Monday, September 9, 2013

Remembering Richie Havens January 31, 1941 - April 22, 2013

Woodstock has been billed as one of the "50 Moments That Changed the History of Rock and Roll" and was held August 15-18, 1969.

The first performance for the iconic event was an American singer/songwriter and guitarist by the name of Richard Pierce "Richie" Havens.  Havens music was a combination of folk, soul, and blues.  He was also recognized as an outstanding guitarist.

Havens was born in Brooklyn and spent a great deal of time in Greenwich Village that was considered a place where "anything goes".  He initially performed without his guitar and recited poetry .  He also earned a living as an artist and for a few years drew portraits and listened to folk music.  He soon became a recognized performer on the New York scene where he eventually landed a record deal.  His first recording was called "Mixed Bag" in 1967 that included the song "Handsome Johnny" that was written by both Havens and actor, Louis Gossett Jr.  He continued to record albums and "Something Else Again" became his first successful album to make the Billboard charts.

Havens performance at Woodstock
Following his performance at Woodstock, his name catapulted him to success.  During the festival, he performed the song "Motherless Child" that soon became known as "Freedom"  He started his own record label and recorded several albums including "Stonehedge" and "Alarm Clock" that included the song that later was recorded by Beatle George Harrison called "Here Comes the Sun."  He was also a frequent guest on television talk shows including "The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson" where he made back to back appearances because of the positive reception from the Tonight Show guests.  He also took an interest in acting where he was featured in the stage presentation of The Who's "Tommy" "Greased Lightning" and with Richard Pryor in "Hearts of Fire"

Havens took a keen interest in the environment and felt it was his duty to educate the youth on ecological issues.    He co-founded a children's museum in the Bronx called "Northwind Undersea Institute"  He also did numerous television commercials for NBC, CBS, and ABC as well as Maxwell House Coffee's jingle "The Fabric of Our Lives"

He really knew he made it to the top when he was asked to perform at President Bill Clinton's inauguration.  He did many free concerts and benefits during his lifetime.

Near the end of Haven's career, he was featured on the soundtrack of the film "Collateral" with Tom Cruise and Jamie Fox.  He also published his autobiography called "They Can't Hide Us Anymore"  He received numerous accolades and honors for his work and was invited to play "Freedom" for the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

In 2010, Richie Havens had kidney surgery that caused him to stop touring after 45 years of performances.  He died April 22, 2013 following a heart attack in his home in New Jersey at the age of 72.

Richie Havens memorial wine bottle
On Monday, April 29, 2013 a public memorial was held in the City Winery in New York City.  Those in attendance were served special wine honoring Havens (photo).  It was said that knowing Richie wanted a party rather than a somber memorial, they honored him with an unticketed gathering of friends, food, wine and music.  The event included Haven's numerous recordings while family and friends reminisced  about him. A stage that included a large portrait of Havens along with his guitar was displayed and hundreds turned out for the celebration.

Havens memorial program at Woodstock
Havens had requested that following cremation, his ashes be scattered over the original site of Woodstock known as Bethel Woods Center for the Arts.  On August 18, 2013, his wishes became reality when a celebration of Richie's life (program pictured) was held that included a concert that featured musicians Jose Feliciano and John Sebastian and among those who spoke were
his friends Lou Gossett Jr. and Danny Glover.   Nearly 1000 fans along with nearly 30 relatives gathered at Woodstock.  His cremated remains were mixed with flower pedals and released overhead by a plane over the site where Richie Havens had made his name.  His memorial program included the quote "You walked in grace until the stars called you home."
Scattering over Woodstock

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