Richie Havens (1941-2013)


courtesy of the Richie Havens Facebook page

I am saddened to hear about the loss of Richie Havens. His music means so much to me, as it does to so many people around the world who are mourning his death today. I first heard of him back in 2002, shortly after I moved to New York. I was watching a documentary about Woodstock, and I saw this bearded black folk singer furiously strumming away and singing his heart out while drenched with sweat.  I didn’t fully realize what I was watching then, but later I would come to realize the significance of his set at Woodstock.  I sought out more of his music and became a huge fan over the next several years. I got the opportunity to see him perform live a couple of times, at B.B. King’s Restaurant, and on a beautiful summer afternoon outdoors at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s R&B Festival at MetroTech Center in Brooklyn.

One of my dirty little secrets is that I fiddle around on the guitar sometimes, and I learned to play it in the unorthodox style that Richie Havens plays. It is a credit to his incredible generosity as an artist that I know how to do that at all. Richie was always very open about giving away his secrets. He posted lessons on his old website and released an instructional DVD showing everyone how he figured out his own unique Open D style of playing. He was a remarkable human being, and I hope that people will continue to be inspired by his courage and creativity for years to come.

It’s Spring! Springtime Again!

Today felt like the first real day of spring here in NYC. It was the kind of day that allows me to lower my defenses and finally accept that spring is really here.  Being a native Southerner I am always on guard against the late season winter blasts that sometimes happen up North.  My defensive strategy against the winter doldrums is never to get my hopes up about warm weather until we are well into April.  Yes, I know The Purple One reminded us that “Sometimes it Snows in April,” but I think we may finally be in the clear on the East Coast.   And so, I celebrate with two versions of one of my favorite Sun Ra tunes, “Springtime Again.”  This is a song that I would offer up as an invitation for those who may have been led to believe that Ra’s music was all noise and cacophony.  This is one of his most beautiful melodies, and there are many more strange and beautiful songs just like this in the Sun Ra discography.