RICHIE HAVENS (1941-2013) An important archive of approximately two hundred original artworks, 1960s onward.
A very large group of original artwork by Richie Havens in pen, ink, watercolor, felt-tip markers, pencil, etc. Many variously signed "RP Havens" and dated from 1963 onward. Largest 23 1/2 x 18 inches (59 x 46 cm); smallest 14 x 11 inches (36 x 28 cm). Of the about 200 pieces, 11 are framed, the balance loose in archival boxes and sleeves. Accompanied by a notarized letter of provenance from Margaret Summers, Havens' girlfriend in the early 1980s (see note). Present is also Havens' original portfolio style carrying case and a box of his colored pencils. Many fine but several with stains, tears, wear and small losses.
A large, unpublished archive of Richie Havens' artwork from the important period surrounding his legendary performance at Woodstock. Comprising approximately 200 original pieces, many signed and dated, the artwork offers a fascinating glimpse into Havens' mind and experience during this heady and formative period. Many of the works are surreal and reflect the psychedelia of the age, others offer religious imagery, some are soft and intimate portraits. Words and lyrics are frequently worked into pieces, as musings became accomplished finished work. Many of the pieces are signed and dated from 1963-64. This group of art was gifted to Havens' girlfriend Margaret Summers who in her letter of provenance offers a very good description of the archive: "I, Margaret Summers, have passed on the Richie Havens Portfolio, comprised of some 200 sketches, including portraits of Beatles, Ray Charles, John Kennedy, more religious themes, prophetic pieces, aliens among us and beneath us, circa Woodstock '69 before and after his meteoric rise to fame. The portfolio has been in my possession for some 30 years."
Art was an early passion for Brooklyn born Richie Havens (1941-2013) and in the late 1950s and early '60s it was noted that he "wandered the clubs working as a portrait artist," and sold portraits on the streets of Greenwich Village (one piece here has a small price label). Havens' 1973 album Portfolio was issued with a sleeve of reproductions of his works and three of the original drawings for that album are present in this archive.
In his twenties in the early 1960s, Havens joined the folk scene in Greenwich Village where he stayed up all night listening to the spoken word poetry of the Beatniks and the music of Odetta and Pete Seeger. Havens first met Bob Dylan in 1963, when his rendition of A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall brought Dylan to tears. Dylan's manager partnered with Havens in releasing his breakout album, Mixed Bag, in 1967. Featured was his anti-Vietnam song Handsome Johnny and a rendition of Dylan's Just Like a Woman, one of many covers expertly reimagined by Havens. A drawing dated 1963 in the archive references Dylan.
But it was his performance at Woodstock that brought Havens national recognition. With the opening act that Friday afternoon in August 1969 stuck in traffic, the sound equipment not exactly ready for a multi-instrument act, and a huge crowd ravenous for music, it was decided that Havens' small act with his conga player and guitarist should take the stage first. Havens performed all the songs in his repertoire, including a medley of Beatles songs and, finding himself out of fresh material, led the audience on a long chant of Freedom interspersed with the traditional Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child. Havens' performance at Woodstock is one of the most iconic moments of not just the festival but the entirety of American music history. Aside from recording and touring his music, Havens later owned a record label, appeared in films, and wrote commercial music. He was also endlessly devoted to the environment and in the 1970s founded the Northwind Undersea Institute, an oceanographic children's museum on City Island in the Bronx. Always an artist, an exhibition of Havens' late digital art was held at the Narrows Center in 2007.
This archive speaks volumes to Havens' experience in the early 1960s when most of his musical performances were not recorded. This archive has not been seen by scholars and biographers and is worthy of institutional consideration.
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