Thread: It's Folk week!
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Old 09-21-2010, 02:40 PM   #10 (permalink)
Gavin B.
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I'm picking three by one of my favorite folksingers, Richie Havens. Richie grew up in a tough section of the Bronx & taught himself to play guitar in his teens to using his own set of unconventional open tunings instead of the conventional low E-G-A-D-B-E which are the normal tunings of the 6 guitar strings.

In the early Sixties Richie gravitated to the Bleeker Street cafe & coffee house scene. He was in good company. Richie was the friend and musical peer of such notable musicians as Peter Paul & Mary, Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, Dave Van Ronk, John Phillips & Cass Elliot (later of the Mama's & Papa"s), Roger McGuinn (later the founder of the Byrds), the notorious Fugs & Judy Collins.

Richie was unusual because he a black singer in a urban folk revival that largely consisted of middle class young white performers who earnestly interpreting the authentic sounds of black blues & folk singers of the 20s & 30s. Of course Mr. Havens had more authentic credentials than nearly all of them, as talented as many of the young folk revivalists were.

Richie's sonorous baritone voice & his mastery of jazz, blues & the American folkways landed him a recording contract with Verve records which was primarily a boutique label for elite jazz musicians like Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Stan Getz & Count Baise.

Until Woodstock Richie's musical following was limited to a devoted cult of jazz & folk rock fans.

Richie Havens will always be associated with Woodstock & he was the opening act there. Nobody had ever played before a crowd of 500,000 people. Veteran performers Arlo Guthrie, Country Joe McDonald, Stephen Stills, John Sebastian all sat paralyzed and unwilling to perform because of overwhelming stage fright which was probably magnified by their own cannabis & LSD consumption.

Somebody dared Richie to go out on the massive stage to open up the Festival. Without blinking, Richie fearlessly strolled out before the audience of 500,000 hippies like he owned Max Yagur's farm. When Havens broke into his electrifying version of Freedom he won over the crowd. Afterwards Havens said he paid no attention to the size of the audience & acted as if he was playing a routine gig before a crowd of 78 people in a coffee house in Greenwich Village.

Here's the video of Richie opening up Woodstock with Freedom in bright shining moment in what seems like several lifetimes ago.

The song is my favorite. It's called Follow.

Richie Havens rearranged an old jug band song, San Francisco Bay Blues & transformed it from a novelty song associated with street singer Jesse Fuller into a gorgeous jazzy folk ballad.

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