Not Again… (Richie Havens)

Since I came of musical age in the mid-60’s, the topic of this week’s post is a no brainer:  yet another nostalgic farewell to yet another musician of my era. This time it is Richie Havens who has moved on to the concert stage in the sky after dying earlier in the week at just 72.

Living in Manila, I was only exposed to the “superstars” of the time. When I graduated high school in early 1970, I had never heard of Richie Havens. That changed a few months later.

A popular way to come to the U.S. for college was to take an American President Lines cruise which took about two weeks and featured stops in Hong Kong, Japan, and Hawaii.  I’m more interested in land exploration so I opted to take two weeks to get to the U.S. by flying, with one week stops in Hong Kong and Hawaii.

Since I’d been to Hong Kong at least three times by the time I graduated high school, I could enjoy it at my leisure.  One day, I came upon a movie theater showing “Woodstock” (with Chinese subtitles).  Since I had become politically radicalized, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to at least vicariously participate in what would become an iconic event of counter culture history.

I’m sure thousands of other folks became Richie Havens fans after watching his passionate performance of “Freedom” at Woodstock.  After playing for over two and a half hours because other performers had been delayed in arriving, he had run out of material to play.  So he improvised “Freedom” from the slave era spiritual “Motherless Child” and a classic was born.

Here’s that historic performance:

Richie Havens’ special talent was to bring a special interpretation to other artist’s songs.

Here’s his version of Bob Bylan’s classic, Just Like a Woman:

Here’s Richie performing Cat Steven’s “Peace Train”:

A band many folks may not be familiar with is 10cc. One of my favorites from them is “I”m Not in Love” which has a dreamy,orchestral presentation.  If you’re not familiar with it, here’s the original version.

And here’s Richie’s version:

Joe Cocker is one of my favorite vocalists and I was lucky to see him perform at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas in 1998.  (Of course I kept the ticket stub!) Here’s Richie’s interpretation of “So Beautiful” as he neared the end of his performing career:

You are so beautiful to so many Richie!


9 responses to “Not Again… (Richie Havens)

  1. Steve-
    Great post! He will certainly be missed. Hard to believe we are so old that our cultural icons are disappearing from the stage for good.
    In any case, I hope you’ll do the musical programming for the Washington DC reunion this Fall!
    (Maybe we could even get James Falls to bring some of his old Doors and Dave Calrk albums!)
    All the best,

  2. I’d say that this is the toughest thing about getting older–that the icons of your young adulthood, as well as your contemporaries, start dying. Some affect me more than others. For instance, when Peter Jennings died. My friend (and ex-great love of my life) Art died at 80, but it was some years before that that he confided to me that he was feeling very lonely. He had a gazillion friends, but the friends he’d known from childhood had all died. This is a great loss. I understand that more and more as time passes. Well that wasn’t very upbeat, was it?
    At the moment, my computer speakers are kaput. I’ll get new ones soon and then come back to this post because I really want to hear these great Richie Havens tunes again.


    You might find the archives interesting, but as one poster remarks it is full of inaccuracies and the focus on Manson is absurd. There is a clip of the Richie Haven Woodstock performance of Freedom. And it does help to de mythologize the “pastoral innocence” of the hippie movement.

    • I’d never heard of this before. How did you? Or did you actually see it?

      When I want to relive the 60’s on film, I watch the “Director’s Cut” Woodstock DVD. That’s how I may use up some retirement time in a few months…! Of course, I’ll need some 60’s snacks and for me that would be Pik-Nik shoestring potato sticks. I better find a source…

  4. I’m sorry to say I was very unaware of Richie Havens prior to your post. Thanks for introducing me to his music. Love the energy, the feeling and the rhythm.

  5. I’d never heard of this before. How did you? Or did you actually see it?

    I watched it on the History Channel. Brought back some mixed memories.

  6. History Channel, huh? My “history” channel these days is PBS, especially the one from Georgia.

    BTW, did you catch the PBS documentary earlier in April (a week or so ago) about how over 1,000 Jews were saved from the Nazis by five American brothers who had a cigar business in the Philippines and worked with the Philippine President and one Col. Dwight D. Eisenhower to bring them to the Philippines despite official U.S. State Dept. opposition? (The mother of someone I know was interviewed.)

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