Folk legend Richie Havens dies at age 72

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    Folk legend Richie Havens, who wowed audiences at Woodstock with his brilliant performance and went on to become of the most important singers and songwriters of the 60s and 70s, has died of a heart attack at age 72.

    Born in Brooklyn, as a young adult Havens sought artistic stimulation in 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 two 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."

    Folk legend Richie Havens, who wowed audiences at Woodstock with his brilliant performance and went on to become of the most important singers and songwriters of the 60s and 70s, has died of a heart attack at age 72.

    Born in Brooklyn, as a young adult Havens sought artistic stimulation in 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 two 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 cutting two records for Douglas Records, Havens signed on with Bob Dylan's manager Albert Grossman, and landed a record deal with the Verve Forecast label. Verve released Mixed Bag in 1967, which featured tracks like "Handsome Johnny" (co-written by Havens and future Oscar-winning actor Louis Gossett Jr.), "Follow", and a cover 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 back 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 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 was called back for several encores. 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. He also appeared at the Isle of Wight Festival in late August 1969.

    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 George Harrison penned 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, 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 1980s and 1990s, Havens continued a world touring schedule and a steady release of albums.  In 1982, Havens composed and performed a promotional slogan for NBC's 1982-83 television season entitled, We're NBC, Just Watch Us Now. He also performed slogans for CBS and ABC, and recorded commercials for Amtrak, singing the slogan "There's something about a train that's magic." Havens has also done corporate commercial work for Maxwell House Coffee as well as singing "The Fabric of Our Lives" theme for the cotton industry.

    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 1990s. In 1999, Havens played at the Tibetan Freedom Concert for an audience of more than 100,000. Havens won the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award in Sherborn, Massachusetts on April 12, 1991.

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

    In 2000, Havens teamed up with the electronic music duo Groove Armada for the retro 1970s-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 andHealing on the band's third album Goodbye Country (Hello Nightclub).

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

    In 2003, the National Music Council awarded Havens 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 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. In March 2008, he released a new studio album titled Nobody Left To Crown.[15] The first single release was country-tinged "The Key", which is sold as a single MP3 at Amazon.com.

    Havens appeared in the acclaimed 2009 film "Soundtrack for a Revolution," which provided a general history of the modern Civil Rights Movement, and had modern artists performing many of the era's musical classics. In the film, Havens performed a haunting rendition of the old song, "Will the Circle Be Unbroken." 

    On May 3, 2009, Havens performed at the fundraising concert in honor of Pete Seeger's 90th birthday. In June 2009, Havens performed at the fifth annual Mountain Jam Festival. The event, hosted by Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mule guitarist,Warren Haynes, was held at the Hunter Mountain Ski Resort in Hunter, New York. As is tradition, the festival took place on the weekend following Memorial Day. On June 20, 2009, Havens performed at the Clearwater Festival. On July 4, 2009, Havens performed at the Woodstock Tribute festival in Ramsey, New Jersey. On August 8, 2010, Havens performed at Musikfest 2010 at Foy Hall at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

    On March 20, 2012, Havens announced on his Facebook page that he would stop touring after 45 years, due to health concerns. On April 22, 2013, Havens died of a heart attack at home in Jersey City, New Jersey. He was 72.

    This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article Richie Havens.

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