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Richie Havens, Iconic Woodstock Opener, Dead at 72

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Apr 22, 2013 | 7:08pm EDT

Credit: PNP/ WENN

Richie Havens, rhythmic folk guitarist and soulful opener for the historic (and original) 1969 Woodstock Music & Art Fair, has passed away from a sudden heart attack at his New Jersey home. The news was confirmed in a statement from his publicist to Hollywood.com. He was 72.

Havens was most commonly known for his largely improvised set as the first performer during the era-defining Woodstock festival of love and good vibes. After the notoriety that followed his appearance, the Brooklyn, New York native found consistent success over the course of a 45-year career. He didn't retire from touring until March of 2012, citing health problems. During that time, he managed to record more than 26 albums: no small feat in the increasingly fickle world of music and music consumption.

But Havens was largely praised for his work as a live performer. A master melder of genres, Havens drew large amounts of inspiration from the folk, blues, rock, jazz, funk, and bluegrass that made up the music scene in the '50s and '60s era of Greenwich Village in New York City. It's no wonder former President Bill Clinton had him perform at his 1993 inauguration. Truly, an innovator and a legend has been lost.

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