Richie Havens – A Child Of God

Richie_Havens-22I came upon a child of God last Sunday evening and his name is Richie Havens. And for a brief time, the promise of peace and love echoed in the Tupelo Music Hall.

Havens, the first musician to play at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, received worldwide recognition as a result of that fiery and soulful performance. His voice and guitar-playing style are immediately recognizable and inimitable. As Greg Greenway [the opener that night] put it, “Havens is the real, real deal”.

Havens is a master at taking songs we’re all familiar with and making them his own. His rendition of the song ‘Here Comes The Sun’ makes the original version by the Beatles sound sophomoric and amateur. Sorry Fab Four.

And move over Bob Dylan, Havens owns your song “Maggie’s Farm” now. You wrote it with great style and imagination, and sang it like you meant it, but Havens plays it like he grew up there and still has the dirt lodged under his fingernails.

When Havens played the Joni Mitchell song ‘Woodstock’, I welled up with emotion and longed for a different time and place. Not for a return to the “free love” and excesses of the ’60s but for the promise of peace that my generation failed to deliver to our children.

My favorite Havens story that night was about our government’s unending quest to “conquer space”. He spoke of the billions of dollars spent each year on space exploration and noted that, “Don’t they realize that the planet Earth is already in space?”

This is the reason we desperately need artists like Havens – they constantly remind us all of the blatantly obvious!

Havens was much more than a musician/performer that night. He was several levels, and light years, beyond that. He was a humble spiritual leader — a Priest, a Brahman — reminding us that the world would be far, far better off, if we all just took care of each other.

I know what you’re thinking. “Corny, hippie crap”, right?

Call it what you will, but I’ll take a boat-load of hope and optimism anytime. Lest we forget, peace is not a four letter word.

© Bruce Bressack