Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Richie Havens 1941-2013

Richie Havens, the great Greenwich Village folksinger who shot to prominence in 1969 as one of the hits of the Woodstock Festival – and the documentary film about it – died suddenly on Monday at age 72 after suffering a heart attack.

I didn’t know Richie that well, but always enjoyed and appreciated the brief times I spent in his company and in his audience.

When Richie was in Montreal in 1998 for a concert, I did a long interview with him in the afternoon before sound check for later broadcast on the Folk Roots/Folk Branches radio program.

We were sitting around the green room in between interview and sound check and I mentioned to Richie that Bruce Murdoch was a good friend of mine. Bruce – who by then was about 18 years into a 25 year hiatus from songwriting and performing – had had his first full-length LP, 33 1/3 Revolutions per Minute, produced by Richie. We got to talking about Bruce and Richie played a couple of lines from “Let’s Lay Down Our Drums,” one of Bruce’s songs from that 1971 LP during the sound check. He said it was a song he always meant to learn.

A few hours later, Richie did a beautiful version of the complete song during the concert.

In 2003, Richie played the Champlain Valley Folk Festival in Vermont where I was a main stage MC. We were chatting backstage and I thanked him for doing that Bruce Murdoch song in Montreal. Richie thanked me for reminding him of Bruce and his songs and that he felt compelled to work up the song after our chat.

Pictured: Richie Havens at the 2003 Champlain Valley Folk Festival (Photo: Janice Hanson)

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--Mike Regenstreif


  1. Richie Havens was also here in the fall of 1998, with Roger McGuinn. Sadly, the hall wasn't full. He looked a lot older, but somehow he always seemed "old" or maybe "wise", and the beard really fit him.

    Did he ever play the Golem? I know I saw some "famous" folk performers there in the early eighties, on the level of Richie Havens, but I can't remember if he ever appeared there.


  2. The concert with Roger McGuinn in 1998 was the one I was referring to.

    No, Richie never did play the Golem. Roger did a couple of concerts there in the '80s, though.

  3. Oops, I wasn't paying attention to the date, sorry. Someone at the Gazette blogged about the more recent show, in 2008 or so, and that stuck in my mind.

    It's hard to remember who I saw at the Golem, because I did see Utah Phillips and Dave Van Ronk and I think Mimi Farina, and since they are all "superstars of folk", sometimes I'm not sure if I saw them or not. It was a lull period, yet you brought them to Montreal (or more likely they were performing nearby and you talked them into a detour).

    I don't think I saw Roger McGuin at the Golem. I did see him at one downtown club in 1977 or 78, with Gene Clarke. They do the intro to "Chestnut Mare" and then when it becomes livelier, all the lights start flashing.


  4. Utah and Dave played the Golem quite a bit and Mimi was there twice.

    Roger will be back in Montreal in June to play the opening concert of the Folk Fest on the Canal.