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Tue, 01.21.1941

Richie Havens, Folk Artist born

Richie Havens

*Richie Havens was born on this date in 1941. He was a Black folk singer and songwriter.

Born in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, Havens was the oldest of nine children. His ancestors were of Black and Native American (Blackfoot) descent on his father's side and the British West Indies on his mother's.  His grandfather was Blackfoot of the Montana/South Dakota area.  Havens's grandfather and great-uncle joined Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, got off in New York City, and ended up on the Shinnecock Reservation in Long Island. Havens's grandfather got married, then moved to Brooklyn.

As a youth, Havens began organizing his neighborhood friends into street corner doo-wop groups and, at age 16, was performing with the McCrea Gospel Singers.; he moved to Greenwich Village in 1961.  During this time, he began performing during the folk boom taking place in the 1960s. Havens had a distinctive style as a folksinger, appearing in such clubs as the Cafe Wha? He would strum his guitar while barring chords with his thumb, using it as percussion while singing rhythmically in a gruff voice for an interesting style. Havens signed with Douglas Records in 1965 and recorded two albums.

Two years later, the Verve division of MGM Records formed a folk section (Verve Forecast) and signed Havens and other folk-based performers. The result was his third album, Mixed Bag. It wasn't until 1968 that Havens began to hit the charts with the Something Else Again album. In 1969 came the memorable double album Richard P. Havens 1983. His career benefited enormously from his appearance at the Woodstock festival in 1969, his role in the movie, and the album made from the concert in 1970. His first album after that exposure, Alarm Clock, made the Top 30 and produced a Top 20 single in "Here Comes the Sun." These recordings were Havens’ commercial high-water mark, and by this time, he had become an international touring success.

By the end of the '70s, he had abandoned recording and turned entirely to live work. Havens came back to recording in 1987: a new album, Simple Things; an album of Bob Dylan and Beatles covers; and a compilation. In 1991, Havens signed his first major-label deal in 15 years when he moved to Sony Music and released his recording Now.  He was an author writing “They Can't Hide Us Anymore." Between book signings, Havens played several concerts and headed back to Woodstock for the 30th anniversary. In 2002, he recorded his album Wishing Well and Havens still performed concerts year-round.

Richie Havens, the renowned New York folk singer who will forever go down in history as the man who opened the Woodstock festival, died of a heart attack on April 22nd, 2013, at his home in Jersey City, New Jersey. He was 72.

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