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When Did Richie Havens Compose the Song “Freedom”?

Woodstock 1969 has helped many artists propel their musical careers. One of these artists included Richie Havens. He was the first to perform at the festival and actually came up with his famous song on stage.

Musician Richie Havens performed spontaneously in front of half a million people because he had nothing else to play. He came up with the song “Freedom” on-stage and watched the documentary to learn how to play it.

Day 1, Woodstock 1969

The 1969 Woodstock, despite it being famous for what it has contributed to the music industry and culture. The event experienced many logistical issues as it was the first time a festival of its kind was held, from incomplete fences and ticket booths to causing severe traffic jams and extreme changes in the schedule of the performers.

The festival started on August 15, 1969, late in the afternoon. Having not anticipated the number of people arriving, the farm area was filled with thousands of people waiting for the concert to start. The folk-band Sweetwater was scheduled as the opening act, but they were nowhere. (Source: Fantastic Facts)

It was reported that roads were jammed due to the unforeseen number of people joining the festival. Many concertgoers left their cars on the road and proceeded to the farm grounds on foot, making traffic conditions worse. Because of this, several of the artists were stuck in traffic. (Source: History)

By some odd coincidence, Richie Havens and the rest of his band were already on the concert grounds. They did not get stuck in traffic since they flew in via helicopter. Havens was early as he was scheduled to take the stage as the fifth performer for the day. (Source: NY Times)

Producers were informed that many bands were stuck in the town and had no way of getting to the venue on time. When they were about to announce to the thousands of people that the show would have to be delayed, they spotted Havens. A production manager approached him and begged him to perform, to which he responded that he wasn’t scheduled until later. The manager then said, we don’t have anybody else. (Source: So Much Great Music)

Richie Havens’ Performance at Woodstock

Havens ascended the stage with his bongo player a few minutes after 5 pm. He started his set with Minstrel from Gault. He was initially supposed to play only four to five songs but kept on playing upon knowing that other performers were late. He ended up performing for about two hours.

Havens played ten songs in total. He then realized he had nothing else to sing. To keep performing, Havens made a new song on-stage, and that’s how Freedom was created. Havens said it was the last thing he could think of singing. He made it on the spot, singing it interspersed with Motherless Child. (Source: NY Times)

In an interview, Havens recalls that he has been playing a rather long intro, remembering that he was stalling and thinking of what he should play. And out of nowhere, the word Freedom crossed his mind. Havens recalls seeing the concept of Freedom from the crowd and why they were there. So that’s the first word he blurted out and went with it. (Source: Song Facts)

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