Richie Havens | World Café Live

Words by: Bobby "TP" Coleman | Images by: Rod Snyder

Richie Havens :: 01.12.08 :: World Café Live :: Philadelphia, PA

Richie Havens :: 01.12
When I was asked to go to see Richie Havens at the World Café Live, my mind jumped back to when I first heard his voice on a friend's vinyl LPs - a voice that rose from an age of protests, race riots, the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon. Fully a man of his time, Havens took the stage in Bethel, NY, and with a prophetic voice ushered in the Woodstock morning with acoustic rhythms and a wisdom well beyond his years. Like many during that period, Havens wanted to change the world for the better, but unlike many of his peers, he's stayed true to his vision. Through his music and passion, he's sought to nurture peace, dignity and personal freedom in humanity's collective soul.

The show opened quietly as the tall, soft-spoken man told us stories while he tuned his guitar between songs. "I have two ears, but they both hear different things," he quipped. With every note he played an incredible would permeated the room. He opened with "All Along The Watchtower," and afterward told us about his early days in Greenwich Village at the start of his career and long friendship with Bob Dylan.

Havens & Parks :: 01.12
As in the past, his style was wild and frantic, accelerating and slowing to beckon us to listen more intently. Havens seemed to be overtaken or bewitched at times by the bell-tone of his guitar strings. His deep, mellow voice was backed by Walter Parks (guitar) and Stephanie Winters (cello), with the trio blending folk, jazz, gospel, blues, soul and rock into something of their own. I was swept away as the trio passed songs back and forth with a gentle drift.

Havens never mentioned song titles. Instead, he talked to us about simple things like how he wished the world was or might be. Havens sang, "Paradise is a hard place to find/ Hope someone will throw us a line." Havens' show extends to the musical story inside his lyrics like, "As I'm dreaming, sometimes I'm dreaming way down deep" or "Who is going to take away my license to kill?"

Havens plays like he did some 40 years ago, and he still leaps up from his stool and kicks the air when the vibrations demand it. For the encore he played Dylan's "Maggie's Farm" blended with The Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again." Like his contemporaries (Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Joan Baez, Simon & Garfunkel) the music of their youth still holds a meaningful message. It remains beautiful, serene and hopeful like a rising sun, proof that the right musician can still move us.

"Share love. One planet, take care of each other," said Havens as he waved goodbye.

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