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Richie Havens, a Voice of Woodstock Generation, Dies at 72

Richie Havens was immortalized at Woodstock in 1969.

Richie Havens was immortalized at Woodstock in 1969.

Richie Havens, who made his mark as a music legend in the muddy fields of Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York during the Woodstock Music & Art Fair, has died of a heart attack at his home in New Jersey, his publicist said. He was 72.

While Havens never regained the same the level of fame he earned as the opening act for “Three Days of Peace and Music,” in 1969, he was a well-known fixture around New York.

He toured and recorded music for more than 40 years, and only gave up touring, mostly at music festivals and on college campuses in March last year, because of ill health, stemming from kidney problems.

Through it all he never altered his folk music style. Havens was noted for his soulful, soaring voice and the odd way he played the guitar. He specially tuned it so he only had to play bar chords.

Richie Havens at Woodstock

“Even when performing in a Greenwich Village coffeehouse or a small club or regional theater, he was eternally grateful that people in any number turned up each time to hear him sing,” his booking agency said in a statement.

“More than anything, he feels incredibly blessed to have met so many of you along the way,” it added.

But it was his Woodstock performance of “Freedom/Motherless Child” that made him famous. He was immortalized in the 1970 documentary movie “Woodstock,” and on the double-disc soundtrack album. His song became a rallying cry for the counter-culture.

He was one of 32 acts that played during the rainy weekend in front of an estimated 500,000 concert goers. His set lasted two hours followed by Swami Satchidananda, who gave the opening invocation.

Havens was born in Brooklyn and was drawn to the emerging Beat scene in Greenwich Village during the 1950s. He performed poetry, and worked as a street artist before deciding to pursue music.

His first album Mixed Bag was released in 1967 and he scored a breakthrough with his fifth album Something Else Again in 1968. It was his first to make the charts.

His most commercially successful album was 1971’s “Alarm Clock.” It climbed as high as No. 29 on the Billboard 200, which tracked popular music albums. He made his last studio album Nobody Left to Crown in 2008.

He is survived by four children and several grandchildren. No services have been announced, according to reports.

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