Richie Havens, who was well-known as the first performer at Woodstock, has died of a heart attack. He was 72 years old.
A folk singer with a love for guitar playing, Havens was first-billed at the enormous music festival after building his reputation in clubs around Greenwich Village and finding a following with his albums. He’d built a solid reputation by then and had signed on with Albert Grossman, who just happened to also be Bob Dylan’s manager.
Havens gained a huge audience when he took the stage at Woodstock, however, due in part to the fact that he played for nearly three hours as late performers trickled in to the show. The music festival would be a turning point, not just in his career, but in his life.
“Everything in my life, and so many others, is attached to that train,” he said.
Over his career, Havens released 25 albums and gained the admiration and respect of some of the biggest names in music, including Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills and Nash.
“Richie Havens was one of the nicest most generous and pure individuals I have ever met,” Stills said. “When I was a young sprite in Greenwich Village, we used to have breakfast together at the diner on 6th Avenue next to The Waverly Theatre. He was very wise in the ways of our calling. He always caught fire every time he played.”