RICHIE HAVENS – IN MEMORIAM

(JANUARY 21st 1941 – APRIL 22nd 2013)

RICHIE HAVENS IN MEMORIAM

It is with great sadness that folking report that the great RICHIE HAVENS, forever known as the man who opened the Woodstock Festival in 1969, richly gifted singer / songwriter, innovative song interpreter, and without doubt one of the most genuine nice guys in rock and roll, has passed away at the age of 72. He suffered a sudden heart attack at his home in Jersey City, New Jersey, yesterday (Monday 22nd April).

My old mate Lesley “legs” Shone from Indiscreet PR had the honour of working with Richie from 2002 until his retirement from performing in 2010. Here is a lovely quote from Legs

We had come to know Richie very well, and found him to be one of the warmest, most sincere, charming and funny people you could ever hope to meet, let alone work with. Richie’s inclusive and amiable demeanour, as well as his incredible powers of recall, made him a unique interview subject. On one occasion, Richie came straight from landing at Heathrow airport to do a radio interview with Danny Baker at BBC Radio London, in advance of a sell-out run of shows at the Jazz Café. Most artists would want to talk about themselves; instead Richie regaled Danny with his thoughts and reminiscences on the unlikely career of Tiny Tim!

Richie Havens will always be associated with the Woodstock Festival; every interview he ever did inevitably included the question “What was it like to open Woodstock?” Richie never tired of retelling the story – or saying how he was sat with Albert Grossman at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 when Dylan shocked the Folkie throng by ‘going electric’, or meeting Jimi Hendrix in Greenwich Village in the mid-60s, or making the movie ‘Catch My Soul’, directed by a mostly-AWOL Patrick McGoohan, or playing for president Bill Clinton in 1993, it was all there. After the legendary folkie Fred Neil quit New York to live in Coconut Grove, Florida, apparently to watch dolphins, Richie was the only guy from the old Village days that he kept in touch with. Most of all, though, Richie’s music shines on; his utterly personalised takes on songs such as Just Like A Woman, Strawberry Fields Forever, Here Comes The Sun, Going Back To My Roots, and, in the last decade,Woodstock, Won’t Get Fooled Again and more linger loud and long – although he was no slouch as a songwriter himself. His recent albums, such as Wishing Well, The Grace of the Sun and Nobody Left To Crown feature many choice examples of Havens’ own writing talent.

Richie Havens made a powerful impression as a human being; surgery in 2010 meant that he could no longer perform, and Havens performances – that i interaction between artist and audience, his songs propelled by his powerful footstomp – his honeyed vocal tone wrapping and wringing out the emotion of a song lyric – and his between song banter – made his concerts a vivid, enduring celebration of the freedoms that came from the 1960s. Richie’s gone now, but the electric vibe that he channelled throughout his career will not be dimmed. Rest in Peace, Richie.

Bert Jansch…R.I.P

I was very sad to learn today that Bert Jansch  has died of lung cancer. I was lucky enough to catch the man back-stage at the London Fleadh in 2000 which I will always remember as we shared a banana in his caravan prior to the interview.

Bert was a virtuoso guitarist, hailed by the likes of Jimmy Page,  Neil Young and Johnny Marr of the Smiths as a force to be reckoned with -and learned from, and was  recognized by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the top 100 guitarists of all time. He was also a prolific songwriter. The man was at the very center of the British folk revival of the late 1960s and early 1970s . He was a founder member of Pentangle, who were unique, with their slightly different, visionary mix of folk and jazz music that found a huge audience for its complex arrangements and stunning musicianship.

His solo career was bookended by the outstanding “Bert Jansch” album in 1965 – recorded on borrowed guitars – and the critically acclaimed “Black Swan” CD released in 2006.

Neil Young, who earlier this year invited Jansch to open for him on a concert tour, said that Jansch created a new approach to the acoustic guitar much as Jimi Hendrix changed the sound of the electric guitar.

John Barrow, Bert’s U.K. concert booking agent said: “I’ve been his agent for just over 10 years and when I met him he was at a low ebb and not really getting the recognition he deserved,” Barrow said. “But it is a measure of the man that he had at that point continued playing in a pub in Carnaby Street in London. Even at that time Liam and Noel Gallagher from Oasis were turning up at that pub to listen to him.”

Bert was born in Scotland, & was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music in 2007 by Edinburgh Napier University.

Pentangle was hailed by critics and fans for providing modern renditions of classic folk songs, helping to keep traditional music alive and vibrant, and also for innovative, jazz-inflected new material. They attracted a substantial following in an era when Bob Dylan, Donovan, Fairport Convention and others were looking to traditional acoustic sounds for inspiration.

Bert’s final performance was at with  Pentangle at London’s Royal Festival Hall on Aug. 1. Bert died at the Marie Curie Hospice in north London. He  had recently been forced to cancel several planned solo concerts because of his failing health.

Folk singer Eddi Reader called Jansch “a gentle, gentle gentleman.” In a message on Twitter she said: “God speed, darlin’ Bert – get us on the guest list.”

Bert  is survived by his wife, Loren, and son, Adam.