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Richard P. "Richie" Havens (born January 21, 1941) is an Americanmarker folk singer and guitarist. He is best known for his intense rhythmic guitar style (in open tuning), soulful covers of pop and folk songs, and his opening performance at the 1969 Woodstock Festivalmarker.


Born in Brooklyn, Havens was the eldest of nine children. At an early age, he began organizing his neighborhood friends into street corner doo-wop groups and was performing with The McCrea Gospel Singers at 16. At the age of 20, Richie left Brooklyn to seek out the artistic stimulation of Greenwich Village. “I saw the Village as a place to escape to in order to express yourself,” he recalls. “I had first gone there during the beatnik days of the 1950s to perform poetry, then I drew portraits for 2 years and stayed up all night listening to folk music in the clubs. It took a while before I thought of picking up a guitar.”

Havens' reputation as a solo performer soon spread beyond the Village folk circles. After joining forces with legendary manager Albert Grossman, Havens landed his first record deal with the Verve label, which released Mixed Bag in 1967. This debut album featured tracks like “Handsome Johnny” (co-written by Havens and future Oscar-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr.), “Follow”, and a version of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman”. By 1969, he had released five more albums (Something Else Again (1968) became Havens' first album to hit the Billboard chart and also pulled Mixed Bag onto the charts).

Havens' reputation as a live performer earned him widespread notice. His Woodstock appearance proved to be a major turning point in his career. As the festival’s first performer, he held the crowd spellbound for nearly three hours (in part because he was told to perform a lengthy set because many artists were delayed in reaching the festival location), and called back for encore after encore. Having run out of tunes, he improvised a song based on the old spiritual “Motherless Child” that became “Freedom”. The subsequent Woodstock movie release helped Havens reach a worldwide audience.

Following the success of his Woodstock performance, Richie started his own record label, Stormy Forest, and delivered Stonehenge in 1970. Later that year came Alarm Clock, which yielded the hit single “Here Comes The Sun”, and became Havens' first album to reach Billboard’s Top 30 Chart. Stormy Forest went on to release four more of his own albums: The Great Blind Degree (1971), Live On Stage (1972), Portfolio (1973), and Mixed Bag II (1974). Memorable television appearances included performances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. On the latter program, the audience reacted with such enthusiasm that when the applause continued even after the commercial break, Johnny Carson asked Havens to return the following night.

Havens also branched out into acting during the 1970s. He was featured in the original 1972 stage presentation of The Who’s Tommy, and appeared as Othello in the 1974 film Catch My Soul. He also appeared in Greased Lightning alongside Richard Pryor in 1977. In 1987, he landed a role in the Bob Dylan vehicle Hearts of Fire.

Increasingly, Havens devoted his energies to educating young people about ecological issues. In the mid-1970s, he co-founded the Northwind Undersea Institute, an oceanographic children’s museum on City Island in the Bronx. That, in turn, led to the creation of The Natural Guard, an organization Richie describes as “a way of helping kids learn that they can have a hands-on role in affecting the environment. Children study the land, water, and air in their own communities and see how they can make positive changes from something as simple as planting a garden in an abandoned lot.”

During the 80s and 90s, Havens continued a world touring schedule and a steady release of albums. The release of 1993’s Resume, The Best Of Richie Havens (Rhino) collected his seminal late 60s and early 70s recordings.

In 1982, Havens composed and performed a promo slogan for NBC's 1982-83 television season entitled, We're NBC, Just Watch Us Now. He also performed slogans for CBS and ABC. He also recorded commercials for Amtrak, singing the slogan "There's something about a train that's magic."

In 1993, Havens performed at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. Among the selections was the "Cotton" song, made famous by a series of television ads in the early 90's. In 1999, Havens played at the Tibetan Freedom Concert for an audience of more than 100,000.

Havens also played a small role as a character named Daze in a 1990 film named Street Hunter starring John Leguizamo.

In 2003, The National Music Council awarded Richie the American Eagle Award for his place as part of America’s musical heritage, and for providing “a rare and inspiring voice of eloquence, integrity and social responsibility.”


In 2000, Havens teamed up with the electronic music duo Groove Armada for the retro '70s-style song "Hands of Time". The track was featured on the soundtrack for the film Collateral, starring Tom Cruise and Jamie Foxx; the same song also used in the films Domino starring Keira Knightley, and Tell No One with François Cluzet. Havens was also featured on Little By Little on the band's third album Goodbye Country .

He has collaborated with other artists including former Genesis members Steve Hackett and Peter Gabriel, Bill Perry, Dayna Kurtz, and Anton Fig.

Present-day career

Richie Havens at Hugh's Room in Toronto.
Photograph by Kasra Ganjavi

In 2000, Havens published They Can't Hide Us Anymore, an autobiography co-written with Steve Davidowitz. Havens has maintained his status as a folk icon, and continues to tour. In 2002, Havens released Wishing Well, followed by the 2004 album, Grace of the Sun.

On October 15, 2006, Havens was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame.

In 2007 Havens appeared as "Old Man Arvin" in the Todd Haynes film I'm Not There. In a classic front-porch jam scene, he is shown singing the Bob Dylan song "Tombstone Blues" with Marcus Carl Franklin and Tyrone Benskin. Havens's version of the song also appears on the I'm Not There Soundtrack.

Havens was invited to perform at the 2008 Cannes Film Festivalmarker Opening Ceremony. He played "Freedom" in tribute to his fan and jury president Sean Penn. He also performed at the London, Ontario Blues Festival in July 2008.

In March 2008 he released a new studio album titled Nobody Left To Crown. The first single release was country-tinged "The Key" , which is sold as a single MP3 at

It was announced in January 2009 that Havens would perform at the 5th annual Mountain Jam Festival. The event, hosted by Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mule guitarist, Warren Haynes, will be held at the Hunter Mountain Ski Resort in Hunter, NY. As is tradition, the festival will take place on the weekend following Memorial Day.

On May 3, 2009, Havens performed at the fundraising concert in honor of Pete Seeger's 90th birthday. On June 20, 2009, Havens performed at the Clearwater Festival. On July 4, 2009, Havens performed at the Woodstock Tribute festival in Ramsey, NJ.

Charity work

In addition to performing at charity benefit concerts, Havens formed the Northwind Undersea Institute, an oceanographic children's museum on City Island in the Bronxmarker. The museum led to the creation of The Natural Guard, an organization that educates children about the environment.

Havens won the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award in Sherborn, MA on April 12 1991.


Richie Havens at The Turning Point Cafe in Peirmont, NY

  • A Richie Havens Record (1965)
  • Electric Havens (1966)
  • Mixed Bag (February 1967)
  • Something Else Again (1968)
  • Richard P. Havens, 1983 (1969)
  • Stonehenge (1970)
  • Alarm Clock (1971)
  • The Great Blind Degree (1971)
  • Richie Havens On Stage (1972)
  • Portfolio (1973)
  • Mixed Bag II (January 1975)
  • The End of the Beginning (1976)
  • Mirage (1977)
  • Connections (1980)
  • Common Ground (1983)
  • Collection (1987)
  • Simple Things (1987)
  • Starlight Express Broadway Studio Cast Recording (1987)
  • Sings Beatles and Dylan (1987)
  • Live at the Cellar Door (1990)
  • Now (1991)
  • Cuts to the Chase (1994)
  • Time (1999)
  • The Millennium Collection (2000)
  • Wishing Well (April 2002)
  • Grace of the Sun (2004)
  • I'm Not There: Original Soundtrack ("Tombstone Blues") (2007)
  • Nobody Left To Crown (2008)

Guest appearances


  1. IMDb acting credits for Richie Havens
  3. Gigography
  4. Guest Appearances & Collaborations
  5. Inaugural 2006 Inductees
  6. [1]
  7. official site
  8. The Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Recipients List

External links

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