Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Richie Havens "Freedom"

The last time I saw Richie Havens, I knew that it would probably be the last time I saw Richie Havens.

I hadn't really even had a chance to hear him perform that day.  I'd been running around the campus of the Newport Folk Festival 2010, working on the station's broadcast.

But mvyradio's tent is located in the backstage area, and just happens to be at the end point where a car and driver who might be picking up a performer, can get closest to the stage.

Richie Havens, so dynamic on the stage (see a picture), was not unlike many performers, who appear larger than life on stage, but recede some in the context of real life.

Havens was somewhat different, in that he didn't shrink in the least bit.  His presence still loomed large as he made his way to his car.  Even someone who had never seen or heard of Richie Havens could have looked at the man and simply felt him.  I'm not a fan of the word "aura," but if anyone had one, it was Richie Havens.

But while he carried tremendous power on stage and off, you could now see the frailty of his 70 year old body.  She shuffled a bit as he walked, and getting into his ride was a most ginger, gentle and even uncomfortable looking effort.

Despite his unbound spirit, his mortality was apparent.

Several of the mvyradio staff went over to the car to say goodbye.  Two years prior, Havens had played at Newport Folk and had come by the house where we stay each year, for an interview with Barbara Dacey.  (Expect to hear that interview on the air soon, or find it in our archives; see a picture)  He had made a powerful, personal connection in that meeting.

For me, my connection was made a decade earlier when I realized that his magic was that everything he sang, became a moving, spiritual hymn.

He died yesterday at the age of 72, but that spirit, that magic, that aura connected with the hearts and minds and ears of the millions he touched during his 50 year long career is not something that could be hampered or diminished by simple mortality.  He was made of something more.

Godspeed, Mr. Havens.

Hear the song on Youtube.

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