RIP Richie Havens - Thanks for the Music | Zagsblog
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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Monday / February 26.
  • RIP Richie Havens – Thanks for the Music

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    RIP to Richie Havens, who died today at 72 in Jersey City, N.J., of a heart attack, but tried to make the world a better place through his music.

    Here he is opening Woodstock with “Freedom” and later playing the Beatles’ “Here Comes The Sun.”

    Here’s an excerpt from his obit on Bloomberg:

    Scheduled fifth on the program for opening day of the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, Aug. 15, 1969, Havens and two members of his band were pressed into urgent service as other musicians — including the planned opening act, the folk-rock band Sweetwater — fought traffic on the roads leading to Max Yasgur’s farm outside Woodstock, New York.

    Havens had been among the first to arrive at the performers’ staging area in nearby Liberty, New York. As the afternoon wore on and the crowd, estimated at 500,000 people, waited for the show to begin, concert organizers persuaded Havens, along with his guitarist, Paul Williams, and his drummer, Daniel Ben Zebulon, to squeeze into a helicopter with their two conga drums and two guitars for the quick ride to the festival stage.

    “I had the least instruments and the least guys,” Havens explained in a 2008 interview with Bloomberg Television, “and they said, ‘Richie, would you go over now?’ I said, ‘Yeah, it’s about time, I’ve been here since 5 o’clock in the morning.’”

    Having gotten Havens to the stage, concert organizers implored him to kick off the festival.

    “It had to be Richie — I knew he could handle it, and his powerful but calm demeanor was just what we needed to set the tone for liftoff,” Michael Lang, a co-creator of the Woodstock festival, recalled in “The Road to Woodstock,” his 2009 book. “Regardless of what he said, he was ready and needed the least preparation and gear. When he saw me coming, Richie looked scared, and tried to walk away.”

    Havens and his band mates opened Woodstock shortly after 5 p.m. with “Minstrel From Gault.” After their regular set, they did multiple encores to buy time for fellow performers still struggling to reach the site.

    “Like the trouper he was, he just kept going and going,” Lang wrote. “He’d get up to leave the stage and we’d send him back. He didn’t have a set list to draw from — but returned with song after song, and his band followed along. Finally, drenched with sweat, he gave us the look that this — his sixth or seventh encore — was it.”


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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.

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