I was clicking away online looking for a book I’d heard of earlier when the headline jumped out at me: Richie Havens had died of a
heart attack. My own heart skipped a beat as I remembered that big beautiful man who hung around Woodstock, where I lived in the 1970’s, who sang and played guitar at venues around town, and who once gave me one of the best hugs I’ve ever gotten from anyone.
I’d gone up to the Green Room at the Joyous Lake, where Richie was playing that night, and asked him to make an announcement about a committee I was working with to free political prisoners. That’s when he hugged me. I’ll never forget it. Nor will I forget his performance that night, when he closed with Freedom, singing and strumming as he slowly danced backwards out the door of the club.
I told someone Richie was “a lovely man,” and they said, “Oh, how do you know that?” I know it because of the feeling in that hug. I know it because I knew a few people who knew him intimately. I know it because of the way he shouted “Freedom” from the bottom of his soul.
Rest in Peace, sweet Richie. We won’t be seeing the likes of you again.
- Woodstock folk singer Richie Havens dies (wcvb.com)