By Lauren Patterson, Staff Writer
[Photo via Spotify]
Woodstock 1969—it’s Friday, Aug. 15 in Bethel, New York. Hundreds of thousands eagerly await the start of the festival, as everyone behind the scenes flusters over the fact that the show was already nearing three hours past its scheduled start time.
The crowd was eager; they wanted great music and almost all of the acts were stuck in the immense amount of traffic. Who better to save the show than the legendary Richie Havens himself?
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Richard “Richie” Havens, born Jan. 21, 1941, first began his career at age 20 when he moved to Greenwich Village, New York. Havens first sought interest in the art scene, participating in poetry and art.
However, after getting started with the guitar, Havens began his solo career and released his first album, Mixed Bag, in 1967. Mixed Bag, alongside much of Havens’ discography, is comprised of both original songs and notable covers from artists such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan and more.
He continued to release music throughout the ’60s, and Douglas Records even released two unapproved albums, Electric Havens and Richie Havens’ Record that Havens recorded before Mixed Bag.
Something Else Again, Havens’ 1968 album release, included a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Maggie’s Farm” and Havens’ own “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed”, which was soon after covered by Yes on their 1970 album, Time and a Word.
Continuing his career and the success of his music, Havens then encountered Woodstock 1969, which would change his career forever. His performance lasted almost three hours, and he wrote the song “Freedom”—a song based on the traditional spiritual “Sometimes I feel like a Motherless Child”—right there on the Woodstock stage.
Following Woodstock, Havens’ following and recognition grew as he continued to release music. In 1971, Havens’ cover of “Here Comes The Sun” even charted at 16 on Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart.
He furthered much of his music career through live performances but continued to record after signing with Sony Music in 1991.
Havens died in April 2013 from a heart attack, but his life and legacy promoted Woodstock’s peace and love, excellent music and ultimate passion.
Following his death, the Times Herald-Record of Middletown, New York reported that a celebration took place on Aug. 18, 2013, in which Havens’ ashes were scattered across the original Woodstock site.
It’s because of Havens’ ability to endure a three-hour set that Woodstock was able to become all that it is. Havens serves as an icon in pioneering folk music, and his guitar playing is continuously noted and praised by many.
Richie Havens’ legacy and his ability to “save the show” is celebrated, especially for inspiring others to create, love and perform.
Check out Richie Havens’ live performance of “Freedom” below.