DAN'S PAPERS, June 12, 2009 Page 51 www.danshamptons.com
Arts & Entertainment ack t vveat By Tiffany Razzano
Master Strummer Richie Havens With the Woodstock Music Festival celebrating its 40th anniversary this summer and numerous events commemorating the occasion planned (including, possibly, a huge free music festival to be held in a yet-to-be-named Brooklyn park, and put together by one of the original organizers), a number of Woodstock-era artists will find their way to Long Island this season, including Joan Baez, Joe Cocker, Crosby, Stills and Nash and Canned Heat. Perhaps one of the most innovative of these musicians, soulful guitarist Richie Havens, will be performing at the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett on June 19. Havens was propelled into the national spotlight in 1969 after he opened the Woodstock Festival, though he was originally slated to perform fifth, and was called back for many encores. When he ran out of material, he improvised and adapted one of his most well known songs, “Freedom,” based on the spiritual “Motherless Child,” entirely off the cuff. Havens grew up in Brooklyn, singing in street corner doo wop groups and The McCrea Gospel Singers, before he was bitten by the folk music bug and turned to the now infamous music scene of 1960s Greenwich Village, rising up in the ranks that included the likes of Baez and Bob Dylan. “I saw the Village as a place to escape to in order to express yourself,” he said.
Initially, Havens was known primarily for his creative interpretations of others’ songs, including Dylan’s “Just Like a Woman” and The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” (In fact, Havens became known as a premier interpreter of the songs of Dylan and The Beatles, and even released an album called Sings Beatles and Dylan in 1987. And last year, Havens was featured in the surrealistic Dylan biopic – which was based more on fiction and rumors than fact – I’m Not There, performing the song “Tombstone Blues” as Old Man Arvin.) However, even early on he did compose his own songs. His 1967 debut album for Verve Records, Mixed Bag, features the standout song “Handsome Johnny,” co-written with Oscarwinning actor Louis Gossett Jr. Eventually, over the span of his career, his albums usually featured more of his original works. Over the years, Havens also came to embrace
two other passions – acting and environmentalism. During the 1970s, he was featured in the original stage presentation of The Who’s Tommy, took on the lead role in the film Catch My Soul, which was based on Othello, and also starred alongside Richard Pryor in Greased Lightning. That same decade, Havens began to devote his time and energy to increasing children’s awareness ecological and environmental issues. He co-founded the Northwind Undersea Institute, a children’s museum on City Island in the Bronx, which led to the creation of The Natural Guard. This group helps “kids learn that they can have a hands-on role affecting the environment,” he said. Teaching children about what they can do in their own communities, “[they] see how they can make (continued on page 54)
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Published on Jun 12, 2009
Dan's Papers, the 51-year-old bible of the Hamptons, is owned by Manhattan Media, a multi-media publishing company based in New York City,...