Legendary folk singer Richie Havens, the first performer at Woodstock, died of a heart attack Monday at the age of 72. While he was known internationally for his excellent guitar work and cover songs, his death hits close to home here in Central New York. Syracuse Jazz Fest Executive Director, Frank Malfitano, knew him well on both personal and professional levels.
"For me, there simply was no sweeter man and no greater interpretive song stylist
than Richie on the planet and in the history of this music, and I will fondly treasure every minute I spent with this giant, on stage and off", Malfitano said. Malfitano presented Havens in concert on many occasions including twice at Syracuse Jazz Fest (2004, 2009) and in the first year of the Legends of Jazz series at OCC where Syracuse audiences got to know him well. "I have loved him since first seeing him at Woodstock, 44 years ago,and I will continue to love him all the days of my life." In addition to the Syracuse performances, Malfitano prestented Richie Havens twice at the Detroit International Jazz Fest and once in Cooperstown, NY. Havens was the eldest of nine children and is survived by three daughters and many grandchildren.