Remembering Richie Havens at Woodstock
The passing of Richie Havens in April was met with sadness and an outpouring of love from his musical peers, friends, family and fans throughout the world. A promoter of peace and love, Havens was best known for being the first musician to perform at Woodstock Music and Arts Festival in 1969. Havens was not scheduled to go on first, but with Sweetwater stuck in traffic and en route via helicopter, Richie took the stage at 5:07 pm on August 16th, 1969, and played a set that consisted of “With a Little Help from My Friends”, the anti-war tune “Handsome Johnny”, “Strawberry Fields Forever”, “Hey Jude” and the song, and cause, he is most identified with, “Freedom”.
44 years and two days later, Havens was memorialized on the site of Woodstock at Bethel Woods Performing Arts Center with words from Woodstock promoters Michael Lang and Joel Rosenman, and friends Danny Glover and Louis Gossett, Jr, the latter of whom co-wrote “Handsome Johnny” with Havens. Musical performances paid tribute to Richie, covering the vastness of his musical talents. Dayna Kurtz, Steve Gorn Indian Music Ensemble, Guy Davis, John Sebastian and John Hammond all gave soulful and heartfelt tributes, celebrating the life of Havens. Jose Feliciano performed last, playing “In My Life” and “Handsome Johnny”, to a small crowd seated inside the market shed at Bethel Woods, with another 500 listening from the top of the lawn via speakers, looking out over the land where the stage for Woodstock once stood. After Feliciano performed, a small plane could be seen coming in from the south, circling overhead twice and releasing Richie’s ashes over the field where he made his cry for freedom many years ago. It was Havens’ wish for many years to have his ashes scattered on the land where Woodstock took place, making him an eternal part of the site both physically and musically.
Scattering of ashesJose Feliciano “In My Life”