Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Death Of Richie Havens

Last evening, while doing the weekly grocery shopping with my wife, I received a notice on my phone telling me that Richie Havens had passed away. I’m sure some of you have never heard of Richie Havens. He was a folk singer and a black artist in the mostly white world of hippie rock and roll in the late 60’s. In fact, he was one of the few black performers at Woodstock. The other two of note were Sly and the Family Stone and Jimi Hendrix. Richie was always respected but became hugely popular because he was the opening act at the original Woodstock Festival in 1969 and he also appeared in the movie documentary about the festival. Like most events of that kind in the late 60’s, the promoters didn’t have their act totally together. It was late on a Friday afternoon and there was no one to perform. Since Richie was an acoustic performer all he needed was some microphones. The promoters begged him to play even though his bass player was stuck in traffic out on the highway. Richie gave in and proceeded to wow the crowd with his performance. It took me a number of years to finally see Richie Havens perform. He played at a local festival in the pouring rain. He did his best but felt badly that we in the crowd had to endure the rain. His roadies gave away free CD’s and I managed to get two of them. I tried to have a Richie Havens memorial at home last night but some of his music is so peaceful I fell asleep. I will try again today after I send this thought out to the world. Here is a Haiku for Richie written by Wavy Gravy, another counter-cultural hero of Woodstock.

Richie Havens passed
Sing out freedom, free at last
Straight into the light

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