Folksinger Richie Havens Dead

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Richie Havens

Richie HavensNEW YORK NY – Famed folk singer, activist, and Woodstock performer, Richie Havens, who was part Blackfoot Indian, has died of a heart attack on April 22, 2013, Earth Day, at the age of 72. Havens first became part of musical history during his impromptu opening performance at the 1969 Woodstock Festival. Best known for his distinctive intense, rhythmic guitar style and soulful covers of pop and folk songs, Havens toured and recorded music for over 40 years before retiring from the road 3 years ago. Beyond his music, those who have met Havens will remember his gentle and compassionate nature, his light humor and his powerful presence.

Richie Havens passes on Earth Day

Richie Havens offered his support and commitment as a performer with Blackfoot Indian heritage during the formation of the Native American Music Awards.
He proclaimed his Native American heritage at press conference announcing the launch of the Native American Music Awards in lower Manhattan on April 22, 1998, exactly 15 years ago. He was also asked by the family of the late Jimi Hendrix to perform a musical tribute for Hendrix’s induction into the N.A.M.A. Hall of Fame at the First Awards ceremony held in May 1998 at the Foxwoods Resort & Casino.
Havens gave a magical and stellar performance of All Along The Watchtower that “catapulted the Awards show into something truly spiritual and spectacular” recalls N.A.M.A. President and Founder, Ellen Bello. His mesmerizing and unforgettable performance included a medley of Hendrix songs.
Havens said his Native American heritage stemmed from his father’s side of the family who came from Montana and the South Dakota areas. In an interview with National Public Radio he stated, “They were Blackfoot Indian. They came with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, got off in New York City, left the show there and ended up on the Shinnecock Reservation in Long Island then moved to Brooklyn. And that’s how my father was born in Brooklyn and how I ended up being born in Brooklyn as well.”

Havens’ Mixed Bag II Cd released in 1974 on his own label, Stormy Forest Productions, also hinted at his Blackfoot heritage. The song, “Indian Prayer” celebrates and embraces his Native American roots. For a preview of the song visit, http://www.last.fm/music/Richie+Havens/Mixed+Bag+II

Standing at 6 feet 6 inches, Havens was best known for his distinctive, rhythmic guitar style and soulful songs. He recorded 30 albums and toured for over 40 years before retiring from the road three years ago. Those who have met Havens will remember his gentle and compassionate nature, his light humor and his powerful presence.

He told Billboard Magazine that his breakthrough at the 1969 Woodstock music festival came after the opening acts’ equipment got stuck in traffic. He was supposed to be the fifth act. He became the first act and played for almost three hours. Havens remembered, “They’re gonna kill me if I go up on stage first. Give me a break. I need those four people in front of me to warm up the crowd. But the people were great. I was supposed to sing 40 minutes, which I did, and from the side of the stage they go, ‘Richie, four more songs?’ I went back and did that, then it was, ‘Four more songs…’ and that kept happening ’til two hours and 45 minutes later I had sung every song I know.” He played a galvanizing set that included “Motherless Child” that merged into his song “Freedom,” which he said came from “a totally spontaneous place.” 

Havens’ Woodstock appearance proved to be a major turning point in his career giving him widespread notoriety and his highest-charting albums — “Richard P. Havens, 1983” in 1969 (No. 80 on the Billboard 200) and “Alarm Clock” in 1971 (No. 29). 

Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills and Nash said Havens was an inspiration for the natural gravel in his singing voice. “He lit fire when he started playing within the first song and burned exactly the same way throughout his set. And it never stopped, it never changed” Stills said.

Havens is survived by three daughters, five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. According to media reports, a public memorial for Havens will be announced at a later date. More information can be found at Havens’s official website,www.richiehavens.com.

Thoughts on Richie Havens

Richie’s performance of “All Along the Watchtower” was a perfect example of the simple raw emotion the he always put into his performance. No bells and whistles just an acoustic guitar, a voice and a little sweat. Totally pure music. I will surely miss him. –  Joe Bello, NAMA Music Director

Such a shame. What a great artist and inspiration! I went to Woodstock. My parents brought me. Well….almost. My understanding is that it was pouring down rain. And we had a Volkswagen Bus. They got it stuck in the mud on the way in. I don’t remember if they actually walked in with me or not. I will have to ask them. My folks were total hippies back then. LOL. At that time, my mom’s hair was as long as Crystal Gayle’s! – Mike Johnson, Foxwoods Casino