The man who brought a simple soulfulness in the folk music of sixties and gave a hit in his first performance at Woodstock has passed away on Monday. Richie Havens died of heart attack at the age of 72 on April 22. Lately, Havens announced that he would make no other tours because of his health issues.
Since the beginning in mid-Sixties when Havens used to play for Village folk clubs, he was known to all because of his impressive height of six-and-a-half feet. He was also known for his African-American ethnicity within a typically white folk scene. He used to play his acoustic guitar through an open tuning as well as in a rhythmic, fervent style. He used to sing in a deep, gravel-road tone that was a mix of folk, gospel, and blues. Havens was a songwriter too. One of his well-known songs ‘Handsome Johnny’ was co-written by him.
However, Havens received wide recognition after singing his versions of two Bob Dylan songs ‘It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue’ and ‘Just like a Woman’. He also covered some Beatles songs – ‘Here Comes the Sun’, ‘Eleanor Rigby’, and ‘With a Little Help from My Friends’. In 1968 in an interview with ‘Rolling Stone’, he described music as the key structure of communication. According to him, music was the most widespread vibration, particularly for kids.
In the meager Bedford-Stuyvesant of Brooklyn, Havens grew up as the oldest among his nine siblings. He used to play piano since he was a teenager and created a gospel group while studying in high school.
It was Dylan who noticed this young talent. Dylan wrote in his journal ‘Chronicles Dylan’ that he used to notice this singer every time when he crossed the paths in the village of Greenwich. After taped two albums for a minor brand, Havens contacted Albert Grossman, Dylan’s manager. It helped changing the fate of the of the singer.
In current years, Havens was revived by a new age group. ‘Hands of Time’ is his teamwork with Groove Armada, which was released in 2004. In 2000, his chronicle ‘They Can’t Hide Us Anymore’ was published. He released his last album ‘Nobody Left to Crown’ in 2008.