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

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu 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.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid

New in Music Alley

Border Crossings

Joe Taylor sits down with "Border Crossings" host Larry London to talk about his distinction as New York’s “Subway Idol,” and how he beat out thousands for that title. Joe performs several songs from his new CD, “Anything’s Possible.”