Richie Havens, the iconic singer and guitarist, passed away yesterday at the age of 72. Though originally from Bedford-Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, by his late teens Havens had moved to Manhattan and made his home in Greenwich Village, which was in the midst of the beatnik/folk revival scene of the late 1950s and early 1960s.
The Times notes that Havens “wandered the clubs working as a portrait artist. After a few years he discovered folk music, and he was soon playing several engagements a night at clubs like Why Not? and the Fat Black Pussycat.”
Music club culture was thriving in the South Village during the 1960s at places like Kenny’s Castaways, the Fat Black Pussycat, and many other significant music venues. Musicians of the likes of Bob Dylan, Peter Paul & Mary, and The Lovin’ Spoonful, among many others were also getting their start in the neighborhood. By 1965 and 1966, Havens had released a couple of demo albums of his work, and in 1967 in partnership with Albert Grossman (who helped discover Bob Dylan), released Mixed Bag, his breakout work in 1967.
But it was Havens’ opening performance at Woodstock in 1969 that helped introduce his unique guitar sound to a national audience. Since that time, Havens recorded numerous albums and toured the world, only giving up touring last year because of health reasons.