Hearing that Richie Havens passed away this week after 50 years of delivering beautiful music to the world doesn’t blunt this sharp sense of loss.
Havens’ singing voice riveted to my brain the first time My Father played his records during my early childhood. I was very familiar with Folk music at this point in my young life, but I rarely heard the genre sung with the kind of soulful voice that could make itself at home in any gospel choir and adorned with the improvisation that summoned African tradition. My youthful vernacular labeled the latter “making it up as you go.”
I also knew back then that Richie Havens was a rare breed of performer who bridged the Eastern and Western musical forms to make his own style. My reasoning in those days was “You can’t call it Soul, but it’s not Rock either…”
Havens’ hybrid approach to music was so natural to him that it’s silly to say he “crossed over” – a term I imagine would have no meaning in Havens’ world. Some of you artists searching for broad appeal can learn from Havens.
Rest in Love, Bro. You will be missed…