Transcendent Nation Foundation

richie havens

Richie Havens

Richie Havens is gifted with one of the most recognizable voices in popular music. His fiery, poignant, always soulful singing style has remained unique and ageless since he first emerged from the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early 1960’s. It’s a voice that has inspired and electrified audiences from the Woodstock Music & Arts Fair in 1969 to the Clinton Presidential Inauguration in 1993--coming full circle with the 30th Woodstock Anniversary celebration, "A Day In The Garden" in 1999.

For over three decades, Richie has used his music to convey messages of brotherhood and personal freedom. With more than twenty-five albums and a touring schedule that would kill many a younger man, he continues to view his calling as a higher one. As he told The Denver Post, "I really sing songs that move me. I’m not in show business, I’m in the communications business. That’s what it’s about for me."

Born in Brooklyn, Richard P. Havens was the eldest of nine children. At an early age, he began organizing his neighborhood friends into street corner doo-wop groups, and was performing with The McCrea Gospel Singers at 16. At the age of 20, Richie left Brooklyn to seek out the artistic stimulation of Greenwich Village. Richie’s reputation as a solo performer soon spread beyond the Village folk circles. After joining forces with legendary manager Albert Grossman, Richie landed his first record deal with the Verve label, which released Mixed Bag in 1967.

It was as a live performer that Richie first earned widespread notice. By decade’s end, he was in great demand in colleges across the country, as well as on the international folk and pop festival circuit. Richie played the 1966 Newport Folk Festival, the 1967 Monterey Jazz Festival, the 1968 Miami Pop Festival, the 1969 Woodstock Festival, the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival, and the first Glastonbury Festival in 1970.

Richie’s Woodstock appearance proved to be a major turning point in his career. As the festival’s first performer, he held the crowd spellbound for nearly three hours, called back for encore after encore. Having run out of tunes, he improvised a song based on the old spiritual "Motherless Child" that became "Freedom", a song now considered to be the anthem of a generation. The subsequent movie release helped Richie reach a worldwide audience of millions.

Memorable television appearances included performances on two now-legendary programs, The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Richie also branched out into acting during the 1970’s. He was featured in the original 1972 stage presentation of the Who’s Tommy, and had the lead role in the 1974 film Catch My Soul, based on Shakespeare’s Othello. In 1977, he co-starred with Richard Pryor in Greased Lightning.

Increasingly, Richie devoted his energies to educating young people about ecological issues. In the mid-1970’s, 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".

Highlights of the past decade include his triumphant set at the Troubadours Of Folk Festival at UCLA’s Drake Stadium, where, once again, a capacity audience refused to let him leave the stage. Richie fondly remembers this event as a "Greenwich Village Class Reunion". At another Los Angeles appearance, His Holiness the Dalai Lama asked Richie to perform "Lives In The Balance" and "Freedom" to underscore his urgent message about the future of Tibet.

In the summer of 1999, Richie’s first book was released: They Can’t Hide Us Anymore, whose title refers to Richie’s thoughts as he flew in a helicopter over the crowds at Woodstock in 1969.

This year brings another new, self-produced album, Grace Of The Sun, which finds Richie again composing most of the tracks. For Richie Havens, making music is a continuous journey, and one that advances a step further with each album. "My albums are meant to be a chronological view of the times we’ve come through, what we’ve thought about, and what we’ve done to grow and change. There’s a universal point to which we all respond, and where all songs apply to everyone".

Current tour information can be found on his website.

Transcendent Nation Foundation