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"Conversations with Harold Hudson Channer"
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FRIDAY JULY 8, 2005
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Like a Beautiful Soaring PHOENIX - The
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Songwriter, Performer, Artist
(Originally Aired: May 5, 2004)
Havens: A Biography
Richie Havens is gifted with one
of the most recognizable voices in popular music. His fiery,
poignant, always soulful, singing style has remained unique
and ageless since he first emerged from the Greenwich Village
folk scene in the early 1960’s. It’s a voice that has inspired
and electrified audiences from the Woodstock Music & Arts Fair
in 1969, to the Clinton Presidential Inauguration in
1993-coming full circle with the 30th Woodstock Anniversary
celebration, "A Day In The Garden", in 1999.
For three decades, Havens has used his music to convey
messages of brotherhood and personal freedom. With over twenty
albums released and a touring schedule that would kill many a
younger man, he continues to view his calling as a high one.
As he told The Denver Post, "I really sing songs that move me.
I’m not in show business, I’m in the communications business.
That’s what it’s about for me".
Born in Brooklyn, Richard P. Havens grew up in
Bedford-Stuyvesant community, the eldest of nine children. His
father was a " by ear" piano player ("If he heard it, he could
play it," says Richie) who worked with a number of bands
around the city, and Richie took to performing like a natural.
As he grew older, Richie helped organize a series of street
corner doo-wop groups and, at 16, performed with The McCrea
Gospel Singers. He sang doo-wop until the age of 20, at which
point Havens left Bedford-Stuyvesant to seek out the artistic
stimulation of Greenwich Village. "I saw the Village as a
place you could escape to and express yourself," he recalls.
"I first went there to perform poetry in the late ‘50’s during
the beatnik days. Then I drew portraits for two years, and I’d
stay up all night listening to folk music in the clubs, but it
took a while before I thought of picking up a guitar." Nina
Simone had been a key vocal influence early on; Fred Neil and
Dino Valenti were among the folksingers who have had an impact
on Havens during this period.
Havens’ reputation as a solo performer soon spread beyond the
Village folk circles. He recorded two albums worth of demos
for Douglas International in 1965 and `66, though none of the
tracks were released until his first two albums caused a stir.
After joining forces with legendary manager Albert Grossman,
Richie landed his first deal with the Verve label, which
released Mixed Bag in 1967. This auspicious
debut album featured standout tracks like "Handsome Johnny" (cowritten
by Havens with future Oscar-winning actor Lou Gossett Jr.),
Jerry Merrick’s "Follow" (later heard on the soundtrack to the
hit 1978 film Coming Home), and a striking version of Bob
Dylan’s "Just Like A Woman" that earned Havens his reputation
as a premier interpreter of Dylan’s material.
Something Else Again (1968) became Havens` first
album to hit the Billboard chart and pulled Mixed Bag
onto the chart as well. That same year, Douglas International
added instrumental tracks to his old demos and released two
albums – Richie Havens` Record and
Electric Havens. Havens first co-production, the two
disc Richard P. Havens, 1983 (Verve, 1969), gave
fans a taste of his exciting live sound.
In fact, it was as a live performer that Havens first earned
widespread notice. By decade’s end, he was in great demand in
colleges across the country ("I must have played every campus
in America at least three times," he says, grateful for
students’ early support), as well as on the international folk
and pop circuit. Richie played the 1966 Newport Folk Festival;
the 1967 Monterey Jazz Festival; the January 1968 Woody
Guthrie Memorial Concert at Carnegie Hall; the December 1968
Miami Pop Festival; the 1969 Isle of Wight Festival, and, of
course, the 1969 Woodstock festival in upstate New York.
Havens` Woodstock appearance proved to be a major turning
point in his career. As the festival’s opening act, he held
the multitudes spellbound for nearly three hours. Called back
for yet another encore, he improvised a song based on the old
spiritual "Motherless Child" that became "Freedom", eventually
reaching an audience of millions.
Meanwhile, Havens had switched labels to Stormy Forest
(distributed by MGM) and delivered his Stonehenge
LP in 1970. Later that year came Alarm Clock,
which yielded the #16 single "Here Comes The Sun" (George
Harrisons’ Beatles classic from Abbey Road) and became the
first of his albums to reach Billboard’s Top 30. Subsequent
Stormy Forest albums included The Great Blind Degree
(1971), Richie Havens On Stage (1972),
Portfolio (1973), and Mixed Bag II
Havens also branched out into acting during the 1970’s. He was
featured in the original 1972 stage presentation of The Who’s
Tommy, had the lead role in the 1974 film version of Catch My
Soul (based on Shakespeare’s Othello) and costarred with
comedian Richard Pryor in Greased Lightning (1977).
He also made memorable appearances on such television programs
as The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny
Carson. On the latter program, the audience was so
enthusiastic that Carson asked Havens to return the following
night. In the show’s long history, the only other guest booked
back to back based on such an overwhelming audience response
was Barbra Streisand.
During the 70’s and 80’s, Havens’ work included a tour of
Israel (by invitation of the Israeli Embassy), annual tours of
Europe, and a non-stop US concert schedule. He continued to
release albums as well, including The End Of The
Beginning, Mirage, Connections,
Common Ground, Simple Things and
Increasingly, Havens devoted his energies to educating young
people about ecological issues. In the mid-1970’s, he
co-founded the Northwinds Undersea Institute, an oceanographic
museum for children on City Island in the Bronx. That, in
turn, led to his founding of the Natural Guard in early 1990.
Havens describes the organization as "a way of helping kids to
learn that they can play a hands-on role in affecting the
environment. Children study the land, water, and air in their
own communities and see how they can make positive changes."
Based in New Haven, Connecticut, the Natural Guard now has
chapters across the Americas, from Brooklyn to Hawaii to
Belize, and continues to grow.
Throughout the 90’s Havens’ touring pace never slowed, and he
delivered a landmark Madison Square Garden performance October
16, 1992, at the Columbia Records concert saluting Bob Dylan’s
30 years of recording. Richie’s show-stopping version of "Just
Like A Woman" was hailed by many as one of the all-star show’s
April `93 heralded the release of Resume:The Best Of
Richie Havens (Rhino), a long overdue collection of
his seminal late `60’s and early ‘70 recordings which included
such gems as "Here Comes The Sun", "Just Like A Woman", "The
Dolphins", "Handsome Johnny," and "Freedom". That was soon
followed by another new studio release, Cuts To The
Chase (Rhino), which featured the longtime concert
staple, "Lives In The Balance".
Other highlights of the past decade included his triumphant
appearance at the Troubadours of Folk Festival at UCLA’s Drake
Stadium where a capacity audience refused to let him leave the
stage. Hollywood Reporter reviewer Darryl Morden was among
those who praised Richie for "turning in an urgently fierce
performance" at this event, which Havens later referred to as
a "Greenwich Village Class Reunion". At another LA appearance,
His Holiness The Dalai Lama requested that Richie perform
"Lives In The Balance", and "Freedom".
The summer of 1999 brought the release of They Can’t Hide Us
Anymore (Harper Collins), a personal narrative recounting
Richie’s days in Greenwich Village, reflections on the
original Woodstock Festival and subsequent reunion concerts,
as well as stories of friends and influences along the way.
Recent guest appearances have included the Peter Gabriel
album, OVO, and collaborations with Groove
Armada on the 2002 releases, Goodbye Country, Hello
Nightclub and Lovebox.
March of 2002 brings the long-awaited release of Wishing
Well (Stormy Forest/Evangeline Recorded Works), which
includes two longtime concert favorites, "Paradise", and "On
The Turning Away". MOJO MAGAZINE (May 2002) calls this
album "both a revelation and a joy".
2002 & 2003 also bring the long awaited cd release of Richie’s
early Stormy Forest albums, Stonehenge,
Alarm Clock, Portfolio, The Great
Blind Degree, Mixed Bag II, and
Richie Havens On Stage.
For Richie Havens, music-making is a continuous process, one
that advances a step further with each album. Through it all,
his voice has remained one of rare eloquence and integrity.
"My albums are meant to be a chronological view of the times
that we’ve come through, what we’ve thought about, and what
we’ve done to grow and change. There’s a universal point that
we all respond to, where all songs apply to everyone, and this
is what I’m still addressing today."
CONVERSATIONS WITH HAROLD HUDSON
Friday July 8, 2005
/ 10:30 - 11:30 AM / (NYC Time)
Channel 34 of the
Time/Warner &Channel 110 of the RCN
Cable Television Systems in Manhattan, New York.
The Program can now be
viewed on the internet at the time of cable casting at:
NOTE: You must adjust viewing to reflect NYC time &
click on channel 34