Brooklyn-born Richie Havens, singer who opened Woodstock, 72

April 22, 2013 By Raanan Geberer Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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Richie Havens, the Brooklyn-born folk and rock singer-songwriter who was best known for his performance at Woodstock in 1969, where he sang “Freedom,” has died at 72.

His family said in a statement that Havens died Monday of a heart attack.

Havens grew up in Bedford-Stuyvesant and originally sang doo-wop music before gravitating to Greenwich Village and getting involved with the folk scene. He tuned his guitar in an open D tuning, which accounted for its unusual sound.

Havens first became well-known with the release of his 1967 album, “Mixed Bag,” which contained covers of songs by Bob Dylan and the Beatles as well as his own anti-war protest song, “Handsome Johnny,” and the jazzy “San Francisco Bay Blues.”

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His success continued throughout the 1970s. In 1970s, his album, “Alarm Clock,” which contained the hit single, “Here Comes the Sun,” became his first record to crack Billboard’s Top 30. He also moved into TV and films, getting thunderous applause on the “Johnny Carson Show.”

In 1991, for the album, “Songs of the Civil War,” he sang, “Give Us a Flag,” a song about the first African-American volunteers, and “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” about the Underground Railroad and the slaves’ escape to freedom. In 2007, he appeared in “I’m Not There,” a fictionalized biography of Bob Dylan in which different actors play the singer. A year later, he performed at MetroTech in Downtown Brooklyn.

A public memorial is planned for a later date, according to his family members.


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