Richie Havens returns to Telluride’s Opera House 3/13

Richie Havens returns to Telluride’s Opera House 3/13

[click "Play" to listen to Susan's conversation with Richie Havens]

Unknown Richie Havens has been performing in Telluride since the 1970s. Everything old will be new again when the folk icon returns to town for a concert at the historic Sheridan Opera House on Saturday, March 13. Show time is 8 p.m. Box Office and Vaudeville Bar open 30 minutes prior.

August 15, 2009 marked the 40th anniversary of the momentous Woodstock Music & Art Fair, a festival billed as "An Aquarian Exposition: 3 Days of Peace & Music," held at Max Yasgur's 600-acre dairy farm near the hamlet of White Lake in the town of Bethel, New York. Bethel, in Sullivan County, is 43 miles southwest of the town of Woodstock, New York,  in adjoining Ulster County and it was where Richie Havens became an enduring star.

Havens was the first performer on the bill at Woodstock. Already a familiar face to the college crowd and folkies, the gravelly-voiced acoustic soul giant mesmerized the entire audience with his rich, melodic vocals, and percussive strumming. After three hours of encores, Havens ran out of material, so he riffed on the old spiritual “Motherless Child.” The improv became “Freedom,” one of Haven’s signature songs, the anthem of a generation, and his regular closer. (He recorded a new version of flower child anthem for the soundtrack of Ang Lee's "Taking Woodstock.")

Havens’ concerts are generally a mix of old and new music, originals and covers. (Dylan covers especially are Havens’ stock in trade.)  All the songs he sings, however, carry timeless anti-war, brotherhood, and personal freedom messages, themes that have run throughout his 40+- year career.

Born the eldest of nine children in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, at an early age Richie Havens began organizing his neighborhood friends into street corner doo-wop groups. By 16, he was singing in a gospel group and at 20, he left home seeking artistic stimulation and brotherhood in the Big Apple, decamping to to Greenwich Village in 1961 in time to get in on the folk boom. Havens had a distinctive, now patented style as a folksinger: Guitar set to an open tuning, he would strum while barring chords with his thumb, using it essentially as percussion while singing rhythmically in a gruff voice.

For Havens, making music has been a non-stop journey. The songs he sings are a chronological look at the times he has come through, what he has thought about and how he has grown and changed.

Richie Havens is now 69 years told. How he sees himself is a whole other story: Havens once told Telluride Inside…and Out "…a person is never older than the day he left his mother's home," which for Havens, was age 22.

How his many fans see the legendary troubadour: ageless and timeless.

To here it straight from the horse's mouth, click the "play" button and listen to Richie Havens' podcast.

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