21 January marks the birthday of Richie Havens. The son of a Blackfoot Indian and West Indian African, Havens grew up in Brooklyn, NY.
Scheduled as the first performer at the Woodstock music festival, Havens had to perform for hours to entertain the crowd as the other acts had difficulty reaching the venue due to traffic jams. Having run out of tunes, he improvised a song based on the old spiritual “Motherless Child” that became “Freedom”. In an interview he explained:
“I’d already played every song I knew and I was stalling, asking for more guitar and mic, trying to think of something else to play – and then it just came to me…The establishment was foolish enough to give us all this freedom and we used it in every way we could.”
The subsequent Woodstock movie release helped Havens reach a worldwide audience.