Freedom – Richie Havens – 1972

June 11, 2017

Freedom Richie HavensIt’s a brilliant pub-quiz trivia question – who was the first onstage act at Woodstock? Answer, Richie Havens.  Richie is remembered for his amazing rendition of Freedom, a song not released as a single until 1972.

richie havens fax

  • Richard “Richie” Havens was an American singer-songwriter and guitarist known for his intense and rhythmic guitar style (often in open tunings) – but also for being the opening act at the 1969 Woodstock Festival.
  • Richie was scheduled to perform for 40 minutes, but when a traffic jam delayed the other performers, he was asked to keep playing. Three hours later, Richie had run out of songs, so he started to make one up to the melody of “Motherless Child,” a spiritual he’d sung as a kid. He just kept singing “Freedom,” and it became one of the pivotal moments of the festival.
  • Born in Brooklyn, Richie was of Native American (Blackfoot) descent on his father’s side, and of the British West Indies on his mother’s.
  • As a teen, he organised local friends into doo-wop groups and performed on street corners. By the age of 20, he’d left to become a folk performer in Greenwich Village where he performed alongside the likes of Bob Dylan and Joan Baez.
  • Performing at Woodstock was the turning point of Richie’s career. He became a star, known more for the passion of his live performances than for his recorded albums.
  • He recorded 12 albums between 1966 and 1977, and 21 throughout his career – the last in 2008.
  • In later years, Richie was dogged by ill-health. In 2010, he had kidney surgery from which he never fully recovered.  In 2012, he announced that, after 45 years, he would stop touring.
  • Just over a year later, on April 22, 2013, Richie died of a heart attack at home in Jersey City, New Jersey.
  • At the time of his death, the BBC referred to him as a “Woodstock icon,” while Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young said Richie “could never be replicated.” The Daily Telegraph wrote that Richie “made an indelible mark on contemporary music.
  • In accordance with Richie’s wishes, his remains were cremated and his ashes scattered from the air over the original site of the Woodstock Festival, in a ceremony held on August 18, 2013, the 44th anniversary of the last day of the festival.

freedom fax

  • Freedom was composed by Richie Havens on stage on the opening day of Woodstock 1969. Having been asked to keep playing long past his scheduled 40 minutes, Richie ran out of songs.  He began to make a song up based on the Afro-American spiritual, Motherless Child.
  • Richie once told Rolling Stone magazine,

I think the word ‘freedom’ came out of my mouth because I saw it in front of me. I saw the freedom that we were looking for. And every person was sharing it, and so that word came out.

  • When the cut of the song was put on the film Woodstock, it became an international hit instantly.
  • The song was released as a single in 1972. Despite its popularity, it charted on neither the US nor the UK charts.
  • Freedom appears in the movie Django Unchained.
  • Freedom lyrics.

freedom – richie havens – 1972 -video

freedom – richie havens – 1969 Woodstock – video

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Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin – 1974

June 28, 2015

Harry Chapin Cat's in the Cradle - 1974The late Harry Chapin is one of the great 70’s poets/songwriters.  Cat’s in the Cradle (1974) was his only #1 hit.

Harry Chapin 1harry chapin fax

  • Harry Chapin was born into music – his father was a big band drummer playing with acts such as Woody Herman.
  • As a teenager Harry performed with his brothers as a trumpeter, however, hanging out with the folk singers of Greenwich Village caused Harry to turn his attention to the guitar and pretty soon he and a few mates were playing local nightclubs around New York.
  • Harry’s first album – with his brothers Tom and Steve, was a flop.
  • For his second album, Heads and Tales, Harry went it alone.  It contained his first single, Taxi, which peaked at #24 on the US charts.
  • Harry Chapin 2On the strength of this first solo album, Harry signed with Elektra Records.
  • It was his fourth album, Verities & Balderdash, that contained Harry’s only #1 single, Cat’s in the Cradle (Harry’s only UK hit was W*O*L*D.  It peaked at #34 in 1974).
  • Harry was somewhat renowned for his philanthropic work.  He served on the boards of a number of local arts societies and organisations.
  • In the mid-70s, Harry began his crusade to raise money to combat hunger in the United States. It’s said that he donated a third of his paid concerts to charitable causes and often performed alone with his guitar to reduce costs.
  • Harry was killed in an automobile accident on Thursday, July 16, 1981 on the way to perform at a free concert at Eisenhower Park, New York.
  • On December 7, 1987, on what would have been his 45th birthday, Harry was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal for his campaigning on social issues, particularly his highlighting of hunger around the world and in the United States.
  • The Lakeside Theatre at Eisenhower Park in New York, was renamed Harry Chapin Lakeside Theatre and a number of other Long Island landmarks bear his name.

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  • Harry Chapin 3Cat’s in the Cradle was written by Harry Chapin and released on October 1, 1974 on his album, Verities & Balderdash.
  • In December 1974, Cat’s in the Cradle became Harry’s only #1 US single.
  • Cat’s in the Cradle began as a poem written by Harry’s wife, Sandy Gaston and was inspired by the awkward relationship between her first husband, James Cashmore, and his father.  Harry later said the song was also about his relationship with his own son, Josh.
  • In 2001, Cat’s in the Cradle was ranked number 186 of 365 on the RIAA list of Songs of the Century.
  • Cat’s in the Cradle has been used a number of times in modern movie and television culture, including the following television series: The Simpsons (three episodes), King of the Hill, Scrubs, Modern Family, The Office (US version), How I Met Your Mother, Friends, Californication, Cougartown and Two and a Half Men.  Also the movie, Shrek the Third.
  • US hard rock band Ugly Kid Joe included a cover of Cat’s in the Cradle on their 1991 debut album America’s Least Wanted – in 1993 it peaked at #6 on the US singles chart.
  • Other cover versions include: Judy Collins and Johnny Cash.
  • Cat’s in the Cradle lyrics – Harry Chapin – 1974.

cat’s in the cradle – harry chapin – 1974 – video

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The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down – Joan Baez – 1971

January 14, 2015

Joan Baez - The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down - 1971 Single CoverRespected as much for her civil rights work as her music, Joan Baez has been around forever… almost.  In 2009, she performed at the Newport Folk Festival, 50 years after her first appearance there.  Her biggest hit on the music charts was in 1971 with The Band’s, The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.

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  • Joan hardly needs any introduction; an American folk singer, songwriter, and activist she has been performing publically since 1958 and has released over 30 albums.
  • Joan is known as a songwriter and yet most her music features interpretations of the work of others such as: The Allman Brothers Band, The Beatles, Jackson Browne, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, The Rolling Stones, Pete Seeger, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Ryan Adams.
  • Joan’s first three albums – Joan Baez, Joan Baez, Vol. 2, and Joan Baez in Concert – all achieved gold status and remained on the US album chart for over three years.
  • Joan performed at Woodstock.
  • Joan is credited with helping launch Bob Dylan’s career.  She recorded a number of his songs, was romantically involved with him and wrote at least three songs that are specifically about him: To Bobby, Diamonds & Rust, and Winds of the Old Days.
  • In the early 80s, Joan had a relationship with Steve Jobs, cofounder of Apple Computer.
  • Joan Baez 3Joan once said, “Social justice is the true core of my life, looming larger than music.”  Joan is a long-time proponent of civil rights.  In 1956, she heard Martin Luther King, Jr. speak about nonviolence, civil rights and social change.  She went on to participate in many of Dr King’s demonstrations.  She has also been outspoken on: the Vietnam war, opposition to the death penalty, gay and lesbian rights, environmental issues, the war in Iran, and the Occupy Wall Street movement.  She supported Barak Obama’s election to the Whitehouse.

the night they drove old dixie down fax

  • The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down was written by Robbie Robertson and released by The Band on September 22, 1969 as the B-Side to their song, Up On Cripple Creek.
  • Joan Baez 2The lyrics tell of the last days of the American Civil War and the suffering of white Southerners during those years.
  • In 1971, Joan Baez covered the song, which peaked at #3 on the US singles chart and #6 on the UK singles chart.
  • Joan did make a few changes to the words.  She altered, “Till Stoneman’s cavalry came” to “Till so much cavalry came,” “May the tenth” to “I took the train,”  “like my father before me, I will work the land,” to “like my father before me, I’m a working man,” and “the mud below my feet,” to “the blood below my feet.”
  • There was much made of these changes suggesting Joan had changed it from a soldier’s song to a labourer’s song.  Joan, however, told a Rolling Stone Magazine reporter that she learned the song by listening to the Band’s recording.  When she recorded it she’d never actually seen a printed version of the words and so sang the lyrics as she’d (mis)heard them. In her recent concerts, Joan has sung the original words.
  • The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down is Joan’s highest charting single.
  • The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down lyrics.

the night they drove old dixie down – joan baez – 1971 – video

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