The singer's longtime agent and friend, Tim Drake, told the New York Times that Havens died from a heart attack Monday at his home in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Havens made his debut as a singer-songwriter when he burst onto the hippie scene during the mid- 1960's, but it was his improvisation of the song Freedom -- performed on stage during Woodstock in 1969 -- that launched him claim to fame. Later, his rendition of Handsome Johnny became an anti-Vietnam war anthem.
After recording more than two dozen albums, Havens moved on from his precursory days as a musician to act in movies, become an advocate for environmental education and perform at the first inauguration of President Bill Clinton in 1993.
Born on Jan. 21, 1941, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, Havens was the eldest of nine children. His mother worked for a bookbindery and his father made a living making Formica tables.
Havens began singing with street-corner doo-wop groups when he was about 12. In his late teens, he was recruited by a street gang and dropped out of high school.
In his early 20’s Havens moved to Greenwich Village, where he was introduced to folk music and began playing several local venues.
Havens is survived by four daughters and many grandchildren. Carrie Lombardi, Havens' publicist, said his family wanted to keep information about survivors private.