen on such TV shows as The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show, along with maintaining a heavy touring schedule. He appeared in the original 1972 stage production of the Who's Tommy, along with such big screen releases as Catch My Soul, Greased Lightning, Bob Dylan's ill-fated return to acting, Hearts Of Fire, and director Todd Haynes' Bob Dylan film I'm Not There.
In January 1993, Havens sang at President Bill Clinton's inauguration and in 2000 published his memoir, They Can't Hide Us Anymore. He was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame in 2006. Havens is survived by four daughters, five grandchildren, and "at least one grandchild." A public memorial will be announced at a later time.
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