Richie Havens, the first performer to play the Woodstock festival, has died of a heart attack in his New Jersey home aged 72.

Havens was considered a guitar virtuoso despite having to develop a technique all to his own. His incredibly large hands made forming standard chords difficult so he played in odd tunings and chord patterns to accommodate his unique style, his aggressive strumming often adding a percussive element to his songs.

At the Woodstock festival in August 1969 Havens was ushered into opening the festival when the original opening act, Sweetwater, were stuck in traffic. Havens was in the right place at the right time, was helicoptered to the stage and began a now legendary three hour set which provided the soundtrack to most people's arrival on the festival site.

In 2009 Havens returned to Woodstock to play the 40th anniversary of the festival.

Havens was a regular collaborator with The Beatles and Bob Dylan, releasing albums of songs written by both acts. In fact, after spending three days learning Dylan's 'A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall' a man overheard him practising backstage at a nightclub and commented on how that was the best version he'd ever heard of the song.

That was the first time he met Bob Dylan.