News / Arts & Entertainment

Remembering Richie Havens

Richie Havens reprises his 1969 performance of "Freedom" at the site of the original Woodstock Music Festival in Bethel, New York, August 14, 2009.
Richie Havens reprises his 1969 performance of "Freedom" at the site of the original Woodstock Music Festival in Bethel, New York, August 14, 2009.
Katherine Cole
Folk-rocker Richie Havens, who died Monday of a heart attack, will be remembered for many things, among them a smooth singing voice, standing six-and-a-half-feet tall, and singing at President Bill Clinton’s first inauguration. But the most famous of his many lauded concert appearances happened by accident.

Richie Havens’ performance at Woodstock in 1969 catapulted him into music history, but the lanky, soulful folk singer wasn’t supposed to open the festival - he was scheduled to play fifth that day. Plans changed when the opening band, Sweetwater, got caught in traffic. Havens and his band had traveled to the upstate New York festival site by helicopter, so they were ready to hit the stage when organizers asked Havens to go on instead.

Remembering Richie Havens
Remembering Richie Havensi
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

In his book about the festival, producer Michael Lang said he chose Havens as his “emergency opener” “because of his calm but powerful demeanor”. His performance went overtime because the next act was stuck in traffic, too. This led Richie Havens to improvise what became one of the most iconic moments of the Woodstock Festival: his performance of “Freedom/Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.”

Havens later explained how he came up with his most famous song. He thought back to the start of the festival and hearing “freedom” over and over again in the crowd. Picking up the chant, Havens repeated the word, and then began singing an old gospel song that he’d learned as a child. The improvised medley was a highlight of the Woodstock movie and cemented Havens’ place in music history.
    
The oldest of nine children, Havens was raised in the poor Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, New York. As a child, he dreamed of growing up to be a surgeon, but set off on a musical path as a teenager. Forming a gospel group in high school, he then landed in New York’s Greenwich Village folk clubs at 17. He stood out from the other young singers, not just because of his height, but his ethnicity - Richie Havens was African-American in a largely white folk music scene.

FILE - In this Dec. 1975 file photo, musicians Roger McGuinn, Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan perform the finale of the The Rolling Thunder Revue, a tour headed by Dylan.FILE - In this Dec. 1975 file photo, musicians Roger McGuinn, Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan perform the finale of the The Rolling Thunder Revue, a tour headed by Dylan.
x
FILE - In this Dec. 1975 file photo, musicians Roger McGuinn, Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan perform the finale of the The Rolling Thunder Revue, a tour headed by Dylan.
FILE - In this Dec. 1975 file photo, musicians Roger McGuinn, Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan perform the finale of the The Rolling Thunder Revue, a tour headed by Dylan.
He recorded two albums on small labels before signing with Bob Dylan’s manager, Albert Grossman. He then joined a larger label and went on to tour for more than 40 years, releasing close to 30 albums.

While he was a good songwriter, Richie Havens was also an exceptional song interpreter. In interviews and at shows he’d tell of spending three days learning Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,” repeatedly practicing the song in a stairwell. One night, a man stopped him and said it was the best version he’d ever heard. Havens always ended the story and started the song by saying: “that’s how I first met Bob Dylan.”  

In 2008, Richie Havens released his final studio album, “Nobody Left To Crown.”

Havens died April 22 at the age of 72. He embodied the spirit of the 1960s and carried that message of peace and love well into the 21st century.



You May Like

Conflicts Engulf Christians in the Middle East

Research finds an increase in faith-based hostilities, and Christians are facing persecution in a growing number of countries in the region More

Iran Bolsters Surveillance of Phones, Internet

Does increased monitoring suggest the government is nervous? More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: MNVDISCS from: UNITED KINGDOM
April 24, 2013 8:10 AM
Wonderful singer and songwriter.
He will be sadly missed.
Will Scally, interviewed Richie many years ago, in West Hampstead, England.
The filmed interview has a r/t of 50` and as yet, it has never been broadcast.
Please feel free to contact me for any further information.

Barry Levene

In Response

by: ChrisAnne Smith from: Philadelphia PA
April 29, 2013 11:22 AM
I am contacting you to learn more about this interview! Thank you!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assaulti
X
Daniel Schearf
August 29, 2014 9:30 PM
After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Beyond Category

Pianist Myra Melford’s new CD “Life Carries Me This Way” features solo piano interpretations of drawings by modern artist Don Reich. She performs songs from the album, talks about turning art into music, and joins host Eric Felten in some Chicago boogie-woogie on "Beyond Category."