March 12, 2010
For over three decades, Richie has used his music to convey messages of brotherhood and personal freedom. As he told the Denver Post, “I really sing songs that move me. I’m not in show business; I’m in the communications business. That’s what it’s about for me.” In the summer of 2008 Richie Havens released Nobody Left to Crown.
At an early age, Richie began organizing his neighborhood friends into street corner doo-wop groups and was performing with the McCrea Gospel Singers at 16. At the age of 20, Richie left Brooklyn to seek out the artistic stimulation of Greenwich Village. “I had first gone there during the Beatnik days of the 1950s to perform poetry, then I drew portraits for 2 years and stayed up all night listening to folk music in the clubs. It took a while before I thought of picking up a guitar.”
He improvised a song based on the old spiritual “Motherless Child” that became “Freedom,” a song now considered to be the anthem of a generation. In 1970 came Alarm Clock, which yielded the hit single “Here Comes the Sun,” and became Richie’s first album to reach Billboard’s Top 30 Chart.
Memorable television appearances included performances on the Ed Sullivan Show and the Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. Johnny Carson asked Richie to return the following night. In the show’s long history, the only other guest booked back-to-back nights based on overwhelming audience response was Barbra Streisand.
Even if at times a certain melancholy emerges, Richie Havens is not a man to abandon easily his hopes for a better world. “We are at the dawn of major change,” he declares with a broad smile.