“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.”

On August 15th, 1969, Richie Havens opened Woodstock — birthplace of the sort of magic we have come to seek from music festivals. After three (yes three!) hours of performing, having been called back several times and having ran out of songs, Richie improvised a song based on the old gospel “Motherless Child.” His version, “Freedom,” instantly became — and remains 44 years later — a hymn for generations of people actively hoping and working to make our world a better place.

Although he was more of a discrete figure of the Village, Havens never gave up militantism through his humanist music, and his legacy of over 25 albums is often cited as a major influence for younger musicians.

Richie passed away at age 72 on Earth Day. Because we too are hopers, we like to think of this coincidence as one last message from the artist to us.

Rest in peace.

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