Richie Havens (born January 21, 1941) is an American folk singer and guitarist. Havens is perhaps best known for his intense rhythmic guitar style, soulful covers of pop and folk songs and his opening performance at the Woodstock Festival.
Richard P. Havens was born in Brooklyn, the eldest of nine children, first started singing street corner doo-wop and performed with The McCrea Gospel Singers at 16. Havens first rose to fame in the Greenwich Village folk-music scene that also fostered Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. In 1967, Havens became one of several Village-based artists signed to Verve Records, and released several albums to mostly local notice. In 1969, Havens opened the Woodstock Festival, although he was initially scheduled to appear fifth on the bill. His performance received continuous ovations and he kept playing encores until he ran out of songs. Finally, he decided to improvise a version of "Motherless Child", to which he added a verse with the word "freedom" repeated over and over; the song was featured in the Woodstock film, and became an international hit.