You may not think you know Richie Havens, but there’s a good chance you do. If you’ve watched the 1970 documentary that chronicled Woodstock, the world-famous New York festival and countercultural mecca, then you know Richie Havens. He’s the bearded black man donned in a sweat-drenched orange one-piece, rhythmically strumming an acoustic guitar like it’s the last song he’ll ever play. Havens opened the festival, but later when performers were stuck in traffic, he was told to continue playing. After running out of songs, Havens finished his set with an improvised song called “Freedom,” and this moment of raw passion and spirituality is captured in the documentary. It was a whirlwind moment for Havens, and you can watch the clip on YouTube here, which now boasts over five million views.
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Though he didn’t achieve as much commercial success as other Woodstock performers, he released albums until 2008, and his best-selling album—1971’s Alarm Clock—reached number 16 on the U.S. charts. Havens died in 2013, and he would’ve celebrated his 79th birthday today (Jan. 21). To celebrate Havens’ birthday, Paste is sharing a live mashup of “Freedom” and “Zodiac” from 1976. This version of “Freedom” is much funkier and more fleshed out than the Woodstock original, but Havens’ vigorous passion is still here.
Listen to Richie Havens perform “Zodiac” and “Freedom” in 1976 via the Paste vault below.