Folk singer and native New Yorker Richie Havens, who is best know as the opening act at the legendary Woodstock Festival in 1969, has died at the age of 72. NY1's Arts reporter Stephanie Simon filed the following report.
Singer-songwriter Richie Havens opened the Woodstock Festival in 1969 with an intense acoustical set powered by the protest spirit of the anti-war movement. He was supposed to perform fifth, but with other acts mired in traffic, he not only took the stage but prolonged his performance to give the other musicians time to arrive.
In many ways, it was a defining moment for Havens. Back in 2008, near the site of the historic concert, he shared with NY1 his feelings walking on stage all those years ago.
"It was fear," Havens said. "Because you don't see that many people that often and that was a first for me."
Musically, Havens had an unmistakable smooth yet gravelly voice, matched by a totally distinctive percussive rhythm guitar style. He formed his chords with his thumb, not his fingers.
He was loved by fans for his innovative covers of other artists' songs, including the Beatles' "Here Comes The Sun" and a number of Bob Dylan tunes, including "Just Like A Woman."
Though his musical star shone bright, Havens' fans also loved him for his mild demeanor. Onstage, in addition to being a great singer and guitar player, Havens was a great storyteller spellbinding his audience with an abundance of warmth and humor.
With everything he did, Havens was a man who radiated warmth.