Richie Haven’s has died at the age of 72. How do you start a tribute to a legend you know you can’t do justice? With a very memorable and historical moment in time…The date? August 15, 1969 and the very first act at Woodstock is about to go on at Max Yasgur’s 600-acre dairy farm in the Catskills to perform to 500,000 people. The festival is already running very late!
an extract from Michael Lang’s ‘The Road to Woodstock’
“Hey, Richie, how about going on in about an hour?”
“No man not me! Get somebody else! I don’t want to be the first act out there!”
“Come on, your band’s here – you can handle this! Think about how cool it will be-to be the first artist onstage”
“No, man, my bass player’s not here. And if the show’s starting late, and I go out there, the crowd’s gonna go crazy and toss beer cans at me!”
“Well think about it…”
After another plea from Michael to help him out Haven’s relented and at 5:07pm, dressed in an orange dashiki and white pants, Richie Havens walked out onto that huge stage with his big Guild acoustic and propped himself on a tall wooden stool.
He connected with that audience like he was at a regular cafe performance…he did a forty minute set and was asked to keep going as they weren’t yet ready for the next act, Havens had no set list but kept going!
Then that moment…Havens’ ran out of songs and knew he had to get off that stage no matter what…
Richie Havens: “So I started tuning and retuning, hoping to remember a song I’ve missed, when I hear that word in my head again, the word I kept hearing while I looked over the crowd in my first moments on-stage. The word was: freedom.”
What followed was improvised, Havens found himself blending that rallying cry to an old song “Sometimes I feel Like a Motherless Child”…the crowd went wild and it still remains the most memorable performance of one of the greatest festivals ever…I could say more but it just seems right to leave it right here:
and a personal favourite, he could really work magic into those covers:
Live At The Cellar Door and at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium
Rest in peace Richie!