MUSiC: Richie Havens

My first taste…

Like most – or at least many – folk, I’d guess, I discovered Richie Havens thanks to his Woodstock performance. Slated to appear fifth on the bill, he wound up opening the festival, due to other performers arriving late.

I’ve read that the whole show started three hours late. And I’ve also read, in several quotes from from Richie himself (now deceased), that he played a massively long set – he says three hours!? – due to the no-show of the aforementioned acts.

He alludes to the fact that the movie only features him performing two songs – which research suggests were Handsome Johnny and Freedom/Motherless Child – whilst he actually played many more. I can’t find a list suggestive of his three hour claim, but I did find one place listing these titles:

From The Prison
High Flyin’ Bird
I Can’t Make It Anymore
With A Little Help From My Friends
Handsome Johnny
Freedom/Motherless Child

Richie’s Woodstock gear, at the Bethel Woods Museum.

Whatever the true contents and duration of his set were, his position on the bill, and inclusion in the movie, catapulted the coffee-house folkie-scenester to stardom. Just as it did for some other acts, notably Santana.

I recall my dad having misty-eyed reveries in respect of Havens in particular, back when I was a kid living at home, and I first saw the Woodstock movie. It had a pretty profound influence on me, back then.

Over the years I’ve occasionally dipped into Havens’ bag. But only ever very lightly and superficially. I feel the time has come to check him out a bit more thoroughly. Whether I actually will or not, remains to be seen. But the interest/desire is there.

Ironically it was kickstarted by the very recent discovery of Kathy Smith, and esp’ her second album, artfully titled 2, which was released on Havens’ own small independent record label, Stormy Forest.

Havens had his own record label.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, the label appears to still exist. At any rate, there’s a website of that name. Check it out here.

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