Richie Havens

~ January 21, 1941 – April 22, 2013 ~

I’m listening to Sleepy Hollow this morning on WXPN (xpn.org) and naturally, they’re playing quite a few Richie Havens songs.

The name “Richie Havens” is often followed by “best known for opening the Woodstock Music and Art Fair in August 1969…”

I’m sure that’s true, but the privilege of seeing him in Philadelphia at World Cafe Live a couple years ago is what I’ll remember best about Richie Havens.

We saw him in the building before the concert, in a suit and tie, his gentle smile warming all those he encountered.  When he arrived on stage, he wore a white shirt and tie, dress pants (and shoes) and a dashiki.  Richie Havens had a formidable physical presence and a spiritual presence large enough to fill the room.

Those long, elegant fingers (resplendent in the silver rings that we know so well) enveloped the neck of his guitar and the essence of Richie Havens poured from that wooden vessel for the next two hours and filled up all the hollow places inside me.

I’m not exactly known for being silent, but that night I was silenced by the tangible presence of this gentle man’s spirit. I arrived expecting a great concert.  I was not disappointed, but I left with so much more. Through some kind of musical osmosis, I left more peaceful, kinder, more aware of the footprint that I leave in the world.

Richie Havens will never be gone.  He left a piece of himself in all of us.

From The Long Road
by Richie Havens and Cliff Eberhardt

I can hear your voice in the wind
Are you calling to me? Down the long road
Do you really think that there’s an end
I have followed my dreams, down the long road

Somehow I feel you are here
You are waiting in that dream
Somewhere down this road we will awake
And be at the start again

I can hear your voice in the wind
Are you calling to me? Down the long road
Do you really think that there’s an end?
I have lived my whole life, down the long road

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