Richie Havens is best known for being the first performer to take the stage at Woodstock — where he delivered a nearly three-hour set that eventually made him a star — but his career was loaded with notable moments. A very truncated synopsis: He came up in the Greenwich Village folk scene alongside Bob Dylan (and signed with Dylan’s manager Albert Grossman); he released 13 Billboard-charting albums over the course of a 43-year recording career; he had acting roles alongside Dylan and Richard Pryor, and in the original stage presentation of The Who’s Tommy and Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There; he played at Bill Clinton’s inauguration and the Tibetan Freedom Concert.
Havens stopped touring last year, though, after 45 years on the road, due to health concerns. He passed away today, after suffering a heart attack, at the age of 72. His longtime booking agency, the Roots Agency, released the following statement:
RICHIE HAVENS was gifted with one of the most recognizable voices in popular music. His fiery, poignant, soulful singing style has remained unique and ageless since his historic appearance at Woodstock in 1969. For four decades, Havens used his music to convey passionate messages of brotherhood and personal freedom. Billboard Magazine writes, “This acoustic soul giant truly seems to be getting more inspiring and graceful with age.”
From Woodstock to The Isle of Wight to Glastonbury to the Fillmore Auditorium to Royal Albert Hall to Carnegie Hall, Richie played the most legendary music festivals that ever were, and most of the world’s greatest concert venues. But even when performing in a Greenwich Village coffeehouse or a small club or regional theater, he was eternally grateful that people in any number turned up each time to hear him sing. More than anything, he feels incredibly blessed to have met so many of you along the way.