Tuesday, April 23, 2013

(January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013)

Thanks to Happy Traum for posting this beautiful pic to Facebook.

I first saw Richie Havens perform  in the early 1960s, in a former bowling alley on Page Boulevard in Springfield, Mass. Jumping on the folk music boom of the era, the owners had repurposed the space into a downstairs coffee house called the Pesky Sarpent. For a while, this club was a destination on the New York - Boston folk circuit. It would be a few years before Richie released his first major-label albums and became a huge presence at the Woodstock Festival.

Over the years I caught him in concert at various East Coast venues, but the last time Marti and I heard Richie was here in Paris five years ago at a free concert in Studio 104 the Maison de la Radio. Here's what I blogged at the time: 

"After a waaaaaay too long opening set by Eric Bibb, a singer-guitarist who is competent enough but doesn't have that much to say, Richie took the stage accompanied by a guitarist and bass player. He started strong with "All Along The Watchtower," then rolled off a bunch of tunes with which we were unfamiliar. I've always felt that Richie's strengths lie in his deft covers of the great songwriters such as Dylan and Lennon-McCartney.

"Just when I'd about given up hope for Richie Havens remaining relevant in the Third Millennium, the three musicians went into a long Arabic-sounding instrumental intro. I wondered where Richie and his cohorts were going with this, the most compelling music they'd made since the beginning of the set. Then Richie sang:

They can be counted on to tell us who
our enemies are
But they're never the ones to fight or to die
And there are lives in the balance
There are people under fire
There are children at the cannons
And there is blood on the wire
Lives In The Balance - Jackson Browne

Nice save, oldtimer." 

R.I.P., Richie.

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