Richie Havens

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Acoustic soul artist Richie Havens, icon of a generation, succumbed to heart attack on April 22

 

 

By Dwight Hobbes

Contributing Writer

 

Hailing from the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, N.Y. where he was a contemporary of seminal spoken wordsmiths The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron (they all recorded for the tiny label Douglas Records), Richie Havens caught on with Verve/Folkways in the late 1960s, distinguished by a mellow, raw-edged voice smoothly set to open tuning on the guitar. He established his career with the albums Mixed Bag, for which he wrote the war protest anthem “Handsome Johnny” with actor Louis Gosset, Jr., Somethin’ Else Again and Richard P. Havens 1983. Gaining renown for creating highly innovative covers of mainstream artists, he was a cult success breaking through on the top charts with his interpretation of The Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun” on his own label Stormy Forest. Havens was famous until the end of his career for a show-stopping performance recorded live at the 1969 Woodstock Music Festival of “Freedom (Motherless Child).” He tried his hand at acting, playing Othello in the rock musical Catch My Soul and doing a supporting lead in Greased Lightning as part of a cast starring Richard Pryor, Pam Grier, Beau Bridges and Cleavon Little, with activist Julian Bond playing a cameo role. Havens is the self-effacing Woodrow, dutiful mechanic to Pryor’s portrayal of Wendell Scott, former moonshine runner and the first Black stockcar-racing driver to win an upper-tier NASCAR race. Continue Reading →

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