Monday, April 22, 2013

The Death of Richie Havens

I have just heard of the passing of the great folk singer Richie Havens at age 72. Richie Havens was the opening act of Woodstock; it is said that his set lasted three hours. He sang and played every song he knew. In the end he improvised one of the classics of our era, "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child," which morphed into "Freedom." The song was played in an incredible percussive style, Havens' trademark, with his plaintive voice singing "Freedom! Freedom! Freedom!"

I remember so vividly listening to recordings of Richie Havens singing "The Minstrel from Gault," "Handsome Johnnie," and "All Along the Watchtower," the definitive performance of the Bob Dylan tune. Chris Cotter's brother Tony played Havens' tunes incredibly well--and that is one of my best memories from the time in 1971 that I visited the Cotters' house in Cincinnati.

In my mind, Richie Havens was a force that helped end the Vietnam War. Rest in Peace, Richie Havens, and thank you for your incredible art.

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