I’ve been running into one Richie Havens gem after another today.
I’m watching this really lovely interview recorded in 2004. 58 minutes long on YouTube.
“For the baby-boomer generation, he will live forever on the stage of the Woodstock festival, which he had the honor to open because the folk-rock band Sweetwater, the scheduled opening act, was stuck in traffic. Mr. Havens and his guitarist and drummer arrived by helicopter. They had been scheduled to go on fifth.
Mr. Havens started with “Minstrel From Gault” a few minutes after 5 p.m. on Aug. 15, 1969.”
He sang every song he knew that day – 2 hours and 45 minutes worth. He came up with the song “Freedom” on the spot at the conclusion.
In this 5 minute interview he reflects on his Woodstock performance:
“I would go to the back to leave and they would say ‘Would you do 4 more songs?’ – ‘Sure, no problem’ – ‘4 more songs?’ – This went on 6 times.”
On the mindset of his audience and that moment:
“My generation was asking to be moved. Was asking to find out how to connect with that self I just felt”
Richie Havens also acted in films, sculpted, painted, and pioneered environmental education programs.
This 37 minute video from AMFM starts with Richie Havens performing All Along the Watchtower but the remainder shows him describing his work in environmental education. He discusses his early musical career playing coffee houses in Greenich Village and he then talks about working with the “Natural Guard” in the 80’s- a program to educate children on conservation and the environment.
Here’s a snippet of what he says of the Natural Guard:
“This was something that if I was a kid I would have loved to have joined. What it was was using your own community as the endangered environment. And you as the most endangered person in it. ….basically 18 kids walked into the program and 18 kids were still there 6 years together…. It was the idea of bringing THEIR projects together and changing THEIR town or city.
A kid says, “Mr. Havens. Can we grow a garden and feed the homeless people?” That’s what kids were thinking about back then. That was 1980. …They had 3 gardens going on where there was so much greens and stuff that they actually DID feed the homeless.”
He also started an oceanographic children’s museum in the 1970’s in the Bronx called “Northwind Undersea Institute”.
He wrote a memoir in 1999 They Can’t Hide Us Anymore (the title refers to seeing the huge crowd at Woodstock as he flew over in a helicopter).
If you’re a guitar player, you might like to check out the how-to DVD “The Guitar Of Richie Havens” to see him demonstrate tuning, rhythms, and fretting techniques.
Havens used an open tuning method for his guitar – an open D tuning: “I tune down to the key of D… D A D F# A D …from top to bottom”.
A sample lesson:
Thank you Richie Havens for sharing your Self.
Rest in Peace.