Lifestyle & Belief

Richie Havens, who headlined at Woodstock, dies suddenly aged 72


Richie Havens performs at the 'Woodstock 40th Anniversary' Blu-Ray release party at Hard Rock Cafe - Times Square June 4, 2009 in New York City.


Brad Barket

Richie Havens, the opening act at Woodstock in 1969, has died suddenly of a heart attack aged 72.

The veteran US musician, known for his covers of pop and folk songs, died at his home in New Jersey, his agent Tim Drake, of the Roots Agency, told Reuters.

Havens "was gifted with one of the most recognizable voices in popular music," Drake said, adding:

"His fiery, poignant, soulful singing style has remained unique and ageless."

Haven was the first act on stage at Woodstock, a three-day festival in Bethel that saw performances by Jimmi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Joan Baez, Ravi Shankar, Arlo Guthrie and many other iconic names of the era.

He performed a version of "Freedom" — based from the Gospel song "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child" —  which, Reuters wrote, became an anthem for hippie generation.

According to the LA Times, Havens' rendition:

 "..embodied the sense of frustration at the strictures of the social status quo and looming liberation being felt by blacks and whites, men and women during an era of tremendous sociopolitical turmoil."

A version of "Freedom" was included on the soundtrack of Quentin Tarantino's "Django Unchained."

Woodstock was a described as a "turning point" in what went on to become a long career for Havens. 

Havens became known for his soulful renditions of classic tracks, including Beatles hits "Here Comes The Sun" and "Strawberry Fields," and The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again."

The Associated Press, meantime, cited one of Havens' "well-received impersonation" of Bob Dylan’s "Just Like a Woman."

He retired from touring in 2012, according to the Times because of complications following kidney surgery.

Producer and musician Joe Henry tweeted:

"The great Richie Havens has passed. A heroic and generous spirit; a most singular artist. He changed me. He changed you too, know it or not."

A statement from his relatives read:

"While his family greatly appreciates that Richie's many fans are also mourning this loss, they do ask for privacy during this difficult time."