Richie Havens Open D


“…turn the guitar up Mike please….”


Awhile back I took a look at the open D tuning and I’d like to revisit it once more but with a focus upon the idiosyncratic style of seminal folk maestro, icon and messenger Richie Havens; the great and the good – Richie Havens

If there was ever a reason to pick up a guitar and sing, shout, dance or cry Richie Havens must have a thousand of them and his opening performance at the 1969 Woodstock festival in New York is something so inspirational to behold it’s nothing short of a call to arms, the divine fiat heralding the apocalypse, the second coming, the end of time, the hopes and tragedies of the human condition.

As the festival’s first performer, he held the crowd spellbound for nearly three hours (in part because he was told to perform a lengthy set because many artists were delayed in reaching the festival location), and called back for encore after encore. Having run out of tunes, he improvised a song based on the old spiritual “Motherless Child” that became “Freedom”.

At the end of the day when you strum that old guitar box, you have to make it yours and own it; no matter how you play it. SO here`s some more fuel for your fire: Richie Havens basic chord voicings for the open D tuning lifted directly from Richie Havens  own website.

And here is all the proof we’ll ever need…Handsome Johnny and Freedom performed live  1969 by Richie Havens..spellbinding!


Jake Edwards

Hey, look yonder, tell me what’s that you see
Marching to the fields of Concord?
It looks like Handsome Johnny with a musket in his hand,
Marching to the Concord war, hey marching to the Concord war.
Hey, look yonder, tell me what you see
Marching to the fields of Gettysburg?
It looks like Handsome Johnny with a flintlock in his hand,
Marching to the Gettysburg war, hey marching to the Gettysburg war.

Hey, look yonder, tell me what’s that you see
Marching to the fields of Dunkirk?
It looks like Handsome Johnny with a carbine in his hand,
Marching to the Dunkirk war, hey marching to the Dunkirk war.

Hey, look yonder, tell me what you see
Marching to the fields of Korea?
It looks like Handsome Johnny with an M1 in his hand,
Marching to the Korean war, hey marching to the Korean war.

Hey, look yonder, tell me what you see
Marching to the fields of Vietnam?
It looks like Handsome Johnny with an M15,
Marching to the Vietnam war, hey marching to the Vietnam war.

Hey, look yonder, tell me what you see
Marching to the fields of Birmingham?
It looks like Handsome Johnny with his hand rolled in a fist,
Marching to the Birmingham war, hey marching to the Birmingham war.

Hey, it’s a long hard road, it’s a long hard road,
It’s a long hard road, before we’ll be free.

Hey, what’s the use of singing this song, some of you are not even listening.
Tell me what it is we’ve got to do: wait for our fields to start glistening,
Wait for the bullets to start whistling.
Here comes a hydrogen bomb, here comes a guided missile,
Here comes a hydrogen bomb: I can almost hear its whistle.


  1. Iamme

    I”ve only heard about this man in 2017. My first thought was why have I never heard of him and immediately wanting to see a live performance. You’re all talking about him in the past tense so I guess he’s no longer with us but wow this would inspire anyone to want to pick up a guitar.

  2. al martinez

    anyone have the tab/ tutorila for the song “Long Road” that Richie performed? that was a heart warming song.

  3. Tony Faris

    Hi, Like yourself I have been a follower of Richie’s songs and guitar style for some years. I came to the guitar late in life but it was seeing Richie live in about 2006 that inspired me to try. I saw him a number of times after that and even travelled to New York to see him perform. The best performance I ever saw was in a very modest venue in Leicester where he played for hours. I also have the DVD you mention which enabled me to go on to learn a good number of his songs and I am always looking to pick up new ones. However, such was his skill that there are many that I would never even attempt. I have tabbed a few songs which are on Ultimate Guitar and would be happy to share any other knowledge with you.



  4. Dave Clinch

    I play in Richie’s style. I have a brilliant Homespun DVD with him in conversation with Artie Traum. I was blown away when I first saw the Woodstock film in 1970. I didn’t start playing music, on the Irish trad scene until 1990. I play Bones, Bodhrán, Uilleann Pipes, Low D Whistle and other whistles and in the last three and a half years since retirement from a 30 year teaching career, the Guild D40 guitar.

    It is a great regret that I never saw Richie Havens play. I have read, viewed and listened to much about the man. I feel he’s been alongside me on this particular journey. His method has made lots of songs that I used to sing accapella or accompanied accessible. My repertoire is strong enough to go out gigging now, as I will be this evening (30 October) in a little, magical café in North Devon UK called Yarde Orchard, near Torrington. It’s on the Tarka cycling and walking trail.

    I’m indebted to Richie. To date I have not seen anyone using his style and I’m proud of being able to play in the way that excited me, as a 19 year old all those years ago in 1970.

    I have encountered snootily raised eyebrows from some players. Most though are supportive and some recognise that it is Richie’s style. For me, as he says himself in the DVD, ‘the guitar serves the song’. I do not aspire to be a virtuoso guitarist, just good enough to accompany the songs I sing.

    Why did it take me so long? Perhaps it was a lack of confidence. I just listened, others played and I was in awe of them until my first tentative steps on the spoons in 1990, in a session in The Marquis of Granby pub in Deptford, London. It’s been a wonderful time for me, and now these past few years since I bought that guitar and began to learn it’s intricacies through this lovely, gentle man with real power and meaning in his own lyrics accompanied by his inimitable guitar method.

    I hope that a book of Richie Havens’s Songs in his Open D Method can be produced.

    Meanwhile, he’s never far from my thoughts when I pick up the instrument. His memory lives on!

    Dave Clinch

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