Folk musician Richie Havens died this morning of a heart attack. He was 72.
Havens is perhaps best remembered from his incendiary Woodstock performance/vamp of "Motherless Child," a song thereafter called "Freedom." He actually opened Woodstock and was kept on, stalling, for three hours!
Broooklyn born,and first a group vocalist, he relocated to Greenwich Village as a poet and then became a portrait artist, but the Village 's heavy folk scene drew him in. Once he began playing, he recorded records for the Douglas label, then Verve Forecast, so, tho' his Woodstock performance may have introduced him to a wider audience, he was already a seasoned part of the early-'60s groundswell of underground/beat culture. Like, he'd already begun his ascension when he opened Woodstock. In the '70s he had his own label, Stormy Forest, acted some, and eventually began educating kids about nature. He co-founded the Northwind Undersea Institute and The Natural Guard.
Havens was not a pop musician; he reached for more and was able to grab it, and make it his own. He was never a commercial singer, he took pop hits and recrafted them into his own versions of dramatic and soulful flight; he never changed to suit nobody. In his words, HE MADE MUSIC!! One of my fave quotes of his is from an interview a couple years ago, I think it was his 70th birthday:
"I don't feel one iota different from the day I walked into Greenwich Village" 50 years prior. "Everything I hoped for has happened," he told Billboard. "I never had a bad day on stage. I don't think I'm ever going to go away...least while I'm alive."
Of course he left us too soon, but what a fantastic outlook on living a life; it was all a blessing. Godspeed, Mr. Havens.