Richie Havens

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Richie Havens
Havens performing in 2006
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
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, activist
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, sitar
Years active1965–2013
LabelsVerve Forecast, Universal, MGM, A&M, PolyGram, Solar, Epic, SME, Rykodisc, Rhino
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Richie Havens
Havens performing in 2006
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
Occupation(s)Musician, songwriter, activist
InstrumentsVocals, guitar, sitar
Years active1965–2013
LabelsVerve Forecast, Universal, MGM, A&M, PolyGram, Solar, Epic, SME, Rykodisc, Rhino

Richard Pierce Havens[1] (January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013), known as Richie Havens, was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist.[2] His music encompassed elements of folk, soul, and rhythm and blues. He is best known for his intense and rhythmic guitar style (often in open tunings), soulful covers of pop and folk songs, and his opening performance at the 1969 Woodstock Festival.

Life and career[edit]

Early life[edit]

Born in Brooklyn, Havens was the eldest of nine children.[2] He was of American Indian (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' 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. There he got married then moved to Brooklyn.[4]

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

Early career[edit]

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."[citation needed]

Publicity photo released in 1974 by his management at the William Morris Agency

Havens' 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 Forecast label. Verve released Mixed Bag in 1967, which featured tracks such as "Handsome Johnny" (co-written by Havens and future Oscar-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr.), "Follow," and a cover of Bob Dylan's "Just Like a Woman."

By 1969, Havens had released five more albums. Something Else Again (1968) became his first album to hit the Billboard charts and also pulled Mixed Bag back onto the charts. Two of those albums were unauthorized "exploitation albums" released by Douglas Records (or Douglas International[5]): Electric Havens (released June 1, 1968[5][6][7]) and Richie Havens Record (1969).[6][8]

Woodstock and increased visibility[edit]

Havens playing at Woodstock Music Festival 1969

Havens as a live performer earned widespread notice. His Woodstock appearance in 1969 catapulted him into stardom and was a major turning point in his career.[2] As the festival's first performer, he held the crowd for nearly three hours. In part, Havens 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. He 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. The subsequent Woodstock movie release helped Havens reach a worldwide audience. He also appeared at the Isle of Wight Festival in late August 1969.[9][10]

Havens performing in Hamburg, Germany, May 1972

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' 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,[11] as Othello in the 1974 film Catch My Soul, in Greased Lightning alongside Richard Pryor and in Bob Dylan's Hearts of Fire.[12]

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 describes 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."[13] In July 1978 he also was a featured performer at the Benefit Concert for The Longest Walk, an American Indian spiritual walk from Alcatraz to Washington DC affirming treaty rights, as a result of legislation that had been introduced to abrogate Indian treaties.

Branching out more into the media[edit]

During the 1980s and 1990s, Havens continued a world touring schedule and a steady release of albums. The release of the 1993 Resume, The Best Of Richie Havens Rhino collected his late 1960s and early 1970s recordings. In 1982, Havens 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,[14] 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 has done corporate commercial work for Maxwell House Coffee as well as singing "The Fabric of Our Lives" theme for the cotton industry.

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.[15] In 1999, Havens played at the Tibetan Freedom Concert for an audience of more than 100,000.[16]

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

Havens was the twentieth living recipient of the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award, presented in Sherborn, Massachusetts,[17] on April 12, 1991.

In addition to performing at charity benefit concerts, Havens formed the Northwind Undersea Institute, an oceanographic children's museum on City Island in The Bronx. The museum led to the creation of The Natural Guard, an organization that educates children about the environment.[13]

Final years[edit]

In 2000, Havens teamed with the electronic music duo Groove Armada for the retro 1970s-style song, "Hands of Time."[18] The song was featured on the soundtrack of the film Collateral; the same 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 (Hello Nightclub).[18]

In 2000, Havens published They Can't Hide Us Anymore, an autobiography co-written with Steve Davidowitz. He 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.

Havens playing in Piermont, New York, January 4, 2009

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."[19]

On October 15, 2006, Havens was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.[20]

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.

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. He also performed at the London, Ontario, Blues Festival in July 2008.[21]

In March 2008, Havens released a new studio album entitled, Nobody Left To Crown.[22] The first single release was the country-tinged "The Key."[citation needed]

Havens appeared in the acclaimed 2009 film Soundtrack for a Revolution, which provided a general history of the modern civil rights movement, and had modern artists performing many of the era's musical classics. In the film, Havens performed a haunting rendition of Will the Circle Be Unbroken?.[23]

Havens with journalist Phil Konstantin, on January 25, 2010

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 problems and death[edit]

In 2010, Havens had kidney surgery but did not recover fully enough to perform as he had before.[24] On March 20, 2012, he announced on his Facebook page that he would stop touring after 45 years due to health concerns.[25]

On April 22, 2013, Havens died of a heart attack at home in Jersey City, New Jersey at age 72.[26][27][28] The BBC referred to him as a "Woodstock icon,"[29] while Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young said Havens "could never be replicated."[29] The Daily Telegraph stated Havens "made an indelible mark on contemporary music,"[30] while Douglas Martin of The New York Times reported that Havens had "riveted Woodstock."[31]

Pursuant to Havens's request, his ashes were scattered from a plane over the site of the Woodstock festival, in a ceremony held on August 18, 2013, the 44th anniversary of the last day of the festival.[32]

Havens is survived by three children, five grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.[33]


Studio albums[edit]

YearAlbumUS Top 200
1967Mixed Bag182
1968Something Else Again184
1968Electric Havens192
1969Richie Havens' Record
1969Richard P. Havens, 198380
1971Alarm Clock29
The Great Blind Degree126
1974Mixed Bag II186
1976The End of the Beginning157
1983Common Ground
1987Simple Things173
Sings Beatles and Dylan
1994Cuts to the Chase
2002Wishing Well
2004Grace of the Sun
2008Nobody Left to Crown[2]

Live albums[edit]

YearAlbumUS Top 200
1972Richie Havens on Stage55
1990Live at the Cellar Door


YearAlbumUS Top 200
1993Résumé: The Best of Richie Havens
2000The Millennium Collection
2004Dreaming as One: The A&M Years
2005High Flyin' Bird


YearNameUS Hot 100
1967"No Opportunity Necessary"
1969"Rocky Raccoon"
"Lady Madonna"
1970"Handsome Johnny"
"Alarm Clock"
1971"Here Comes the Sun"16
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. ^ a b Soundtracks, Richie Havens IMDb page. Retrieved 2013-04-22.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h 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. 2013-04-25. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  4. ^ Robert Siegel (September 26, 2006). "Richie Havens: Face to Face with His Face". All Things Considered. NPR. Retrieved 22 November 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "Richie Havens". Verve Records. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  6. ^ a b "Music". Retrieved 22 April 2003. 
  7. ^ "Richie Havens: Electric Havens". MTV. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  8. ^ "Richie Havens: Electric Havens". Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  9. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 202. CN 5585. 
  10. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'N' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 215. CN 5585. 
  11. ^ Tobler, John (1992). NME Rock 'n' Roll Years (1st ed.). London: Reed International Books Ltd. p. 244. CN 5585. 
  12. ^ IMDb acting credits for Richie Havens
  13. ^ a b Official bio,, 2008. Retrieved 2013-04-22.
  14. ^ "The '80s TV Theme SuperSite: Promos (NBC)". Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  15. ^ Walsh, Ben. "Richie Havens". Archived from the original on 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2007-10-16. 
  16. ^ Raul Pollicino. "Gigography". Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  17. ^ The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Recipients List, Retrieved 2013-04-22.
  18. ^ a b Guest Appearances & Collaborations, Retrieved 2014-04-22.
  19. ^ American Eagle Awards recipients
  20. ^ " Inaugural 2006 Inductees". 2006-10-15. Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  21. ^ "London Artist Bios". Retrieved 2011-11-04. 
  22. ^ " Nobody Left to Crown: Richie Havens: Music". Retrieved 2009-10-11. 
  23. ^ "Soundtrack For A Revolution". Retrieved 2012-03-28. 
  24. ^ "Woodstock icon Richie Havens dies at 72". BBC News. 2013-04-23. Retrieved 2013-04-29. 
  25. ^ "Richie Havens". Facebook. Retrieved 2012-03-28. 
  26. ^ "Richie Havens dead; Folk musician was 72". FOX News. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  27. ^ "Richie Havens, Folk and Woodstock Legend, Dead at 72". Billboard. April 22, 2013. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  28. ^ Cubarrubia, RJ (April 22, 2013). "Richie Havens, Folk Icon, Dead at 72". Rolling Stone. Retrieved 22 April 2013. 
  29. ^ a b "Woodstock icon Richie Havens dies at 72". BBC News. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  30. ^ "Richie Havens". The Daily Telegraph. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  31. ^ Martin, Douglas (23 April 2013). "Richie Havens, Folk Singer Who Riveted Woodstock, Dies at 72". The New York Times. Retrieved 24 April 2013. 
  32. ^ Coulehan, Erin (August 19, 2013), "Richie Havens' Ashes Scattered at Woodstock", Rolling Stone, retrieved 2013-08-19 
  33. ^ Richie Havens, iconic Woodstock singer, dies at 72

External links[edit]