(NEW YORK) — Richie Havens, whose performance of “Freedom” was one of the highlights of the Woodstock festival in 1969, has died. He was 72. According to a statement from his publicist, Havens passed away from a sudden heart attack on Monday.
Getting his start in the New York City folk scene, Havens signed with Bob Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman, and landed a record deal. His opening performance at the Woodstock festival captivated the crowd: he played for nearly three hours, having been told to extend his set because many other artists were delayed in their attempts to reach the festival site. Havens performed numerous encores, including “Freedom,” an improvisation based on the spiritual “Motherless Child.” After Havens appeared in the subsequent Woodstock movie, he and his distinctive rhythmic guitar style became known worldwide.
Though his music career spanned 40 years, Havens only scored one top 20 hit: a 1971 cover of The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” In addition to music, Havens also branched out into acting, appearing alongside Richard Pryor in 1977’s Greased Lighting, and Bob Dylan in the 1987 film Hearts on Fire. He was also in Todd Haynes’ 2007 cinematic homage to Dylan, I’m Not There. Havens performed at the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993.
In a statement, Havens’ rep said, “While his family greatly appreciates that Richie’s many fans are also mourning this loss, they do ask for privacy during this difficult time. A public memorial will be planned for a later date.”
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