Richie Havens (January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013) was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist. His music encompassed elements of folk, soul, and rhythm and blues. He had an intense and rhythmic guitar style (often in open tunings), and played soulful covers of pop and folk songs. He was the opening act at Woodstock.
Richie became a household name after opening the 1969 Woodstock festival, which included an improvised encore called “Freedom,” based on the traditional spiritual “Motherless Child.” With his roots in the Greenwich Village folk scene and a handful of eclectic albums in his repertoire, Havens was an ideal choice to play the Woodstock festival, but he was never meant to have top billing.
Everything I want to do, and to accomplish, is on the other side of the universe. That’s peace of mind, energy, freedom. And I’m making myself ready to go, joyfully and willingly.Richie Havens
A traffic jam held up several of the performers and Havens, who was slated as the fifth act, was urged on stage (along with his band: Eric Oxendine on bass, Paul Williams on lead guitar, and Daniel Ben Zebulon on congas). Three hours later, he ran out of songs and created the enduring anthem on the spot. “When you hear me play that long intro, it’s me stalling. I was thinking, ‘What the hell am I going to sing?'” he explained. “I think the word ‘freedom’ came out of my mouth because I saw it in front of me. I saw the freedom that we were looking for. And every person was sharing it, and so that word came out.”
Freedom freedom freedom freedom Freedom freedom freedom freedom Sometimes I feel like a motherless child Sometimes I feel like a motherless child Sometimes I feel like a motherless child A long way from my home Freedom freedom freedom freedom Freedom freedom freedom freedom Sometimes I feel like I’m almost gone Sometimes I feel like I’m almost gone Sometimes I feel like I’m almost gone A long, long, long, way, way from my home
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