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Richie Havens dies

April 22, 2013 - Zach Baker
Richie Havens' death today is a sad reminder that while music lives forever, the artists who create it do not.

Most of what was written about Havens today leads with Woodstock, where he was the first featured performer. His performance, which has been played and replayed in music documentaries, was almost spellbinding, in part because of its simplicity. In an era psychedelic rock and complicated arrangements, Havens was just a man, another guitarist and a percussionist.

It was brilliant music, and Havens was one of the most talented and inventive guitarists of his time.

But Woodstock itself has never resonated with me, perhaps because I was born 11 years later, perhaps because I think music is best enjoyed in more intimate settings. When I've listened to the actual performances, Havens aside, it sounded like a mess.

When I think of Havens, I think of individual recordings, individual performances. To me, he was a wonderful interpreter of music. His covers of Beatles and Bob Dylan tunes were so well produced, so powerful, that they became his songs as much as anyone else's.

To me, his version of "Here Comes the Sun" remains my favorite version of the song. Also among my favorites are Dylan's "Just Like a Woman" and Crosby, Stills & Nash's "Helplessly Hoping."

His guitar work, is hard to describe, unless you've seen it. My father once said he considered Havens among the best guitarists of all time. He certainly was an original.

Rest in peace.


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