Richard Pierce Havens was born on Jan. 21, 1941, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, N.Y., the eldest of nine children.
His father made Formica tables and “was a pretty good musician, too, a piano player with a feel for jazz,” Mr. Havens wrote in a 1999 memoir. He said his grandmother, Beatrice Elizabeth Gay, “broadened my musical appreciation at every opportunity, teaching me Jewish folk songs and Irish ballads and playing old recordings of Caribbean island music she had carried with her from Barbados.”
He graduated from street-corner doo-wop groups to singing with the McCrea Gospel Singers as a teenager. Fired from his job as a portrait artist in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village after missing work one day, he began performing music. His first album, “Mixed Bag,” was released in 1967.
He formed his own record label, Stormy Forest, which released six of his albums. They included “Alarm Clock,” which featured Mr. Havens’s biggest hit single, his cover of George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun.”
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. Havens recorded television commercial jingles for companies including Amtrak, McDonald’s and Cotton Incorporated, according to the Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll.
Long active in causes related to the environment, he performed at the Environmental Inaugural Ball, one of the festivities associated with the inauguration of President Bill Clinton in January 1993.
He played a sold-out concert in 2009 at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts, on the site of Woodstock, as part of events to mark its 40th anniversary.