At about 5PM on August 15th 1969, Richie Havens opened the first Woodstock Music Festival. Originally scheduled to perform only four songs, Havens was asked to perform much longer, as other bands scheduled for later in the evening were stuck in traffic and not on site.

Richie Havens started his career in Greenwich Village, initially reading poetry and drawing portraits. Only after a couple of years listening at folk clubs did Havens decide to try it himself. His solo performances were strong enough to get the opening slot at Woodstock. His concert performance and his inclusion in the Woodstock move catapulted his career, putting him before an international audience.

After exhausting his entire catalog on stage at Woodstock, Havens improvised his final encore, putting Freedom to the tune of an old spiritual, ‘Motherless Children.’

Ritchie Havens recorded more than 20 albums, with his biggest success coming from his soulful covers of popular music. Touring constantly throughout his forty-year career, Havens says he never planned a show beyond his opening and closing songs, preferring to feed off the energy of the audience.

Havens was also an accomplished actor, appearing in several movies and the original stage presentation of The Who’s Tommy. His philanthropic interests were focused on educating children about ecology.

Havens did not recover fully from kidney surgery in 2010 and in 2012 announced his retirement. In 2013 he died from a heart attack.