Not A Food or Weight Post
Posted April 22, 2013on:
It is with great sorrow that I take a break from my usual topics to report the death of one of the greatest men I have ever met, Richard P. Havens, better known to the world as Richie Havens. He passed away today at age 72, from a heart attack.
I met him a number of times over the years, always brilliant and always optimistic. He was man things – folksinger, interpreter of others’ songs, artist, writer, educator…far too many lifetimes for a kid from the not-so-good part of Brooklyn.
My favorite song of his is “Follow,” although he totally floored me at one Nassau Community College Folk Festival concert by singing Pink Floyd’s “On the Turning Away” totally a cappella. It floored me so much, in fact, that Glasser and Nina Bogin, who were at the concert with me were worried because I totally couldn’t speak for a bit after that. I was just totally blown away by his interpretation.
I’ve been a fan of his for years, and I have no problem admitting that. I remember seeing him in the folk clubs in the Village, when I was just starting to hang out there. His presence on stage was always riveting.
At some point, at a different NCCFF, Marc asked him about his omission of the song “Handsome Johnny,” and he admitted that he was getting tired of having to add new verses.
Marc and I last saw him a couple of years ago, at a concert he did at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He looked much as he always did – a tall man with somewhat regal bearing, however his voice seemed a bit off, and he was having trouble remembering lyrics. At that point, we agreed that we would not go to any more of his concerts, because we both loved him enough that neither of us wanted to see him deteriorate further. Shortly after that, I heard that he was going to stop performing, because he was not able to recover fully from some kidney surgery.
When the news came on, at 5 pm, it was the first story they mentioned. I screamed loudly enough that the roomie came running. I’m still crying as I type this.
Havens was the first performer at Woodstock, a tireless worker to educate children, a fighter for fair trade, and a wonderful self-taught artist and guitar player with a very distinctive style of fingering.
For years, his voice meant hope for me – a battered kid from Queens – and I will deeply miss that voice; almost as much as I miss my mother’s voice.
Rest in Peace, Mr. Havens. You will be missed.