News / Arts & Entertainment

Remembering Richie Havens

Richie Havens reprises his 1969 performance of
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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Taliban's New Leader Says Jihad Will Continue

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll 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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”