Richie Havens, who opened the Woodstock music festival in 1969, will be honored with a ceremony August 18, 2013 at the original site, now the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts. Havens died of a heart attack on April 22.
A ticket will be required, but in keeping with the Woodstock tradition, it will be free. Amid a day of song and remembrance, his ashes will be scattered where it all began.
From my original blog about Richie Haven’s performance:
Friday, August 15, 1969 the Woodstock music festival had gotten off to a slow start, or more accurately, no start. Several hours after the festival was to begin, scheduled opening acts were still blocked from arriving due to the massive traffic jam. With 400,000 impatient fans, festival organizers talked a reluctant Richie Havens into performing first.
He was encouraged to perform a lengthy set, and with few options, organizers talked him repeatedly into returning to the stage. After performing for nearly three hours, he’d exhausted all the songs he knew. When he was asked to return to the stage one more time, he improvised a song that defined him to a generation and made famous by the 1970 documentary, Woodstock. Havens song was based on the old spiritual “Motherless Child.” Looking out over the crowd he improvised by singing “Freedom” repeatedly.
As he explained later, “When you see me in the movie tuning my guitar and strumming, I was actually trying to figure out what else I could possibly play! I looked out at all of those faces in front of me and the word “freedom” came to mind.”
Richie Havens’s Woodstock performance was a major career changer. After Woodstock started his own record label, Stormy Forest, and produced his first album Stonehenge. Later in 1970 came the album Alarm Clock which included his version of George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.”
He appeared on popular television shows including the Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. During the 1980s and 1990s, Havens continued to tour the world and release albums. In 1993 he performed at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton. 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.”
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